Whether you read horoscopes, have your fortune told, or simply fantasize about the year to come, the thrill of seeing into the future has been inherent to the human experience.
Three years ago, I was introduced to the New Year’s prophecy in the form of Bleigiessen (pouring lead). You sit around a candle with a metal spoon and lucky figurines, nowadays made of tin. Each person takes one and melts it over the candle. Once liquefied, you splash it into a bowl of cold water. It immediately hisses, welding into a shape at the bottom of the bowl. You fish it out and the group speculates on what the shape could mean for your future.
As someone with an unhealthy fascination with candles and fire, being allowed to melt a chunk metal over a candle was just my thing, especially after my third glass of Sekt.
In English, this oracle practice is called Molybdomancy. It’s not practiced in most Anglo-American households and I had never heard of it before, but now I hope to keep it as part of my personal New Year’s Eve celebration.
These types of New Year’s predictions are common in Scandinavia, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and pouring metal to predict the future may have originated as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans. How this form of fortunetelling became a New Year’s tradition in Austria, is unclear. In fact, over a century ago, Austrian’s still used lead for this procedure, which took ages to melt and produced toxic fumes. The Viennese inventor of the snow globe, Erwin Perzy I made the tradition of Bleigiessen safer, and lead-free when he created the lucky charms of metal that could be melted fume-free, at a lower temperature, over a candle. In an interview with Der Standard, the snow globe maker’s influence on this New Year’s tradition is clear, about 90% of all Bleigiessen sets you buy in Austria are produced by the Perzy family.
You’ll find the kits for sale at long, charm-covered tables on the streets of Vienna between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. They come with minimal instructions, but if you’re anything like my friends you’ll just wing it anyway.
You can’t really say you had a Viennese Silvester without melting tin and waltzing at midnight, so make sure to pick up a set before venturing out on the 31st.