Molybdomancy: A New Year’s Eve Tradition

Molybdomancy: A New Year’s Eve Tradition

New Year’s Eve is important for many people today, just as it was in the past. So much so that, many interesting traditions related to New Year’s Eve have emerged over time. This article focuses on molybdomancy, which is generally found in Central Asian and European communities.

Molybdomancy: A New Year’s Eve Tradition

The word molybdomancy is derived from the Greek words for lead and divination. As you can guess, it is a divination method made by melting lead or tin. Today, it occurs in some European countries and Turkic communities. Apart from divination, people also performed molybdomancy for purposes such as preventing disease and bringing good luck.

How Is Molybdomancy Performed?

Knowing what will happen in the future has been one of the biggest dreams of people. That’s why people have performed interesting divination methods in the past. You can see a list on Wikipedia.

There are also methods that may seem wild to modern man, such as using the guts or livers of dead animals. Thankfully, molybdomancy is nothing like that. Well, how do people perform molybdomancy?

First, the fortune teller melts lead or tin in a ladle for divination. Next, he or she pours the molten metal into cold water. Rapidly cooling metal takes interesting shapes. The fortune teller makes predictions about the future by looking at these shapes.

History Of Molybdomancy

The origin of molybdomancy is unclear. However, American writer Patricia Telesco wrote that the Ancient Romans and Celts performed divination methods similar to molybdomancy.1

The origin of molybdomancy also goes back to ancient times in Turkic communities. Yaşar Kalafat wrote that molybdomancy is performed for the treatment of some phobic diseases in Tengrism belief.2 The performance goes like this:

First, the patient sits on the floor or on a chair. Meanwhile, two people hold a cover to prevent liquid lead from splashing on the patient. The fortune teller or another person also holds a bowl with water. The fortune teller pours molten lead into the bowl held above the patient’s head. What the solidified lead looks like is interpreted as what the patient subconsciously fears.

Turkish researcher Murat Uraz has argued that traditions such as molybdomancy or hanging garlic in houses to keep evil away are modified practices of fetishism.3

Peoples of Southeastern Europe, especially Serbs and Bosnians, performed molybdomancy for similar purposes. Not only in Southeast Europe, but also in rural Norway, local people performed it, albeit for different purposes.

Difination Methods In Malleus Maleficarum

Malleus Maleficarum, written by two inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, was an important reference book for witch hunters. The book includes many methods for detecting witches. And, one of those is molybdomancy.

Molybdomancy was performed in the early modern period to find out if someone was bewitched. According to Malleus Maleficarum, inquisitors could also perform this m to harm witches.4

Modern Day Molybdomancy

Molybdomancy is known as tinanvalanta in Finland, bleigießen in Germany and Austria, and lití olova in Czechia. Today it is a common tradition to perform molybdomancy on New Year’s Eve in Finland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Czechia. The way it is practiced is the same as the methods mentioned above. Someone pours molten lead or tin into a bowl filled with water. Based on the shape of the solidified metal, prophecies are made for the coming year. Just as the figures resembling an airplane or a ship signify a journey…

You may also like: Winter Solstice: What’s Yule, Saturnalia & Nardugan?

Molibdomancy and similar methods are also available outside the countries mentioned above. Examples include Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia and Latvia.

Health Harms Of Lead

Breathing lead vapor is extremely risky for human health. For this reason, many countries limited the sale of molybdomancy kits in 2018. Health professionals encourage the use of beeswax, a much more harmless material, instead of lead and tin.

  1. FutureTelling: Complete Guide To Divination, Patricia TELESCO, Crossing Press, ISBN: 978-0895948724^
  2. Altaylar’dan Anadolu’ya Kamizm-Şamanizm, Yaşar KALAFAT, Yeditepe Yayınevi, ISBN: 975-6480-23-8^
  3. Türk Mitolojisi, Murat URAZ, Düşünen Adam Yayınları, ISBN: 975-9792359^
  4. Malleus Maleficarum, Heinrich KRAMER & Jacob SPRENGER^