Correspondences? I hardly know 'em!

A little while ago, somebody asked me about tasseomancy (divination by tea leaves), and said:

"I've done some basic research already, but I'm lost when it comes to reading symbols, there are so many different meanings for them out there how do I know which one to use?"

There was a little more to the question, but what really struck me was the bit about "so many different readings", because it highlights a difference between divination methods like tarot, runes and oracle cards, and those like tasseomancy and dream analysis. Unlike the former three, which tend to come with a little guidebook on what various cards etc mean, methods like tasseomancy where the images are never the same twice (literally, ever, I'd imagine) rely heavily on what your understanding of a certain piece of imagery is.

For example, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (death of the author and all that jazz, but it's a good example), Harry is reading tea leaves in his Divination class and when he looks in his cup, he sees “the Grim”. Or at least, that is what he is told that he sees, and for most of the book - putting aside the aspect of narrative convenience - this is what we are led to believe is the truth. That is because the ‘cultural’ expectation of the setting is that the symbol of a black dog is one of dread; one that comes quite heavily from the British myth of Black Shuck, may I add. But as we later learn, the dog in his cup is not a symbol of dread and or an omen of death but instead one of optimism; the first introduction he has to his godfather, Sirius. In Harry's eyes, the black dog represents an escape from a life of abuse at the hands of the Dursleys, and a solid, living tie to his lost parents. In the future, Harry is likely to see dog symbolism and not think of grimness, but of Sirius.

Real life divination, as it were, is the same. Try to throw out the idea that signs, omens and symbols need to mean something specific, and start thinking about what they mean to you. There’s no harm in relying on cultural ideas and common symbolizations (or even ones that can be found in books!) but if they really don’t resonate with you… don’t let that bother you. Consider the fact that it's impossible to write a book of correspondences that will align perfectly with every single culture or experience in the world. A person in India may see a cow in a reading and think of something sacred, while a person in Yorkshire might think about agriculture.

And while we're at it... this way of thinking can be applied to, well, aspects of magic that aren't just divination, too. A friend of mine recently expressed to me that they were considering getting into kitchen witchcraft, and so I asked another friend for some advice for somebody starting out. Correspondences were the first thing that they brought up, because in the kitchen, everybody cooks differently. They brought up an example of a new kitchen witch who was having trouble resonating with every book on this area of witchcraft that they could get their hands on, which was confusing the rest of the forum until they realised that in the country OP was from, the spices and herbs weren't as readily available and meant something different.

Traditions aren't the same, either, and a person who has been through a traumatic experience that is connected to imagery that is typically, say, romantic, is definitely not going to think of that thing as romantic in their own practice. Hereditary witches from one country, for instance, will have different paths to those from another country. A Norse heathen who was raised by pagan families or who has read the Eddas and Sagas all of their lives is going to see their gods in different places to somebody whose first introduction to them was in the Marvel movies or Supernatural - and both of these approaches are equally valid! Is one of these people seeing their gods in a more "correct" way? Fuck no.

And yes, this goes for UPGs, too! Not every raven that you see is Huginn and Muninn. But if you've got this thing going with the old one-eyed wanderer and poptarts, turning on the tv to a commercial for them might be something that should pique your interest. While we're at it, it's important to apply a nice, hefty dollop of 'discernment' to these sorts of things, too. Not every 'sign' that you see is an 'omen'. As I said, sometimes a raven is just a raven and a poptart is just a poptart. If you live in a place where you're going to see twelve ravens on your way to work, the one that's important is probably going to be the one that goes out of its way to be noticed by you. If your local corner shop stops selling poptarts after they've been there for ten straight years, maybe pay attention. In a cup of tea leaves, a cat might be someone sneaky lurking around the corner, or it might be a warning not to step on the neighbourhood cat in the dark, or it might be just a picture of a cat.

I would encourage you to keep a record of your own correspondences and to build your own collection of 'meanings'. Your collection might include things that you've read in books or online that felt 'right' to you, or it might simply be a collection of "inside jokes" but what matters is that when you see these things in a reading or an omen or any other part of your magic, you will know what they mean without having to go to the library or fall down a rabbit hole of trying to find the right words to google. Your understanding of the subject matter will feel more intuitive in the long run, too. Trust me; it's worth the extra work.

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