The Fortuneteller’s Tea

JB & BJ Grim

There once was a teapot with a special power to announce a blessing on whomever poured tea from its spout. The teapot, looking in all ways like an ordinary teapot, spoke with a voice when tea was poured from it and pronounced a good fortune upon the one whose hand held the handle. Following the fortune, however, came a warning that to ever use the teapot again would bring a binding curse.

For ages no one had been tempted to challenge the teapot’s final warning. Legendary stories of those who had were enough to stay anyone’s hand. One such story told of a king who had just been promised a doubled kingdom. He poured twice, and was immediately paralyzed. Another legend recounted the woe of a woman who “forgot” and merely desired another cup of tea. She was turned to stone, but her heart and mind went on living.

But the stories of the good things it predicted far outweighed the dark legends. In the evenings around household hearths and in public houses, there were always marvelous accounts of what good had befallen the people who had poured from it.

The teapot predicted the most wonderful and welcome events. It somehow could tell what kind of hand held it and what was most needed in that life to give it a boost of good fortune. When an old woman, widowed and childless, poured tea from it, the voice said, “You will not live out your days alone.” Then true to the prediction, the old woman was found by a kindhearted and distant relative who took care of her until her last breath. When a farmer, who was doubly troubled by his sick milk cow and beset by blight on his crops, poured from the teapot, the voice said, “Plant corn next year and you will be saved from ruin.” Sure enough, the farmer planted corn instead of wheat, harvesting enough to sell at a huge profit, and was able to buy another cow.

Even children were permitted a chance to pour from the teapot. Some of them were no doubt saved from a miserable life by the blessing they heard. One boy heard, “You are restless in school because you are smart. Write stories and one day you will touch the heart of a nation.” Only the boy himself knew how close he was to dropping out of school to join the circus.

The most often told story was of a poor mother of seven who boiled the water for the tea. Her seven children watched and waited with hopefulness that the blessing would fill their hungry bellies and warm their naked feet. With great reverence and ceremony, the mother poured out the tea into her cup which was chipped and missing its handle. The voice from teapot said, “Your husband has not — as all think — been executed for treason. He will be returning to you soon. Prepare to move into the castle.” The woman’s husband had been arrested as a spy and sentenced to death. However, it had all been a ruse to confuse the enemy, since in reality, he was a double agent in the service of the King. With the war won, the truth could be told and the husband was to be given a military command with highest honors — Captain of the King’s Guard. No other story could top this one for irony.

And so each person who poured from the teapot was blessed with gratifying news or a promise or some guidance. But as always, the blessing was followed up with a warning: “If again you pour from me, a curse you will receive.”

Then one day it came to a woman who most certainly believed in blessings and curses, but who was skeptical that what came out of a teapot could be trusted, as she was a fortuneteller. She felt that her reputation for predicting the future was well established and she abhorred the idea that some pathetic piece of pottery could be her rival. Nevertheless, the teapot had come into her town and she received it from her neighbor. She even made her pot of tea, though she did not put much stock in the teapot’s validity. Just before she poured it, she pulled the curtains shut so no one else could see her or hear what was said. The teapot said, “You will save yourself from ruin if you give up fortunetelling and, instead, make a living by selling your embroidery and lace. You are soon to be discovered as a fraud.”

The fortunetelling woman was astounded to hear such a warning from the teapot, but she recognized the warning for the blessing that it was, and in that moment, became a believer in the teapot. She realized that it could predict the future in a way which she never could. Her jealousy for the little figure of clay was replaced by admiration. She, indeed, decided to open a shop like it had said, but instead of selling handicrafts which she made, she would sell the blessings of the teapot. For if she was soon to be discovered as a fraud, what better protection was there than to sit behind the teapot and benefit from its reputation and its wisdom.

So instead of passing on the teapot to the next person, she bade that person come to her. With her curtains still drawn and herself acting reverently, she prepared the pot of tea for the next person, and when it was time to pour, she had that person take the handle. The blessings were spoken by the teapot for the person who held the handle to pour, and when their face brightened with the news, the woman asked for payment out of respect for the teapot.

In this way, the woman saved herself from ruin by using the magic of the teapot. Everyone came to her door and paid for their chance to hear their blessing, even those who would never have visited her as a fortuneteller. The teapot performed its job just the same as if it were moving about from house to house, and person to person.

Not everyone approved of what the woman had done with the teapot. Many felt that she was doing wrong to make money from a magic teapot which she had received just like all of those before her. But the woman told them that the teapot itself had told her to keep it so that it wouldn’t be broken by the constant changing of hands.

There was one clever man who had not received his blessing yet from the teapot. He decided to visit to the woman. When he came into her house, he said he wanted to pay in advance. It had never happened before, and this pleased the woman. But he needed some help. He asked her to pull the moneybag from his pocket because both of his arms were in plaster casts. She gladly took the moneybag. While she went about preparing the tea, the clever man complimented the woman for doing a fine job making the blessings available to everyone, and he assured her that she was respected for keeping the teapot safe from other hands which might break it. The woman glowed in the kindness and aptness of his words, and when the tea was steeped, he said, “Would you mind pouring it out for me since my arms are broken?” Without a thought, the woman poured his tea.

At that, the teapot spoke not to him but to her, saying, “You are cursed for being twice a fraud. You shall become deaf, mute, and crippled. The money you have made from my blessings will rot and you will be friendless.” When the voice of the teapot stopped, the man pulled off his fake plaster casts, picked up the teapot and left the woman, satisfied that his money had been well spent. The teapot was then returned to its service of being handed from person to person, and no one dared to keep it or sell its blessings like the woman had done. In fact, it is still being passed around to this day. Perhaps, it will be coming to your village next.