I Just Had My Tea Leaves Read For The First Time: Here's What Happened

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Woman Holding a Cup of Tea

Image by Boris Jovanovic / Stocksy

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I've always found divination to be mysterious and alluring: I'm big on tarot cards and have even dabbled in palm reading—but aside from its brief stint in the Harry Potter series, tea leaf reading has never really come across my radar.

So when I had the opportunity to get a (virtual) tea leaf reading with Sandra Mariah Wright and Leanne Marrama, authors of Reading the Leaves: An Intuitive Guide to the Ancient Art and Modern Magic of Tea Divination, I was interested and eager to give it a go.

We got on the phone as I sipped my tea, and they walked me through the process of intention setting and interpreting what I saw. Here's what happened.

Setting the intention for my reading.

Before my call with Wright and Marrama, I read up on tea reading—or tasseography—and found that it likely originated in China before spreading across India and Europe. Interpreting the hidden messages in loose tea leaves really took off in the Victorian era, and it remains a popular divinatory tool today.

To start, Wright and Marrama first asked me what I wanted to get out of the reading. I kept it relatively simple, asking for clarity around three of the most common topics in divination: my career, my health, and my love life. I held these intentions in my mind as I sipped my cup, with the idea being that I was creating a physical connection between myself and the tea as I went.

When there was just a bit of tea left in my teacup, I swirled it around three times, placed a saucer on top, and flipped the cup over. Then, I lifted the cup to reveal the shapes and symbols formed by the leaves.

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What I saw in the leaves.

Wright and Marrama explained that interpreting tea leaves is similar to interpreting tarot cards: While certain tea symbols have universal interpretations, you may see something that holds a particular meaning to you. So, you want to take note of whatever jumps out at you first.

The number 1

The very first thing I saw was the number 1, which can be interpreted as a new beginning. "In tarot, 1 is the magician; you have the tools you need to make things happen and the ability to manifest," they explained to me.

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A seahorse

As I gazed at the number 1 some more, it began to look like a seahorse. (Yes, one shape can bear different meanings!) According to Wright and Marrama, seahorses can be interpreted as lucky and a source of protection, which I took as a welcome sign.

A whale

"The whale is a symbol of the unknown," they explained. "Whales symbolize fear and confusion before reaching a new destiny. If you trust your instinct and stay on your path, you will find treasures." With all the uncertainty in today's world, this message certainly resonated.

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A manatee.

When I told Wright and Marrama I saw a manatee too, they advised shutting out negativity from other people; manatees are kind and gentle—but everyone needs boundaries. "Don't worry about the expectations of others," they said. "This isn't about their life; it's about your life and what you want from it."

Picking up on the marine theme yet? Water is a sure sign of emotions, and they said the number of sea critters in my reading indicated a lot of emotional stirring in my life, processing through old memories and baggage, and healing to move forward.

Connecting with water, then, is a good idea for me, Wright and Marrama said. And perhaps, in the future, they suggested it could be a destination where I meet a new love interest.

What I got out of it.

Before the reading started, I was nervous, not gonna lie. Any time you're having your future interpreted, there's an element of dreading bad news. And while my reading turned out pretty positive, the ladies insisted that readings aren't necessarily "good" or "bad." They serve as a catalyst for self-reflection more than anything else: "The reason you're looking in that cup is to see where you need to empower yourself and make change."

And indeed, what I was told did give me plenty to think about. Mostly, I felt reassured that I was on the right track in my career and health, and validated, as recent months have been particularly tumultuous. This showed up through a very watery theme, but I received messages of good luck and healing to reassure me.

With 1 as the Magician in tarot, I felt empowered by the reminder of my ability to manifest in all areas of my life. And as far as love goes, the manatee got me thinking that perhaps I needed to think about displaying more authenticity if I want to find someone who can appreciate who I truly am.

But perhaps my favorite thing about the whole process was how fun, and honestly easy, it all was. That's the beauty of divination: It's intuitive work, and we all have access to intuition. "When you explore your intuition, you kick-start it; you open up your imagination," Wright and Marrama said to me. "And if you get more in touch with your gut, you're gonna make better decisions for yourself."

When you are willing to explore the language of symbolism during a reading like this, there's a very good chance something will come up for you. It's often insight or wisdom you've always held within, but sometimes it just takes a new practice to bring it to life.

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