Ein Blick in die Zukunft: The German Custom of Bleigiessen

Another popular German custom is Bleigiessen. A candle is lit, and small chunks of lead are melted in a spoon held over the candle. Because of the low melting temperature of lead, this process does not take long. The molten lead is then quickly poured from the spoon into a bucket of cold water, where it hardens almost immediately. Each person tries to determine what he or she "sees" in the hardened lead figure, much like children see sheep, etc. in fluffy clouds. Often the lead figure is held up to a candle or other light, and the shape of the shadow it casts aids in this important decision. The shape of the cooled lead (or wax) determines the future of that person for the year to come. Nowadays, Silvesterblei sets can be purchased in most department stores in Germany. These kits come complete with lead figures, a spoon, and a list of possible shapes and their meanings.

This poem accompanies such a list in a Silvesterblei set:

In der Silvester-Nacht
wird das Blei zum Schmelzen gebracht.
Es wird gekippt in Wasser, kalt und klar;
rate, was stellen die Figuren dar?
Schau sie an, so wie sie sind;
rätst die Gestalt du nicht geschwind.
Halt sie hinters Licht,
das Schattenbild dir mehr verspricht.
Kommt es dir nicht in den Sinn,
schau auf dieses Büchlein hin.
Es sagt dir frank und frei,
so allerlei...!

How to do it - online or with a set

  • Translation help is always at Translate.google.com
    Deutung der gegossenen Bleifiguren: Meaning
    Acker (field) luck and happiness
    ähren (grain head) your wishes will be fulfilled
    Adler (eagle) profit in your job
    Amboss (anvil) be careful with your job
    Anker (anchor) you will receive help from others
    Apfel (apple) your trust will be broken
    Auto (car) promising venture or enterprise
    Automat (vending machine) be careful with spending
    Baum (tree) growth in your capabilities
    Becher (mug) luck and health
    Beil (axe) disappointment in love
    Besen (broom) conflict or small argument
    Beutel (bag) unexpected luck
    Biene (bee) prospect of marriage
    Blumen (flowers) new friendships will develop
    Bock (ram) expect an inheritance
    Bombe (bomb) you will escape danger
    Boten mit Brief (messenger with letter) you will receive important news soon
    Brille (glasses) you will live to be old
    Brücke (bridge) you will form new ties
    Brunnen (fountain) deep love for everyone
    Burg (fortress) you wish for change
    Chrysanthemen (Chrysanthemum) someone needs your help
    Degen (sword) cutting change
    Denkmal (monument) you overestimate yourself
    Dolch (dagger) you will be victorious
    Dreieck (triangle) finances improve
    Ei (egg) your family will grow
    Eidechse (lizard) big annoyance that goes away quickly
    Eimer (pail) satisfaction with relationships
    Eisenbahn (train) departure from a friend
    Elefant (elephant) you have good powers of comprehension
    Engel (angel) good will come to you
    Erdwall (earthen dam) you will be successful only through trouble
    Fahne, wehend (waving flag) your heart and thoughts are in different places
    Falke (falcon) someone is jealous of you
    Faust (fist) you feel that you have been pushed back
    Feder (feather) change in your home
    Felsen (cliffs) much work to come
    Fische (fish) people are talking about you
    Flakon (phial, small bottle) don't let anyone "pull your leg"
    Flasche (bottle) happy times to come
    Flugzeug (airplane) good luck in open competition
    Frosch (frog) you will eventually win much money in a lotterie
    Gabel (fork) quarrels and arguments
    Galgen (gallows) be wary of false friends
    Garten (garden) new love in your path
    Gebüsch (bush) acknowledge the accomplishments of others
    Geweih (antlers) misfortune in love
    Gewichte (scales) success in business
    Gitarre (guitar) secret longings
    Glocke (bell) inheritance coming into view
    Gondel (gondola) an adventure is approaching
    Hahn (rooster) be careful of fire
    Haken (hook) obstacles will come into your path
    Hammer (hammer) you will get your way
    Hase (rabbit) hang onto your luck
    Haus (house) your ventures will go well
    Hose (pants) you will be ridiculed
    Hufeisen (horseshoe) good business
    Hut (hat) good news
    Igel (hedgehog) people are envious of you
    Insel (island) you are lonely
    Kahn (boat) good luck in your intentions, plans
    Käfer (beetle) nice experience in love
    Kamel (camel) new duties
    Kanne (jug) unpleasantness
    Kanzel (pulpit) you like to be right
    Kapelle (chapel) longing for peace and quiet
    Karpfen (carp) unexpected raise in salary
    Karussell (merry-go-round) dumb jokes from acquaintances
    Kegel (ninepin) be careful in business
    Kelch (chalice) your future will be happy
    Kirche (church) you will start a household soon
    Klee (clover) satisfaction and luck
    Korb (basket) lucky in love
    Kranz (wreath) reconciliation in your circle of friends
    Krone (crown) you will use official position
    Kuchen (cake) festivity is coming
    Kugel (ball) don't take your bad mood out on others
    Kuh (cow) cure from sickness
    Lanze (lance) someone wants to fight with you
    Leiter (ladder) advancement in your job
    Leiter, zerbrechen (broken ladder) make decisions faster
    Leuchter (candlestick) you will "see the light" (understand, get an idea)
    Leuchtturm (lamppost) don't give up on your goals
    Löffel (spoon) people are talking about you
    Mauerr (wall) your perseverance will pay off
    Mond (moon) you may expect honor
    Nagel (nail) better times coming
    Nest mit Eiern oder Vögeln (nest w/eggs or birds) a happy home will soon be started
    Orgel (organ) you'll play your way through life
    Palme (palm tree) a long-cherished wish will be fulfilled
    Pantoffel (slipper) you will get married soon
    Peitsche (whip) you need a strong hand
    Pistole (pistol) you will cheat in love
    Pfeife (pipe) be careful—danger approaches
    Pflug (plow) you must work harder at your job
    Rad (wheel) big changes coming
    Regenschirm (umbrella) be hopeful, and avoid unpleasantness
    Säge (saw) a separation, which is advantageous, is coming
    Säule (pillar) a wish will remain unfulfilled
    Segelboot (sailboat) good advancement in your job
    Sichel (sicle) don't scorn the little joys of life
    Schere (scissors) important decisions coming
    Schaukel (swing) make up your mind
    Schlange (snake) people are envious of your success
    Schlitten (sled) make your relationships fit yourself
    Schluessel (key) let others keep their secrets
    Schornsteinfeger (chimney sweep) luck in love
    Schraubstock (bench vice) hang on tight to what you have
    Schwamm (sponge) clean your soul
    Schwein (pig) luck in play, games
    Schuh (shoe) you'll have to do a lot of running around soon
    Spinne (spider) your luck hangs on a silken thread
    Storch (stork) you will travel
    Stock (stick, staff) your life will turn around
    Tänzerin (dancer) don't take life so seriously
    Tisch (table) soon you will be invited to a party
    Teller (plate) you'll have opportunity for generosity
    Tor (gate) you'll change your place of residence
    Trauring (engagement ring) you'll be engaged soon *OR*
    warning of upcoming escapades
    Treppen (steps) new assignments await you
    Trompete (trumpet) you will soon gain public office
    Trichter (funnel) protect your strength
    Tunnel (tunnel) you will recover from a horrible fright
    Turm (tower) have more courage in your ____ _______
    Urne (urn) don't grieve about the past
    Vogel (bird) good luck coming
    Wiege (cradle) you will take part in a baptism
    Zaun (fence) you have to explain a misunderstanding
    Zeppelin (zeppelin) gleaming advancement opportunities await you
    Zylinder (top hat) serious matters ahead

    Eine alte Sitte in der Neujahrsnacht war das Bleigiessen. Die Jugend führte es in den Spinnstubengesellschaften aus. Das in einem Tiegel geschmolzene Blei wurde in kaltes Wasser gegossen, wobei sich mitunter sehr bizarre Formen bildeten, aus welchen die jungen Leute allerlei Schlüsse für ihr bevorstehendes Leben zogen (Berufsaussichten, Eheglück usw.). Am Neujahrstag besuchten früher die Kinder ihre Paten und bekamen für den Neujahrswunsch einen Neujahrsweck und ein Geldgeschenk.

    Wachs statt blei. Article urging use of wax instead of poisonous lead.

    Glück und Aberglaube, Horoskop and the custom of Bleigiessen

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