Oh the joys of fortune telling – tea leaves and tarot.

DSC03742My granny loved to tell our fortunes, swirling the last of the tea leaves round in our cups, draining the dregs and then peering expectantly at a few tiny brown blobs of Darjeeling to see what they might reveal. DSC03745She was a born romantic so at least one of them ensured we would be lucky in love and, as the years moved on, predicted, not surprisingly, that all the girls would marry someone tall dark and handsome.

Of course she knew all her grandchildren well and although the boys never bothered to consult her, the tea leaves could be  relied upon to know that a birthday would indeed be special, that any problem she knew we were having would somehow melt away if we were patient. With a flourish and a smile she always finished by assuring  us that health, wealth and happiness were forever in our grasp.

No computers or TV at that time of course, so simple pleasures.  In our house plums or cherry stones were always counted on our plates, with the chant ‘tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man beggar man, thief.’ If the outcome looked as though it was not one we wanted we might secretly swallow one or two to be sure of getting the more desirable husband.

Cockles were a popular London treat, bought for Sunday tea. Each of us were given a pin to coax them from their shells and eat them on brown bread. The climax of the afternoon was to place them all in a bowl and guess how many there were. The lucky winner was handed a threepence piece by Grandpa and I think even then we learned that gaining a fortune (threepence was a fortune to a child in the ’40s) was largely question of  luck.

In the ’50s it was a tradition to make a fortune teller, folding a square of paper into a shape that could be manipulated with one’s fingers.  The maker was free to write a colour on each section, then the  areas of enquiry such as love, luck, excitement, happiness and finally the conclusions.  The more imaginative and creative  we could make these conclusions the more fun it was.

DSC03718   DSC03722   DSC03720   DSC03724   DSC03726

I have never been keen on knowing what the future might holds with tarot cards and crystal balls, being afraid they might act like a self-fulfilling prophecy or distract me from just taking one day at a time.DSC03735

Tarot cards however became an occasional pastime in our house when one of my sons got interested and quite good at readings.

In the ’70s I taught gypsies on a permanent site in South London and although several were to be admired for  their prowess in animal husbandry, they earned their livings from tarmacing and collecting heavy metal (they didn’t mess about with fridges or cars) and none were fortune tellers.

DSC03733Sometimes I went up to Appleby Horse Fair with them, once consulting a palm reader who also had a crystal ball. It all seemed more about empathy and intuition rather than knowing what the future might hold. However, to be fair, two things that she had  predicted happened quite soon afterwards.

I have recently discovered that l have a set of really old fortune telling cards so I may lay them out and one day and read the instructions.

DSC03734I guess we all seek to be happy and like the reassurance that it maybe within our reach, but surely happiness is also transient and often unexpected. I really don’t believe either that anyone foretelling or hinting about the more harrowing times in my life would have been helpful.

So I’ll leave fortune telling in the realms of fantasy and fun. But then I am still tempted to get myself a packet of Darjeeling tea leaves to cheer another day along. I’ll recall my Granny’s wrinkled face  and may even be tempted to swirl the dregs and peer expectantly at those elusive blobs.DSC03743

This entry was posted in Brighton - out and about, Cheer yourself up, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Oh the joys of fortune telling – tea leaves and tarot.

  1. TheBigForest says:

    Love this, We hope you are going to bring all your stories together in a book.

    Ive got a booklet cut from a womens magazine in the 30’s about interpreting tea leaves and dreams. Its all ‘tall dark strangers’ and ‘good fortune just around the corner’. I must find it again!


  2. jaynestanton says:

    I remember setting out my plum stones round the ‘brim’ of my pudding dish and reciting the rhyme. I grew up listening to my Irish grandmother’s ‘superstitions’ and my other grandma’s ‘old wives’ tales’ (my mother had no time for either). Although I don’t actually remember having seen the former read the leaves, I have written a poem about it. According to my Google research, it’s ‘Tasseography.’ Great name!


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