Tasseography icon

How to seek a prediction: Find an expert interpreter of patterns formed in purposefully-initiated “random” processes that imprint patterns on their remains

Equipment: random remains of a natural process, for example leftover coffee sediment in the bottom of a cup of thick (e.g. Turkish) coffee

Personnel: Expert reader of special kinds of patterns, either professional or amateur

“Tasseography” is the name given to the set of divination methods that utilize interpretation of #random patterns found in coffee remains, wine sediments, tea leaves and molten substances like wax and lead. One of the most widely practiced forms of tasseography surviving the test of time is Turkish coffee reading, widely practiced in the Balkans and Turkey. Upon drinking Turkish coffee over a nice intimate conversation, fortunes are told, by #human interpreters, based on patterns found in the leftover coffee sediments in the cups.

Turkish coffee reading serves a rather social purpose in today’s society. Assumed to have descended from the palaces of the Ottoman Sultans, many adults take elongated breaks in the evenings and on weekends for two-three hours to have a heartfelt conversation followed by a ritual of coffee tasseography. The diviner utilizes the information acquired throughout the preceding conversation to develop predictions about the current state of one’s life and one’s future.

The coffee is drunk from only one side of the cup, as the querent chats with the diviner. When only sediments are left, the cup is turned over onto the saucer and turned three times clockwise while making a wish. A querent wishing to hear about his or her romantic life puts a ring on top of the overturned cup, and one more interested in a financial future puts a coin on top instead. As sediments dry out, they slowly form shapes in the cup and on the saucer that get interpreted as representing real-life concepts and objects like eagles, mountains, the number six, or the letter B. The diviner’s interpretation of the shapes (“tasseography”) in the sediment form the backbone of the reading, and they are mostly utilized to reassure the person whose fortune is being told that a certain portion of their wishes will come true immediately, and some will only come true after they overcome certain challenges. The general rule of thumb for diviners is to never deliver only good or only bad fortunes to avoid making the person too happy or too sad.

Once all the shapes in the cup are interpreted, it's time to interpret the shapes on the saucer--which generally is believed to hold information about whether the wish made initially will come true or not. The divination is only over after the querent goes and washes their own cup, while thinking of the wish they made intensely.

Whether performed by childhood friends or professional fortune tellers, coffee tasseography is a popular way to destress and socialize in the modern Turkey, where friends can catch up on each others’ lives and hear about each others’ aspirations and worries in a cordial setting. Most importantly, drinking coffee and the act of interpreting the coffee grounds ultimately act as facilitators to the rarely encountered genuine processes of building intimate emotional bonds.

Turkish Coffee Cup Reading

Meet the Expert: Cengiz Cemaloglu

The Diviner's Guide expert on tasseography is Cengiz Cemaloglu, who is a student at Harvard College. Cengiz is originally from Azerbaijan, but he moved Turkey when he was a child. In Turkey, Cengiz worked in a coffee shop during the summers doing coffee cup divination readings. Cengiz is fluent in five languages and he is studying Government and Anthropology at Harvard, and he worked on PredictionX as a Radcliffe Research Fellow.

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