Fortune in a Coffee Cup:
Divination with Coffee Grounds

(Llewellyn, 1999)

Everybody's heard of tea leaf reading. It's sort of a divination cliche, really. The old woman, the crystal ball, the tea leaves. With this book comes something new and different -- reading the grounds in the bottom of your morning coffee in order to tell your future.

Fortune in a Coffee Cup is a small book, only about four inches square, but it's huge -- covering not only the technique in which to get the grounds to read, but also containing a huge dictionary of symbols, arranged alphabetically, so that you can accurately interpret the pictures you see in the grounds. It's relatively comprehensive, as far as symbols go, covering everything from an acorn (meaning your read-ee has a green thumb or loves the outdoors) to zodiac (meaning that the querent will be influenced by someone of that sign).

I do like the way the author presents the subject of reading: that seeing the symbols is kind of like looking for pictures in clouds. What looks like an elephant to you might look like a horse to someone else, and that you should trust your own intuition when deciding how to interpret what you see. She also mentions that taking money for a reading is a little bit gauche, something I've also heard before, but that trades are OK.

Where I believe the book goes a little astray is at the very beginning, when Sophia (the author) is telling how she learned to read the grounds. Supposedly, her gypsy grandmother and her psychic grandfather (whom they know was psychic for "real" because he was born with a caul over his face and it was pulled off forward so he could see the future, rather than backward so he could see the past or somesuch) taught her everything, and therefore, she is uniquely qualified to bring you this choice bit of divination wisdom.

Now, I have no problem with people claiming to be psychic. But when there's this much pomp and circumstance, legend and lore, surrounding the imparting of such "gifts," I'm dubious. And had I not gone on to read her practical advice, I might have just put the book down and chalked it all up to a bunch of new-agey fluff. As it is, I still think that coffee ground divination is a fun thing to do at parties, but I wouldn't claim to know for certain what's going to happen to someone, despite Sophia's assurances that it really does work.

If you can ignore the first chapter and look at it as fun, Fortune in a Coffee Cup could become one of those books that ushers in a new skill for you. Or at least makes your morning cup a lot more interesting.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]
Rambles: 16 March 2002

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