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Divining with Lead - A German New Year's Custom

"Bleigiessen" by Micha L. Reiser

"Bleigiessen" by Micha L. Reiser

Molybdomancy is a form of magic which includes cures and divination using molten lead. The usual technique is to heat the metal to melting point, then pour into water, allowing it to set. When being used for divination, the shapes formed help the reader discover what my occur in the future, or give the answer to a specific question. Some traditions describe how the lead will show the reader the face of their future husband!

Throughout the ages, this technique has been mentioned in Greece, Turkey, Iran, Bosnia, Ireland, the British Isles, Germany, and Scandinavia. As well as divination, it is also used in some countries as a cure against the evil eye.

But it is to Germany that we look, as we investigate one of the more interesting traditions of the New Year.

Known as "Bleigießen" (Bleigiessen) in Germany, the melting of lead is a traditional activity during the festival known as Sylvester, which falls on 31st December.

Lead of course, is toxic, so in modern times tin or pewter is used instead to carry out this activity.

A small tin shape is placed in a spoon and is melted over a candle. The molten metal is then poured quickly into a cup or bowl of water. It is hoped that the shape it forms when it cools will give the reader a glimpse of what the coming year will bring. The guide below explains what the shapes are said to foretell.

Silverster night in München (Munich)

Silverster night in München (Munich)

Love and Relationships

Angel – A peaceful heart, and happiness with your age

Antlers - Unhappy love, jealousy

Baby - Domestic peace

Bed - Practice sex carefully

Bee - A Wedding draws close

Beetle - An affair draws close

Bell - Announces upcoming offspring

Bra - Fulfilment in love

Broom – Keep away from your mother-in-law!

Bucket - Fulfilment in a relationship

Chimney sweep – Good luck in love

Daggers - A favour from a friend

Scroll to Continue

Dog - Faithful friends

Donkey - A long awaited legacy will bear fruit

Egg - Family growth

Elephant – Great strength during a relationship crisis

Falcon - Someone is jealous of you

Flower - A new friendship develops

Garden - A new love enters your life

Guitar - Secret longings, a wish

Gun - Betrayal in love, discord and slander

Hand - Loyalty

Hare - A long journey, or the return of an old friend

Harp - Success in love, leading to marriage

Hawk - An enemy

Hatchet - Disappointment in love

Heart - You will fall in love in the coming year

Mask - You will be welcome everywhere

Pineapple - Secret love

Pretzel - Entanglements in love

Slippers - A wedding draws close

Stork - Fertility

Vase - You will fall in love

Women - You are beloved

Wreath - A discord ends well by reconciliation

Work and Business

Anvil - Use caution at work

Barrel - Wealth

Bush - Recognise the skill of others

Camel - Additional taxes/charges

Car - A risky enterprise draws close

Cone - Be cautious with deals

Crown - You will be rich

Cylinder - Important matters await you

Deer - Failures in trade, quarrels and disputes

Duck - Trade brings an increase in wealth

Dwarf - Someone underestimated you

Eagle - Success in business

Epee - Courage to take a risk

Fox - Be smart and use your initiative

Hammer - Go your own way, triumph over adversity

Hook - Hurdles block your way

Horseshoe - Success/profit in business

House - Your plans will bear fruit

Ladder - Promotion at work, or advancement in studies

Ladle - Financial loss

Letter - Plan something new

Medal - You gain renown and honour

Moon - Honour awaits

Nail - Better times ahead

Nut - An enterprise succeeds

Owl - Plans for the future will turn out well

Plough - You have to work harder

Rock - Much work is still to be done

Sabre - Problems at work

Sail boat - Business success ahead

Scissors - An important decision awaits

Sleigh - Use your connections

Snake - Someone is jealous of your success

Stag - Success/profit in sight

Stairs - You will be honoured

Steamboat - Luck with your plans

Triangle - Financial improvement

Luck and Fortune

Acre - Good luck

Bag - Unexpected good luck

Birds - You will be lucky

Broom - A conflict draws near

Butterfly - Fragile fortunes

Can - Uncomfortable implications await

Chalice - A happy future

Clock - Better times ahead

Cloverleaf - Luck and Satisfaction in the New Year

Dancer - Don't take life too seriously

Dice - Lottery win

Dog - Incredible news is brought forth

Dove - Prosperity and affection

Dragon - A great and sudden change

Eagle - A change of residence brings luck and riches

Face - Honour

Fish - Gaming/gambling luck

Fishing rod - Grab your fortune and luck with your hands

Frog - Lottery win

Goblet - Lucky future

Golf player - A lucky strike awaits

Greyhound - Good luck through hard work

Hat - Good news is coming

Mug - Luck

Pig - Gaming/gambling luck

Pipe - Dangers ahead

Rider - Ongoing luck

Screwdriver - Be satisfied with what you have

Sheaf – Good luck

Sun - Luck in all things

Zeppelin - Everything will turn out well

A selection of shapes formed during bleigiessen.

A selection of shapes formed during bleigiessen.

With thanks to Christoph for aid with translations.

© 2015 Pollyanna Jones


Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 02, 2016:

Polly, this was very interesting to know about this German Christmas tradition. It's very useful and resourceful to know those symbolic images from lead divination. Thanks for sharing.

Brian Langston from Languedoc Roussillon on January 01, 2016:

Think it should be re-branded as Pollybdomancy! (c)

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 01, 2016:

awesome hub, even bra is included in the list!

Pollyanna Jones (author) from United Kingdom on December 31, 2015:

River, you know that's a good point! I have just checked that out, and of molybdenum I found this "The name is from Neo-Latin molybdaenum, from Ancient Greek Μόλυβδος molybdos, meaning lead, since its ores were confused with lead ores". I've learned something new today!

Thank you emge and Brian. May you both be blessed with a frog!

River on December 31, 2015:

So why is it called molybdomancy when molybdenum is a completely different mineral?

Brian Langston from Languedoc Roussillon on December 31, 2015:

What a fascinating read Polly! I really enjoyed it. Wishing you barrels, ladders and Zepellins for 2016...and no camels!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 31, 2015:

Fascinating hub. I always like such posts which are out of ordinary

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