Steeped in Superstition

Tea as a beverage is thought to have been discovered in 2737 BCE by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung, a renowned herbalist, when some leaves from the Camellia sinensis tree fell into the water his servant was boiling. Tea-making and drinking has since become popular, fashionable, in many cultures revered and ritualized – and sometimes (as in my case) even addictive! There are bags and bags of lore associated with the consumption of this most royal brew.

Prosperi-tea:

An expensive import from Silk Road countries such as China and India, tea has always symbolized fortune, wealth and protection.

  • adding tea leaves to a potion or herbal sachet helps attract money
  • carrying tea leaves on one’s person is thought to protect against evil and misfortune
  • drinking hot tea incorporates all four elements: earth (the pot), water (brewing tea), fire (heat and steam) and air (the tea’s aroma)
  • to ward off evil spirits, sprinkle dried tea leaves on your front doorstep
  • accidentally dropping loose leaf tea is good luck for the woman of the house
  • unintentionally spilling a little tea water while making tea is considered lucky
  • to attract a new friend, make overly strong tea
  • a leaf or stem standing upright in your tea is a sign of good luck; this stems (ahem) from the fact that tea merchants, having trouble selling leaves with stems on them, started telling customers that upright ones were lucky!
  • to promote good luck, always stir tea deosil (clockwise)
  • undissolved sugar at the bottom of the cup means someone is sweet on you
  • throwing used tea leaves on the fire helps keep poverty at bay

Trouble’s Brewing:

According to folklore, if you don’t prepare, serve or sip your tea the correct way, you’re in for pots of trouble!

  • breaking a teapot is an omen of losing a loved one
  • pouring boiling water into a pot without tea leaves or bags brings misfortune
  • don’t stir tea inside the pot; it means you’ll argue with a friend
  • if the tag falls off the teabag while it’s in your cup, you will receive bad news or lose something within the week
  • two people pouring from the same teapot is very unlucky
  • never “be mother” (i.e. pour the tea) in another person’s house – it’s an insult to their hearth and hospitality and is generally a bad omen
  • you risk crossing love’s path if you put milk in your tea before sugar
  • stirring tea with anything but a spoon invites bad luck
  • stirring someone else’s tea means you’re stirring up trouble for them
  • emptying the teapot on the day a fishing boat sets sail portends tragedy for the fishermen (capsizing, drowning); crew who empty a teapot on board are “pouring away” all the fish they hope to catch and will come home with empty nets

Tea is for Tasseography:

Tasseography or tasseomancy (a.k.a “reading the cups”) is the practice of reading tea leaves for divination. A teacup with a light, unpatterned interior is best, and the method of preparing it for a reading is quite precise. There are dozens of interpretations for the shapes made by the remaining tea leaves – too many to go into here. But generally, it’s a bad omen if most of the tea leaves are left at the bottom of the cup; leaves spread evenly around the cup is a much better sign. Other prophetic tales tea can tell include:

  • forgetting to put the lid on the teapot can portend numerous events: the arrival of an ominous stranger, that you’ll be sent for, or a doctor will be required before the day is out
  • tea spilling from the spout while the pot is being carried means a secret will be revealed
  • bubbles around the edge of your teacup means you will soon be kissed; each bubble represents one kiss
  • bubbles in the centre of your cup signify money; the more bubbles, the wealthier you’ll be
  • if you can transfer the bubbles from cup to mouth without the bubbles touching the side of the spoon, you’ll soon receive an important letter
  • the more tea leaves that end up in your cup, the fuller your life will be
  • a single tea stem, known as a “stranger”, floating on the surface of your tea presages the arrival of a visitor; a hard, woody stem means the visitor will be male; if the stem is soft, female
  • a teaspoon dropped on the floor is a sign a child will visit the house
  • two spoons accidentally placed on the same saucer predict an imminent wedding, or that the drinker will marry twice or have twins with tea-coloured hair
  • when two women are drinking tea together, the woman who pours will become pregnant within the year

So next time you brew up that delicious pot of tea, mind the details — and good luck!

Turn the ill omen of a broken teapot (in this case, the lid) into something serendipitous! Make it into a vase or planter; if the pot is cracked, line it or insert an inner container before adding water or soil. Use as a rustic holder for kitchen utensils, cutlery, napkins, paint brushes, etc. Knitters, pop a ball of yarn into the clean, dry pot and thread the end up through the spout for an instant dispenser.

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Regal

Long ago at a local zoo (using a basic camera with limited zoom), I photographed this very proud and royal looking male blue or Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus). With his flamboyant plumage in gemstone shades of sapphire, emerald, turquoise and gold, the peacock is a fitting subject for this week’s One-a-week Photo Challenge prompt, Regal.

Native to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Indian peafowl is associated with deities in Hinduism and Buddhism and was considered a royal guardian and a symbol of paradise in India, Babylonia and Persia. Ancient Greeks believed these birds were immortal, an idea adopted by early Christians who used them to depict eternal life. The ocelli (‘eyes’) of a peafowl’s train have come to represent the all-seeing god and the heavens studded with the sun, moon and stars. Although the strutting of the peacock to display his magnificent train is a sign of pride and vanity in some cultures, in others the bird represents creativity and joy, with the quills being a metaphor for a writer’s inspiration.

The peafowl was introduced to the rest of the world, first by the upper classes as beautiful and entertaining symbols of their wealth and status, and eventually to zoos. In the Middle Ages, peafowl were considered a gustatory delicacy. Plucked and roasted birds would be presented at the feast table redressed in their feathers as if to appear alive. Apparently, they were coarse, tough and bad-tasting and were thought to cause indigestion and ‘bad humours’. Ah, well, if one has the money…

The term for a group of peafowl is bevy, but also muster, party or – most appropriate – ostentation!

The peacock lends a royal theme to this rich display of colour, form and texture: opal, garnet, amethyst, onyx and smokey quartz gems, a peacock-hued bead necklace dotted with gold, sumptuous furs and fabrics, fine stationery and a peacock-painted china cup.

Rusted!

These two photos belong together because they were taken on the same day in the same place, and I couldn’t pick just one for this week’s One-a-week Photo Challenge prompt, Rust!

The images are of the tool shed attached to our family’s cottage, built in 1914 by my 18-year-old grandfather with guidance from his wheelchair-bound father, a former carpenter and jack-of-all-trades Who Knew Things.

The door’s hardware is original (its skeleton key is equally rusty!), and these old tools have been lovingly used by generations of gardeners.

Photographing the door was a challenge in itself, as the knob is closer to the eye (and camera lens) than the keyhole. Previous attempts resulted in either one or the other being drastically out of focus. Using advice from my photographer sister on dealing with depth of field, I managed to get this image. It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with it, and it’s a nice memento of a cherished place.

Please check out nanacathydotcom and Wild Daffodil for more rusty images!

In Her Finest Silver

Harvest full moon, 5:13 a.m. EDT Oct 05 17

“Awake, arise!” she whispered,
so I knuckled my eyes and looked to the skies
and saw her there, in white lace and silver resplendent,
and she smiled down at my sighs.
If ever I took a lover, I said,
’twould be she.

“In Her Finest Silver” © 2017 Valerie Barrett. All rights reserved.

 This month’s full moon rises just after sundown and sets at sunrise, making it the only time of the month, depending on the viewer’s latitude, that the moon is visible all night long. It is named the Harvest Moon because it’s the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which occurred on September 22.

The October full moon is also named the Hunter Moon by some indigenous tribes because it was the time to hunt, to lay in provisions before winter.

Full Moon Rituals: Gaze at the full Moon in all her splendour, letting her cleanse and recharge you • Meditate in the light of the full moon • Burn sage to cleanse your home • The full moon is a time of abundance as well as release and letting go; give away old clothes or items you no longer need in order to create space for new abundance, or donate food to a food bank

Harvest Moon Diffuser Blend: 6 drops tangerine • 1 drop cinnamon • 1 drop clove

Acorn Magick: Acorns are a symbol of knowledge and foresight; ancient seers used to chew acorns when preparing for prophesy (do not consume, as acorns contain toxic tannins)  • Gathered during a full moon, acorns are said to attract faeries, bringing enchantment and good luck throughout the month • Place an acorn on a windowsill or your altar to promote wisdom and prosperity, or carry one (preferably one that’s been de-maggotized!) on your person as an amulet to banish loneliness

Shadows

Just sneaking in under the wire for this week’s One-a-week Photo Challenge!

The week’s prompt has been Shadow. Of course, I couldn’t take that literally, so here’s my interpretation based on a Book of Shadows. This one happens to be a chapter heading from the wonderful Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation by Silver RavenWolf, whose many talents include a blog here on WordPress.

Many of the objects in my photo have appeared in previous posts, particularly those of October 2016, so this image also represents shadows of things past!

Thanks to nanacathydotcom and Wild Daffodil for this challenge. I’m looking forward to the next prompt, Rust!