On February 22nd, several of us gathered in a cozy apartment in downtown Staunton for a little tea and little gazing into the sands of time.
A selection of teas for our tasseomanc-ing perusal
We got to enjoy some lovely conversation while sipping our tea and enjoying shortbread cookies
None of us being expert tasseomancers ourselves, we relied on the mystical world wide web to help us make sense of the dregs. For some very simple shapes, I can recommend this visual guide. For a little more detail, try this site or this site.
Cass felt sure she had a lobster, signifying “a pleasant event, or a good present”
Dylan had a star. Or a monster. We’re not quite sure. As he kept swishing, he was disappointed to learn that neither “giant robot” nor “Trogdor” were in any of our online dictionaries.
Contemplating…. opening the inner eye…. channeling our inner Trelawneys…
Those of us heading to Florida in October were happy to know that Christina’s cup told her she was in for pleasant journeys in the next 8 months.
Noah found that his tea choice was a little too clumpy for easy reading. Dylan helped him swish some out for better divining!
We decided to have a second round of tea, just for drinking, and then Cass did some Tarot readings. For this, we did not have to rely on the internet’s wisdom, as Cass has been reading for years. We even got to help her break in a brand-new deck!
The Steampunk Tarot deck was a favorite of the afternoon
Though the Shadowscapes deck has undeniable artistic loveliness
We ran through a few “decision-making” spreads
I don’t know if any of us pierced any great mysteries of the beyond, but we had a lovely time!
For our first meet-up of 2014, we had a crafternoon decorating cups, mugs, and saucers for tea-leaf reading. We convened at the Burrow with cheaply-bought or thrift-store-rescued crockery and a whole lot of Sharpies. Before we got started, Christina read to us from that font of all Muggle knowledge, Wikipedia, about Tasseography/Tasseomancy. There’s a lot of history behind it, starting from methods of reading wax spatters or other molten substances. (We don’t recommend lava-reading). The practice transformed into tea- and coffee-reading once those substances were introduced to Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
We also learned about some of the different methods of designing cups and reading the tea. Some cups and saucers have meaningful symbols, such as the zodiac, already designed on them. (I decided to go on this theme, as you can see, at left). Others use playing cards, which seems a bit like merging Tarot-reading with tasseomancy, or else common symbols with their own altheiometer-like meanings. Other methods, however, use a plain cup and interpret meaning based on the shape the dregs form, not just where they land.
So, armed with those variant possibilities, we set to work. Dylan put the Grim in his and decorated the exterior with a favourite fandom design. Amanda also went with a tea-leaf esque design and a quote from the books, while JohnMichael went with a Snitch theme. Christina put a bunny in hers, Noah turned pre-existing figures on his cup into wizards, and Caroline chose a bold red design (below). You can see more pictures of everyone’s work, and a few of the works-in-progress, on our Facebook album.
For anyone who wants to try this, we discovered that using a pencil or a ballpoint pen to trace out your design works really well — you can smudge it out with a bit of spit or alcohol if you make a mistake. Working with the Sharpies takes a steady hand! But even those mistakes can be remedied with a little alcohol. The designs need to sit for 24 hours before getting baked on in an oven.
The Greys are firing everything in their oven today, so perhaps sometime soon, we’ll have a meeting where we actually do readings!
What a wonderful night! Witches and wizards who are long-time residents of Virginia know full well how temperamental the weather this time of year can be (and may have memories of having to wear turtlenecks and leotards under their costumes, or of trying to juggle an umbrella with their candy bags) — but despite the threat of rain and howling winds, the evening was perfectly lovely!
Two members of the Hufflepuff Quidditch Team, one Slytherin prefect, and a Dementor headed out to Fishersville. Unfortunately, Noah’s Dementor costume was so convincing that he pretty quickly had to tone it down, as he was terrifying the small ones. We spent about an hour and a half wandering around, and I’m pleased and proud to announce that we earned $107.56 for UNICEF while trick-or-treating!
We didn’t see any other witches or wizards while we were out, but a great many superheroes, fairies, and princesses. We also had the chance to reflect on how trick-or-treating is different as an adult — namely, that instead of tearing across yards with nothing but candy on our minds, we responsibly sought out walkways, swept gravel back into embankments, righted lawn ornaments that children had toppled, and commented on landscaping and architectural features.
So, this meet-up was super-fun and we raised money for a good cause. We’ll definitely be doing this again next year, so be thinking about your Halloween 2014 costumes and be ready to hit the well-lit suburban streets with us.
Muggle Studies: Blithe Spirit – Thursday, October 3rd
OK, we know the truth: only witches and wizards can become ghosts. But that doesn’t mean muggles can’t pretend, does it? Join us for a performance of Noel Coward’s _Blithe Spirit_ at Mary Baldwin College, a muggle institute of higher learning well known for the awesomeness of its theater alums.
Granted, the premise of this play is rather far-fetched; can you imagine a wannabe Seer with all the competence of Professor Trelawny actually recalling an unfortunate muggle’s dead wife from the grave, *without* the aid of a Resurrection Stone? But, if you can willingly suspend your disbelief at that absurdity, you are in for an amusing little tale, especially once the widower’s second wife finds out!
Let’s gather for beverages and snacks at Coffee on the Corner about 6, then apparate up the hill for the show at 7:30. Please purchase your tickets in advance from Mary Baldwin box office (http://www.mbc.edu/arts/theatre/) rather than sneaking in by placing Dr. Southerington under the Imperius Curse. Ghosts and poltergeists welcome if they can refrain from destroying the set.
Geeky Cauldron Trivia and Pizza Party – Friday, October 18th
Virginia is for Wizards members will be convening at Caroline’s house to enjoy some friendly trivia competition and Harry Potter Trivia.
Caroline, who hosts trivia at several local venues for Geeks Who Drink, will be giving us a private presentation of Geeky Cauldron, the company’s HP-themed trivia. So brush up on your lesser-known Hogwarts Ghosts, remember how many knuts in a galleon, and don’t forget which shop Potter erroneously discovered in Knockturn Alley in 1992.
Additionally, please contribute delicious toppings to a Build Your Own Grilled Pizza Bar. Caroline & Co. are providing crusts, so bring some fancy sauce, cheese, and toppings to share with others. Leave a comment here about who is bringing what toppings so we don’t end up with 10 pounds of pepperoni and no cheese.
Halloween is an important holiday in wizarding culture, and this year, the Muggle Liaison Office is encouraging us all to use this opportunity to give a little something back to both the wizarding and Muggle worlds. Trick or Treat for UNICEF is a program where, instead of going door-to-door for candy (or while accompanying the young ones), participants ask for pocket change. Donations go to help children around the world, providing health care, promoting nutrition, assisting in educational efforts, and more. So put on your best wizarding wear this Halloween, step forth with no fear of the International Statute of Secrecy (no one will notice on that night, though the Department of Magical Law Enforcement would like to remind you that actually performing magic in front of Muggles is still a violation), and join us to do a little good in the world!
More details will be forthcoming as we determine precisely where and at what hours we’ll be making the rounds. The Staunton-centered crowd will be somewhere up in the valley, but this is also an event you can take part in from afar! If you can’t join us here, consider putting together an event in your locality. Donation boxes are free to order at http://www.trickortreatforunicef.org/. If you decide to hold a satellite trick-or-treat event, just snap a picture of your group with your boxes and send it to us! We’d love to see some participants from other parts of the Commonwealth.
With summer waning, you might find yourself headed back to school or wishing (briefly) that you were headed back. If you’re the former, here’s a brief additional lecture at which your attendance is entirely optional about the calculation of house points in Virginia is for Wizards. If you’re the latter, one look at all the maths will remind you why you don’t go to school in the first place.
So, our trial run Summer House Cup was dominated by Hufflepuff House. This came as no surprise to regularly attending group members, as the majority of our membership is in Hufflepuff and they’re pretty active members. What MAY surprise you is how close the race actually was, thanks to weighting and some handy maths skills:
“What?” I hear you cry from the back row. “There were only two regular, active Gryffindor members over the summer! How the heck did they take last—but at only a 38 point deficit from first place?!”
I’m glad you asked, disembodied back row guy. Here’s a look at how the math breaks down for a meeting. We’re gonna take our Muggle Studies: Bowling Night as an example. Names have been cropped out to protect the awesomeness.
In the diagram, I’ve pasted the new semester’s key in the upper left hand corner so you know what all the codes mean and how many points something is worth. The top student in Gryffindor, for example, earned 5 points for attending, two costume points for coming in full “blend with muggles” costuming (as opposed to the other students, who earned a single point for wearing house colors or basic HP gear/t-shirts), and an E worth 2 points for winning a game of bowling. I have adjusted a bit the coding for my own sanity; I WAS making capital letters worth double and lowercase worth single, but it was too much of a hassle so I started doing duplicate letters. This was the event in which I switched over, so you’ll see both notation styles written there. So, for that awesome gryffindor, you’ll see 5 points for his attendance, 2 points for costuming, and two event points for winning bowling for a total of 9.
((You may notice an asterisk (*) not in the key but present in the chart; these were 2 points assigned to those individuals for beating the organizers there and having the good sense to go ahead and reserve us some lanes. An asterisk will not be used in the future; I moved to just using E’s for all things like that, be it bringing a dish to share at a house event or winning a round of trivia. This was to simplify something that was already unnecessarily complex.))
So, down there at the bottom, you’ll see the total # of individuals participating. In an ideal world, we’d have the same number of students from each house at each event; if you take the # participating and divide by 4 (the # of houses), round up and you get the weight # for the individual event. I weighted each event and activity this way to keep from penalizing houses if someone couldn’t make an event or overly inflating a group’s points due to super consistent attendance. Then, I totaled each house’s participation points and put their raw score in the row labeled with their house. Let’s keep with Gryffindor for our example. There was just the one Lion present, so the chart has his 9 points he he earned, and then a 1 for “G in attendance”. The Wgryffindor is the weighted score—if there had been exactly 2 gryffindors present, making each house even, Gryffindor would have earned 18 points. That’s Total Points divided by the number of Students present times the Weight number (TP/S)*W.
Then, check out Hufflepuff’s totals at the bottom. They had a good showing of 3 students—but that’s more than the weighted number of students. They earned their whopping 28 points, but when you divide that by 3 and then multiply by the weighted number, you get 18 2/3 (which, as you can see, is lower than their raw total, unlike the gryffindor example above).
So, then I take the raw number of points earned and add it to the weighted total points earned for each house to get a total score for the event. Gryffindor’s enthusiatic member wasn’t penalized by being the only Gryffindor present because his weighted score gave his house a hefty total of 27 for the event. The Hufflepuffs also had their individual contributions recognized in their individual score of 28, but their weighted average of 18.667 keeps the playing field relatively level for other houses to still be successful at scoring against them. Their event total was still 46.667, thanks to members dressing up and great bowling. Only taking the weighted score wouldn’t adequately recognize the individual contributions, and only taking the individual scores would put Slytherin, Gryffindor, and Ravenclaw at an exceptional disadvantage to the sheer number of active students in Hufflepuff. Plus, we don’t want you guys not referring friends to our group if they’re not in your house.
Hope this makes sense to everyone, since I took a very simple math problem and made it sound really complicated.
Do you guys want to do semester cups (so, we’d have one around the holidays and one at the summer break), or do you want to do an entire year?
Do you have any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas about our current house point system? Let us know in the comments!
Hufflepuff Head of House Christina baked the cupcakes for the celebration!
First off: Congratulations to Hufflepuff House for winning our first ever House Cup! Y’all did a fantastic job. The Badgers were a strong presence throughout our summer meet-ups, and they really brought it home with our online challenges the past few weeks.
Dylan’s going to be making a post soon, explicating how we’ve been calculating the points. We’ll be looking for feedback on both the points system (how much different activities are worth) and the weighting system Dylan came up with. We’re pretty happy with it, but we want to make sure all of you are, too!
So, looking forward to the next semester (mid-September to early-January), we want to keep bringing you wonderful wizardy fun! Help us out by answering these polls, and earn a point for your House in the process! (And note that these are separate polls, so make sure you click “vote” on each one).
Please, feel free to expand on your thoughts in the comments! We can’t wait to get started with an awesome autumn.