Creative Divination: Reading Tea Leaves by Tabitha Dial – Book Review

Tea leaf reading (or palmistry, can’t really determine which of the two) is probably the first form of divination I was exposed to as a child. For many personal-shadow reasons, I’ve always rejected it and shirked from any interest in learning more about it, but recently I set the goal to learn and Tabitha Dial’s Creative Divination: Read Tea Leaves & Develop Your Personal Code has been an incredible introduction to the art.

Dial herself comes from a creative writing background and is a poet, which is evident in how well-written and organized this text is. Among independently published books in this field, this is one of the more polished and professionally designed.

She begins by distinguishing her approach to tea leaf reading from a more folksy fortune telling approach. This book sets forth an approach she calls Creative Divination, which is “related to fortune telling, but arguably more of an exercise in reflection and self-improvement.” Creatives, such as artists and writers, share many traits with psychics and diviners, and Creative Divination taps in to that common denominator process.

The book is structured as a workbook, with pages for you to fill in, so you can begin to formulate your own personal code or glossary of meanings to common symbols you’ll find in a tea leaf reading: animals, letters, numbers, and geometric shapes. So you begin by categorizing symbols into those four categories in your mental glossary. Religious symbols can also come up frequently.

Next there is consideration of location: where in the cup has the symbol formed? The book outlines a quadrant map of a teacup for you. You want to observe whether the symbol appears around the top ring of the cup, the middle, or bottom (vertical positioning), and then visualize a Cartesian plane across the horizontal span of the cup as well, marked by the positioning of the handle. It’s all fascinating and–what I can appreciate– a lot more analytical than I had presumed.

Dial walks you through how to do a tea leaf reading for friends and family, for yourself, inner child readings, how to connect with your spirit guides (or spirit allies, as she refers to them), how to use it to release negativity, and so much more.

What I learned and found most interesting about tea leaf reading from Dial’s book is that it’s not unlike tarot reading, except in a sense, you conceive of your own “deck” of cards, or in tea leaf reading, your own set of symbolism and corresponding meanings. In a reading, certain patterns of those symbols from your personal set show up in the cup. The exact positioning of that symbol in the cup is likened to the positioning in a tarot spread. You then look at the overall teacup, at all symbols and their positioning in totality, and it really is like reading a tarot card spread, only with tea leaves forming symbols you see because you’ve pre-established your own “deck” of tea leaf symbology.

Dial’s book is different from some of the tea leaf reading books I vaguely recall reading in the 80s and 90s, where tea leaf reading was presented with an ambiance of mysticism and mystery. I think I also recall extensive glossaries of actual symbol listings and what they mean. There is no glossary of fixed symbolic associations in Creative Divination. Instead, it walks you through how you will design your own glossary of symbolic associations. Again, think of it like having to conceive of your own tarot or Lenormand deck that will forever be in your mind, and then projecting those symbols on to the tea leaf formations you see, to identify which of those symbols from your mental glossary show up in the cup and where in that cup those symbols are positioned.

The workbook prompts are diverse and far-ranging, from reading approaches on love, relationships, career matters, five-year personal planning, to incorporating mythology, mediumship, and spirit work. It covers a lot of ground and has a little bit of something for everyone.

The book closes with spell-crafting basics using tea leaf reading and also intuition development. Creative Divination: Read Tea Leaves is a modern approach to an old divinatory art. Use it as a workbook and gradually develop your own set glossary of symbols. You’ll want to start a personal reference journal or grimoire to document that glossary and your work with tea leaf reading.

The text is written in simple, concise language intended for a general audience. There aren’t any preliminary academic chapters on history or the evolution of the craft, any commentary on how different cultures have approached this art (from what I know, there are a couple of distinct traditions, e.g., East Asian vs. West Asian traditions).

Dial is a poet with an MFA background and since that was an educational track I contemplated once upon a time, I tail around those social circles. Thus, I can see that her presentation style of tea leaf reading is well-tailored to that particular audience. Creative Divination–as I reckon the title promises–is written for the creative types, the artists and writers who also happen to hold an interest in the divinatory arts.

As I said in my endorsement for Dial’s book, it’s a layman’s primer on tea leaf reading methods that inspires individual creativity. The book is, at its heart, a reference dossier of exercises for seeing into your own soul.


FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received Creative Divination: Read Tea Leaves & Develop Your Personal Code from the author for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the book.

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