Molybdomancy (from Ancient Greek μόλυβδος (molybdos), "lead" and -mancy) is a technique of divination using molten metal. Typically, molten lead or tin is dropped into water. It can be found as a tradition in various cultures, including Finland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some versions have been found to have potentially harmful effects on human health.
Lead shapes are melted in a ladle over a flame, and the molten liquid is then poured into the water. The resulting shape is either directly interpreted as an omen for the future, or is rotated in a candlelight to create shadows, whose shapes are then interpreted. The shapes are interpreted symbolically, for example a bubbly surface signifying money, a fragile or broken shape misfortune. The shape of the lead before melting can refer to a specific area of one’s life. For example, ships for travelling, keys for career advancement, etc.
In Finland, shops sell ladles and small bullions in the shape of a horseshoe for this express purpose. Originally made from tin, now they are made from cheaper low-melting alloys based on lead. The practice is known as uudenvuodentina. The world's largest uudenvuodentina, 41 kilograms (90 lb), was cast by members of the Valko volunteer fire department in Loviisa, Finland, in New Year 2010.
The shapes are often interpreted not only literally, but also symbolically: a bubbly surface refers to money, a fragile or broken shape misfortune. Ships refer to travelling, keys to career advancement, a basket to a good mushroom year, and a horse to a new car.
Germany, Austria, and Switzerland
Bleigießen (literally "lead pouring") is a traditional activity held at the New Year to predict the fortune of the coming year. The different resulting shapes are identified based on their resemblance to any of various objects, animals, and structures, each with its own interpretation. EU regulations passed in 2018 limit the sale of toxic lead-containing products, including molybdomancy kits. Alternatives involve dripping molten wax or tin rather than lead into water.
The tradition of molybdomancy is called "kurşun dökme" in Turkish (literally, "lead casting", "lead pouring") which is supposed to help with various spiritual problems, predict future, etc. The rituals vary, but they involve pouring molten lead into water. Researchers from Ankara University performed a study of the effects of this tradition on the health of women. They reported risks of antimony poisoning and lead poisoning.
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