Sharing tea with a friend, gazing at the leaves remaining in the bottom of an ordinary china teacup may seem humdrum, but the cup itself can become a numinous space, a threshold through which you see—what? Images, symbols, stories, inspirations, solutions. Kitchen shamanic journeying.
In my family, whenever there was a crisis, someone would “go put the kettle on” for a comforting cup of tea all around; reading the leaves would follow to sort things out. You might think of it as a way of opening the psychic channels through the calming, contemplative ritual of having tea together. Now, here's how to go about it. Start with a well-made cup of tea, preferably served from a preheated teapot without a filter, as you’ll be reading the patterns made by the leaves remaining in the bottom of the cup once you’ve had your tea. The cup should have a white interior and a handle (tea is said to taste better served in good English china). A medium-sized loose-leaf tea such as Darjeeling, Earl Grey, green or mint provides evocative, easy to read leaves, and it’s fine to add milk or sugar. Yes, it’s possible to read the leaves from a torn teabag, even into a cup of hot water, if you must.
You, the server (always known as “Mum” in my Irish/Scottish family) and your friend (the “Guest”) take tea together. Remind the Guest to leave just enough liquid in the cup to swirl the leaves. When you’ve both had your tea, direct the Guest to swirl, then upend the cup onto a saucer, spin the upside-down cup three full turns in a clockwise direction, then hand it to you with the handle facing them. As the cup is spinning, Mum silently asks to be a clear and helpful channel for _______ (naming the Guest). Look into the cup with soft, unfocused eyes to let the images take shapes. Share your first impressions, before reason begins to filter or censor. This is important, even essential. In a very early reading, when all I could see was a duck, my startled and impressed Guest told me that ducks held particular significance for her. With that quirky encouragement, I’ve opened with my first impressions ever since.
The bottom of the cup contains the central messages, with the leaves found on the sides adding details or leading into the future. Trust that the images will speak for themselves, and hold meaning for the Guest. You are the channel, you do not need to make sense of what you see. As you gain experience more stories, insights, even emotions may accompany the images. Taking turns reading each other's leaves is easier than reading your own; the gift appears to work best—as a gift to others.
Don’t break your concentration to look up symbols. Better to uncover your own meanings. It’s fine to free-associate or ask questions of the images, for example, “What’s the duck doing or feeling? Where’s the duck going? Is the duck alone?" In the beginning the Guest should listen in silence, though with practice you will learn to hold your deep concentration while responding to questions.
When you have no more to offer, break your gaze, give thanks for what you’ve received, and give yourself a moment to return to this world. Eat chocolate or something salty if you have trouble closing your intuitive channels. Encourage your Guest to take notes, during or after the reading, for insights that often follow further reflection.
This portal! How remarkable that it’s there in your kitchen. The wonder of gazing down that rabbit hole, that well of wisdom—into fantastic pictures, to stories that lead around the cup and up the sides, beyond the daily to magical, often humorous, luminous inspiration—through the tea leaves remaining in a cup.
Gretchen Lawlor © Mother Tongue Ink
from page 26 of We'Moon 2018
For encouragement, more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gretchenlawlor.com
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