Superstitions About Tea

I’ve never been a superstitious person. Black cats and the number 13 don’t fill me with a sense of foreboding and I don’t get too worked up over spilling salt – except for the fact that salt is notoriously difficult to clean up. So it never really occurred to me that there might be superstitions associated with tea. But apparently that’s the case.

For anyone who might be interested in this sort of thing, Dr. Alec Gill, a British author and folk historian, has collected “a variety of ancient superstitions which once infused every aspect of British tea-drinking – especially in the pre-teabag days when leaves were free-range.” It’s a fairly extensive list and if you want to know more I’ll direct you there.

However, there were a few items on the list that I found especially worthy of a mention. For instance, there’s the rather off the wall notion that “fishermen afloat considered it unlucky to pass a mug of tea through a porthole or the rungs of a ladder.” It’s not so much that I’m questioning whether these practices might bring bad luck as much as I’m wondering what circumstances would find you need to pass a cup of tea through the rungs of ladder.

Since I don’t use milk, cream, sugar and the like in my own tea I have no need to stir it and so I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Because apparently there are some offbeat notions tied to tea spoons. Gill relates that “unwittingly” placing two spoons in the same cup “had a number of different meanings around the country: a wedding was imminent, the drinker would marry twice, or twins were due.” Again, I don’t so much question the end result as much as how you can slip a spoon into a tea cup without noticing that there’s already one in there. On the plus side, if you like kids and are a bit clumsy take heart for “a falling tea-spoon meant a child would visit.”

If you’re looking for more on tea superstitions, albeit in the form of a printed book, you might try a 1979 volume, Giant Book of Superstitions, by Claudia De Lys. Who wrote several books on superstitions and who included several pages to tea superstitions in this volume.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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