Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup Postcards

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From the Land of Tea, Installment #1

In this installment of "From the Land of Tea," we take a look at a web page that was funded by my Patreon supporters, who had access to it one full year before the public.

  • Patreon Release Date: January 7th, 2021
  • Public Release Date: January 7th, 2022.

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Tea-Cup Postcards!!

All of the material you have access to here -- the fabulous tea cups, the instructive booklets, the nostalgic postcards, the boldly graphic matchbook covers, and all of the historical information researched and shared from the mind of the woman who is making it all happen -- can easily fit into one 8 x 10 foot room in an old Victorian farmhouse, but you would never see it without the investment of the time it takes to produce such a site and the caloric input such a site requires in the form of food for the writer, graphic designer, and database manager, as well as the US currency needed to pay for the computers, software applications, scanners, electricity, and internet connectivity that bring it out of that little room and into the world. So, as you can see, this site is the darling of many, and it is growing at a rapid rate ... but although it is "free," there also is a cost. Your financial support underwrites this cost.

Each new web page or sample pdf is circulated to Patrons as an unpublished galley proof or advance copy. After one year access for Patrons, each web page will be released to the public, while book pages will be available to the public as printed books, and copies will be sent to Patrons who subscribe at the upper two tiers.

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"Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup" is a very rare set of 12 full-colour postcards issued in Great Britain by an unknown publisher between the First and Second World Wars. It is essentially a series of flash cards or teaching instructions in cup reading.

"Tea cup Reading Post Cards" -- the paper envelope for the set of 12 cards internally titled "Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup!," Great Britain, circa 1920-1940

The artwork is unsigned. "Tea Cup Reading Postcards" is the name of the envelope, and "Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup!" is the name imprinted on each card. At the lower left of the envelope the collection is marked as "Set No. 2211" but at the lower right, a series of vertical bars has been surprinted to obscure the packet's original marking as "Set No. 2206." Unfortunately, these set numbers do not provide sufficient information for me to determine the name of the publisher at this time. Perhaps other deltiologists with a specialty in British postcards can help.

I purchased this set from a seller in Australia who said they had been in the family for decades. They were not postally used and came complete in their original envelope. The cups, as drawn and painted, seem to be art deco style Czechoslovakian peach lustre-ware, which fall into an overarching range of styles that collectors call "Czecho Deco" ware. Alternatively, they may be Japanese peach lustre-ware. In either case, we can date the cups that were used as models by the artist to the inter-war period of 1920 - 1940.

These British tea leaf postcards were intended to be sent as greetings or distributed at a party, but according the the instructions on their wrapper, but they can also be used by fledgling tasseomancers as study cups on the way to learning a basic list of tea leaf symbols. Because the printed interpretations are so brief, i have added some further explanations of how they were derived, according to traditional tea leaf symbolism.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Anchor at Bottom, Journey, Leaves at Rim

"The leaves at the brim tell of letters with good news coming to you shortly. They will lead to the long voyage indicated by the line of dots, and the anchor at the bottom foretells [a] successful career abroad."

The packet of leaves at the rim of the cup is interpreted as "letters," but in modern times, they could also be called text messages or emails. Journeys are shown in the form of "paths," "roadways" or "sea voyages," depending on other nearby signs. For example, the row of dots or dashes that symbolizes a journey, if seen with a tree or a flower, is a path if it is narrow and a roadway if it is broad, while a similar line of dots or dashes, if seen with a ship or a fish, is a river voyage if narrow and a sea voyage if it is broad. Here we have an anchor, which indicates a journey by water, and the line is long, indicating a journey abroad.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Anchor at Bottom, Little Dots

"The lucky sign of an anchor at the bottom of [the] cup foretells success in your profession, but the little dots behind it represent many worries through jealous rivals."

The anchor at the bottom of the cup tells of safety if one is a sailor, as many British men were during the era of these cards. However, if the sitter were female, one would be more likely to say, "Someone you know is a sailor and he will be perfectly safe at sea." The large scattering of jumbled little dots trailing ahed, behind, and around the anchor are called "the thick" or "the thicket" and indicate obstructions, gossip, and jealousy.-

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Anchor at Bottom, Square with Three Dots

"There is a letter here (long leaf on [the] brim], with good news indeed. You have got your wish (three dots inside [a] square of four leaves), and a successful career ([the] anchor at [the] bottom is before you."

A rectangle is a letter. A square can be an important letter or a package; three dots in a row is the "wish sign" that indicates your wish will come true. As before the anchor at the bottom indicates safety at sea, which held particular importance during the era of the British Empire, when many men served as sailors or in the military, or worked on bureaucratic or engineering projects in the colonies, which they could only reach by sea.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Anchor at Bottom, Square with Dot at Side

"You will receive an important letter (4 leaves in [a] square). The dot just at [the] side of [the] square tells of your wish being granted, and you will gain [an] important position. The anchor at [the] bottom foretells [a] brilliant future."

As in the cup above, a large square or rectangle represents an important letter or a package, perhaps one bearing a seal or requiring to be signed for upon receipt. The single dot is a coin rather than a "wish," to my way of thinking, because the "wish sign" consists of three dots in a straight row. However, if one's wish is for money, this will serve. The "important position" to be gained is again signified by an anchor, the sign of the far reaching British Empire and its need for professionals with both military and civilian training to fill essential roles abroad. This cup, incidentally, is th e one that is used on the paper envelop that originally encased the set.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Anchor at Rim, Broad Leaf Below

"A happy life of love and constancy is foretold for you by the anchor at the top. but there are troubles ahead, indicated in the broad, flat leaf, representing a jealous enemy."

The anchor near the rim, coming toward "home" means safety and protection in the near future. The letter or rectangle further down the side of the cup and closer to home indicates news on the way, and it may not be pleasant, but i see no sign of a "rival" here, only some coins and a very small wish-sign of three evenly spaced dots.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Anchor at Rim, Mountain, Three Dots in Line

"You have a friend in high social position ([the] mountain of leaves) who will make you an offer shortly (three dots in [a] line). Don't worry over the gossip ([the] small leaves at [the] bottom) but accept, and you will have [a] happy married life ([the] anchor) at [the] top."

A mountain symbolizes great ambition that is fulfilled though the aid of a powerful friend or ally who holds a high social position. The wish-sign or three dots in a line signify that this friend will be inclined to grant your wish. The anchor at the rim toward the handle or "home" grants safety in the home; it can be said to indicate a happy marriage, but it can just as easily represent a happy and secure single life with minimal travel away from the home-place. A jumbled scattering of indistinguishable dots and spots is called "the thick" or "the thicket," and when it is at the bottom, it is said to be "in the water" or "drowning." The thick is a place of obstacles and the water is a place of danger, so we see here a mass of people of unpleasant character, perhaps gossips, but, as can be easily seen, the sitter's great friend, the mountain, and the anchor of safety near home rise above it all, so there is no need to worry about what is going on below.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Mountain, Square with Dot

"Promotion for you is indicated by the mountain of leaves. The square formed by 4 leaves foretells an important letter in which money will be forwarded; if not money, very good news, indicated by [the] dot in [the] centre of [the] square."

The mountain is a friend of high social position who will look favourably upon your ambition and promote your career. The square enclosing the coin-dot could well be a letter, but it is so imposing that it might well be interpreted as a package, hence it is said to be "important" and may have been sent by special courier.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Heart. Roadway, Dots

"There are many pleasures for you in the near future, as indicated by the heart standing by itself. The long line of little dots foretells a voyage, which will lead to a happy marriage, shown by the ring."

The heart always symbolizes love, and in this instance it is on a long roadway or a journey by sea. The offer of marriage is near to home, but the marriage may indeed be consummated abroad.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Heart, Ring, Leaves at Rim

"You are just entering upon a round of gaities, indicated by [a] heart standing by itself. The letter inviting you to be one of a happy house-party is now on its way, as shown by [a] leaf on the brim, and there is a ring here foretelling marriage."

The heart and ring are very clearly a proposal of marriage; the rectangle at the rim can indeed signify a letter, but there is no house visible in this view of the cup. Generally speaking, a house-party in the countryside, in the old Edwardian fashion, would be shown by a large house surmounted by or next o a tree.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Ring and Triangle

"You are lucky! Good news and continued good fortune are foretold by the triangle of three large leaves. And the ring is here too, indicating [a] happy marriage."

A triangle foretells good luck, a fortunate meeting, or an unexpected legacy; its stability indicates a long continuation of the goodness it brings. The ring is a symbol of a proposal f marriage or the consummation of an engagement.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Cat and Letter

"You have a rival (leaves forming cat) who is fast gaining ground just now. But a lucky letter (leaf on rim) is to up-lift you, and promotion will be given you shortly (long leaves in line)."

A cat, being territorial, foretells jealousy, rivalry, or gossip. Here is it sitting on on its own piece of ground, and is nearing the handle or "home" territory that should be yours. A small rectangle is a letter and it is on its way, coming along the roadway of lines, toward "home" as well. It signifies an uplift in spirit or a promotion on the job because the roadway is rising upward and the letter drops small dots or coins downward.

Your Fortune in a Tea-Cup! -- Dog and Three Dots in a Line

"The leaves forming [a] dog tell of a faithful friend coming home from abroad, and the three dots in a line indicate [an] offer of marriage from him. This will mean a great and happy change in your fortune as shown by the wavy lines."

The dog is coming from abroad because he is running along a roadway that descends from the "away" portion of the rim toward the "home" or handle of the cup. The three dots are the "wish sign" and although they do not represent a marriage per se, they do represent the fulfillment of a desire. The author of these cards assumes that the sitter is a young person hoping for a marriage, but the symbols could just as convincingly be read to say that an old friend is returning home from overseas and will fulfill some desire or wish of the sitter that is not marital in nature. The Wavy Lines are interpreted as "a great and happy change in your fortune," which is rather more optimistic than their customary meaning of "uncertainty."

catherine yronwode
curator, historian, and docent
The Mystic Tea Room

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