I have this idea for a live storytelling act, roaming round my head for the last week or so. It's a Fortune Teller, spinning the stories by H.C. Andersen, in the audience interactive fashion of looking into a palm, coffee cup, spilled beans (I'm particularly excited about the variation of the jelly beans, for the young audience), cards or even a 'magic ball' (or a bouncy one, maybe a soap bubble). A story can spring out of any of these.
I grew up with 'fortune tellers' of this kind (I wish they'd warned me). The 'readings' would happen in casual settings - chats over a cup of coffee, home visits, days in the park or on the beach. I never 'went to' a 'fortune teller', for an official prediction of my future. I never paid for it (well, not willingly). This allowed for the 'art form' to be treated light-heartedly and not be taken too seriously. It allowed for mistakes, rubbish goes at it, lack of inspiration or just a 'bad cup'. No one minded or cared much if it went wrong. Yet, at the same time, the genuine anticipation of a possible real insight into our lives was always there. Being excited about fortune telling was a cultural phenomenon. Giving insights to each other, into each other's lives and personalities, was the national pastime. While females of all ages and social backgrounds had a go at 'reading the future' in one way or another (due to their natural flair for lying, gossiping and the intuitive), the 'fortune telling' was, generally, considered the tradition of the Roma Travelers, referred to as Gypsies. Although it's, actually, not, it remains, in my mind, the Roma's largest cultural export. Having your palm looked at by your neighbour was not the same as having it looked at by a casual passer-by, dressed up in colourful dirty rags, with a scarf over her head, a baby in a wrap and a large stick in hand. The latter were trusted with insight much more. Unfortunately, the trust didn't extend to the personal possessions. It was another cultural phenomenon, for the 'Gypsies' and 'non-Gypsies', to engage in a game of cat-and-mouse, over the 'non-Gypsies'' valuables, during the 'reading'. The 'reader' would be viewed with suspicion from the start. Equally, she would assess her 'target' with forensic precision, within seconds. Sometimes she'd win the battle (I, once, had a ring stolen off of my finger, during a palm reading). The skill of these women cannot be overestimated. The fortune-telling pocket thieves were the first-class artisans.
I'm excited about this idea of stealing from my audience, especially at a London free event, let's say, so I threw a quick search, to see what the internet has conjured up about these fortune telling customs, the artistry of which was, in my youth, passed on only orally, confusingly and inaccurately, thus preserving the mystery, which preserved it. To my surprise, there's a scientific sounding name for it, I never heard of before. Tasseography is a method of interpreting the coffee sediments https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasseography I had to burst into a laugh, as I thought of my grandma tasseographer 'reading my cup' in her knickers and bra, on a hot summer day, to pass the time after lunch. I'll also never forget the tasseographer 'klopipara', who hit me with a stick because she couldn't steal my bank note.