I was first introduced to Rae Hepburn's Tea Leaf Fortune Cards in 2000, when I purchased the set published by Journey Editions, an imprint of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd. In the very first reading I did with the cards, my husband (who is totally not into this sort of thing) pointed to one of the cards I had drawn and said, "That's talking about me, right there." Needless to say, I was impressed!
In May 2010, I wrote a post about this deck here at Tarot Notes. I did a sample reading in that post and noted that the deck was out of print.
While looking for additional information on the deck and its creators, I came upon a customer discussion at Amazon.com. There, I learned from Rae Hepburn that a new edition of the Tea Leaf Fortune Cards would be published by U.S. Games this fall. To read my review of this new set, click HERE.
I am thrilled that the cards can now find a whole new audience, and delighted that Rae Hepburn agreed to be interviewed for Tarot Notes: Major and Minor.
Tarot Notes (TN): Hello, Rae, and welcome to Tarot Notes: Major and Minor! I'm sure our readers would love to know a little bit about you. Could you tell us where you're from and how you became interested in divination?
Rae Hepburn (RH): I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of England, just below Scotland. Newcastle is one of the oldest cities in England and is built on the site of an old Roman fort that was built to keep the Scots from invading Britain.
It's difficult to say when I first became interested in divination as it is something I have done all my life. Everyone in my family could read tea leaves, although some read them a lot better than others. One aunt was an absolute whiz at reading symbols and everyone used to love having their fortunes told by her. She helped me a great deal in recognizing symbols and how they connected. In our family it was common to turn over the dregs of your morning cup of tea into your saucer, spin the cup three times and then read what kind of a day you were going to have. This can be emulated very easily by picking out a single Tea Leaf Fortune Card each day to use as a guide.
TN: Do you currently read tea leaves for yourself or others?
RH: Absolutely. Although I have to admit that I use the Tea Leaf Fortune Cards much more than I use tea leaves. They are just so much easier to use. Reading actual tea leaves can be a bit messy at times.
TN: What prompted you to create a set of cards related to reading tea leaves?
RH: All of my friends loved having their tea leaves read and wanted to be able to read for themselves, but none of them ever had enough time to master the art of reading tea leaves. It can be quite difficult. They would recognize a few symbols but not enough to give an accurate reading. Also, tea leaf reading is very subjective. If someone has no knowledge of the symbols, then an unscrupulous seer can basically tell them whatever he or she wants. I wanted to create a set of cards using tea leaf symbols and their meanings that would make it easy for everyone to accurately read his or her fortune without the need of an expensive seer.
TN: Do these cards represent every symbol used in tea leaf readings? If not, how did you choose which symbols to depict on the cards?
RH: No. There are over five hundred symbols and that's not counting letters of the alphabet and numerical symbols. To make a deck of that many cards would be unwieldy and unfeasible. Many tea leaf symbols have the same meaning e.g. "buffalo," "bison" and "bull" all mean "Do not back down from opposition. Show strength and fortitude." The only difference between the three is the size and strength of the opposition. In this case, I chose "bull" to represent all three symbols as it is the more common animal. I did this will all symbols that had similar meanings. I also chose the symbols that most frequently occurred in my tea leaf readings. Some symbols are so obscure, I felt it unnecessary to include them. I omitted all numerical symbols as well as letters of the alphabet which often depict a name or place connected with the reading. I did include the letter "V" because it also means "Victory in some endeavor." By culling and doing test after test readings with the cards, I was finally able to arrive at the 182 symbol cards which I feel give the most accurate readings.
TN: What do the Astral House cards represent in this set? How does one use them in connection with the Tea Leaf cards?
RH: At the beginning of a tea leaf reading, the querist can ask a question of the cup. This is called the Astral question as the answer is thought to be in the Astral. The seer will then read the symbols as answering the question the querist asked. It would be impossible to make up cards for all the questions that could be asked. Instead, I used the six subjects people want to know about most when they are having a reading; love, marriage, success, wealth, happiness and career. It is very easy, though, to duplicate the Astral question. Just search through the cards until you find the one that most resembles your question, then place it at the top of the Astral House Pyramid.
TN: Do you have a favorite memory or story about a specific reading that you did using the Tea Leaf Cards?
There are a few that stand out in my mind, but I will tell you about the one where I felt the most helpful and the one where I felt absolutely dreadful. Let me set the scene. This was when I was living in Los Angeles and I used to tell fortunes once a month from 7:00-9:00 pm at Brentanos Book Store in the Beverly Shopping Center to promote the Tea Leaf Fortune Cards. Each querist had the choice of an Astral House or a Coming Week reading (the Coming Year took up too much time) and I used to figure 10 minutes for each reading. (You would be amazed at how slowly some people can pick cards.) I would arrive at the store and see the line of people waiting and ask the manager to tell anyone past the twelfth person that I probably wouldn't be able to read for them as I would only have time to read for twelve. Once in line, people don't like to leave and I always felt dreadful about asking them to leave.
The most helpful reading: It was a young man in his twenties and he was having an Astral House reading on his career. His central card was "DOOR - opportunities are waiting for you." I told him that this meant there were opportunities waiting for him but that they wouldn't present themselves without him taking the first step. I could see I wasn't getting through to him, so I tried again. "Think of it as a computer," I said, "if you don't access a program, you will never know what it can do." His face absolutely lit up. "Computer programming. That's what my mom wants me to do and, now, here it is in my fortune." His "DOOR" card was next to the "OWL - good advice from a wise person." I pointed to the "OWL" card and said, "That's your mother, she's giving you good advice." He came back to see me a few months later and told me he was taking computer programming and thanked me for setting him on the right path. I told him it wasn't me, I just read the cards he picked, but it was very gratifying all the same.
The worst reading: Again it was an Astral House reading, this time on Success. A Korean couple in their late forties were sitting opposite me and the man had chosen the cards. As each card was turned over, it was worse than the one before. It was one of the worst fortunes I have ever seen. The meaning are written on the cards so there was very little I could do to put a positive spin on it other than saying that this represented short term energy and things could be very different in four months. Suddenly, the wife let out a shriek and started cursing out her husband in a mixture of Korean and English in front of all the people still waiting to have their fortunes told and all the shoppers in the store. It seemed that the husband had made an investment against his wife's advice and it was turning out to be a dreadful mistake. The store manager had to come over and ask them to leave.
TN: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
RH: Yes. May all their fortunes be good.
TN: Thank you so much, Rae!