Fortune-telling, the practice of predicting information about a person’s life, isn’t something I’m generally interested in. I grew up in the environment that has shaped me to usually rely on facts, tangible things, and physical existence. Which is quite uncommon for Indonesians, who normally believe in mystics, superstition, and supernatural powers.
But just like everyone else, I wish sometimes I could see a glimpse of my future. Reading astrology in the magazine is something I hardly missed during high school, mostly because it was something that other girls talked about when they were discussing about boys they liked.
However going to fortune teller was a strange concept until 6 years a go, when I was still living in Jakarta, Indonesia. A friend heard about this Chinese man whose reading was very accurate, or so what a friend of a friend’s of a friend’s told us. Single and desperately wanted to know whether we’d get boyfriends this year, we found ourselves in a room full of Kwan Im Goddess and Buddha statues in every size and position. I am not sure if the guy actually practiced libanomancy – interpreting the smoke of incense (don’t be surprised. I just found out about this term today after did some googling) – but there was a lot of burning incense surround us, and the room was a bit smoky. The man himself appeared to be an ordinary, skinny, slightly old guy.
After a few minutes of chit-chat, he started ‘reading’ one of us. My girlfriend M was told to change her hair style. Her fringe, which covers her forehead, apparently blocked her luck to find love and gain fortune. She also had to start looking for a potential husband more actively now, because her luck only comes every 4 years, and this year was one of those 4 years! We started giggling and threw inappropriate comments towards each other because M commented that her luck must be in line with the World Cup which happens every 4 years, and would her future husband be a footballer? I forgot what the answer was, but I remember the giggling part! At the end of the reading, the guy asked us to pray together. So we bowed our heads and waited for him to lead the prayer. We almost fainted for holding our breath to suppress our laugh, because for some reason, this Chinese Indonesian guy started praying… in English. I don’t know why – he probably wanted to impress us – but clearly he was lack of practice, stammering words full of “uhmmm…. uhmm…. and…. and….” and at the end had to switch the language back to Indonesian. Despite having Kwan Im Goddess and Buddha statues in the room, he prayed a la Christian and called Virgin Mary in his prayer, which I think rather odd. I can’t remember how much we paid him, nor what he said about me, but I remember I went out of his place feeling happy because I laughed a lot and inhaled too much incense.
My second experience was with a fortune teller who was pretty famous back then (maybe still is). Because he was consulted by celebrities – which to many Indonesians establishes the level of his capabilities of greatness and accuracy – my colleagues invited him over for lunch at a restaurant to predict their futures. The guy was pretty impressive when he walked in. He’s tall, pretty nice looking, well built, dressed nicely apart from wearing beanies in the scorching hot Jakarta temperature, and carried 3 mobile phones in his hands which buzzed constantly. We didn’t have to give him any details, he just sort of looked at us and would read us from our facial expressions and body languages to answer our questions. No cards, no magic ball or wand, no palm reading or coffee or tea leaves involved, nothing. This, I found after googling, is called physiognomy.
The first time he looked at me, even before I uttered a single word, he said, “You think about sex a lot.”
I almost choked in my green tea. It’s rather inappropriate remarks and I certainly didn’t plan to ask such question, nor to embarrass myself in front of my colleagues, but he said it so calmly, very matter-of-factly, while grinning like a Cheshire cat. I couldn’t remember what he was saying about my future anymore. As well as his inappropriate remarks, there was something ‘off’ about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. All I remember was we chatted briefly afterwards, and he mentioned that his wife was 7-month pregnant. A few days later he texted me, saying that he could sense some ‘danger’ coming from my ex, but I shouldn’t be worried as he “has cast a spell to repel it”. Being skeptical as I was, I thanked him politely but his text left me wondering if it was a common practice for a fortune teller to follow up every patient’s situation. Then a few days later he texted me again, “just to say hi and wonder how you are”. I told him I was fine, and asked if he sensed some danger again (the ex was particularly nice that week and stopped harassing me), and he said no, not really, but wonder if he could come over to my house to see me. I thought it was a bit strange, so I consulted it with a friend. He laughed so hard and almost fell of his chair, trying to explain that the guy was hitting on me, and how could I miss those signals?
What signals? I protested, but then several other text messages came in, and my friend’s prediction turned out to be true.
The failed two experiences put me off, until a year later when my girlfriend and I stumbled upon a booth of tarot reader when we were out shopping. The psychic carried such confidence when she read my friend, so I decided to get her scrying me as well. Her method is rather unique, because she predicted what I was going to have every month, complete with graphics and charts. For example, my job was going to be ok, she said, drafting a flat graphic (bugger), there’s no promotion in sight (bugger!!), but there would be a much more traveling involved. My then boyfriend and I were going to break up (the love chart was pointing towards the bottom when the graph was near October), but there was going to be man from far away, white, tall, looks like a Chinese but not a Chinese (the chart was up after that). I already didn’t appreciate her prediction about me breaking up with my then boyfriend, and the second man she predicted was a complete rubbish, as there was no such man in sight. So I just shrugged it off, folded the paper, thanked her, immediately forgot about her prediction and continued my life as normal.
A couple of years later I found that paper and was pretty surprise that most of what she said was true. I suddenly was sent away a lot to manage some projects, I even traveled to 3 different cities every week, I had more responsibilities, was doing great with my job, but didn’t get promoted. I also broke up with my then boyfriend around the time she mentioned, and did meet a man from Scotland (far away from Indonesia), white (true), tall (true), looks like a Chinese but not a Chinese (errr… not sure about this, but he did have traveled to China many times).
Recently my girlfriends talk about a “coffee cup reading” practice. Intrigued, I asked the holy Google about coffee cup reading and retrieved this information from PS-Magazine.com:
The origins of coffee cup readings stem from the ancient Chinese art of tealeaves reading practised for centuries; originally by monks who ceremonially drank tea in bell shaped cups. Before that, it is thoughts that monks used to read patterns formed on the internal part of bells in temples, so the handle-less teacup was a logical progression. This was later adapted to coffee grounds reading by the Arabs, who first discovered coffee beans around 600 AD and managed to keep coffee as a secret, having a monopoly on cultivating and drinking coffee for several hundred years. Coffee made its way and became known or used as a beverage in Western Europe and the Americas, only in the late 18th century. Both tealeaves and coffee cup readings are known as Tasseography, or tasseomancy (kafemandeia in Greek). [del]. The art was very much alive and practiced by these various seers from Greece, Persia, Russia, Armenia and Yugoslavia.
A few days later I met a friend who told me about her friend’s mother who could predict our fortune by reading Turkish coffee as well. I asked my friend if the lady would agree to read me because I was going to write about this topic. The lady, who is originally from Macedonia, only does it for fun and for free, so my friend needed to ask her first if we could come round and see her. The answer was yes, so in that particular afternoon six of us were sitting around the dining table in her charming house. Everyone is a good friend of the daughter’s except me who was just introduced to everybody, and the conversation flew from one point to another from six different directions. While we were busy chatting, the lady boiled the coffee on the stove, heated up the milk, then gave one cup to each of us, including herself. We had to sip the coffee slowly and after drinking most of the liquid in the coffee, we had to put the cup down and allow a few minutes for the coffee to settle. Then we had to swirl the cup to get the sediment around the wall of the cup, and turning it upside down on a piece of tissue paper, to drain the excess. After a few minutes when the cup was dry and had some patterns around it, she started scrying.
**To be continued. **