An Old Celtic Custom
John and his wife June led me to the kitchen where a crowd had gathered. On the stove was a pan of molten lead cooking, coagulating into a surface of silver gloss and one guest or another would stir it with a spoon. Alongside the hot lead was a big tub of ice water, and people would take a spoonful of hot liquid lead and drop it into the tub. It immediately congealed into an abstract shape—each one different
and unique. Each one strange and bizarrely shaped. Some smooth and round. Some spiked and lacy.
“What?” I asked.
People had their heads together now, comparing their geegaws.
“Yours looks like a cup,” a woman said to a man holding a tiny silver colored cup.
“And yours looks like a tree,” said the man. “The one I had last year was tree shaped.”
“What?” I asked.
Finally, laughing, they took pity on me and explained that this was an old Celtic custom. The totems that came out of the tossed lead were shaped to predict the coming year’s fortune.
You could make of them what you like.
When my turn came, they said the only rule was that you couldn’t touch the spoon to the water. So I nervously ‘tossed’ the lead into the tub, eager to see my talisman. I fished out this spiky little thing, surprisingly heavy and about two inches long. I was disappointed.
“It doesn’t look like anything,” I said. No totem, no future?
A woman wearing a long skirt and beautiful yellow beads said, “Don’t be so quick. You have to look at it for awhile before it becomes apparent.”
I looked into her soft face and instantly liked her. So I looked at the little weird shape sitting in my hand.
And indeed, it did rather resemble a lizard. The Gila Monster type that has platelets that flare out when he’s feeling defensive. I turned the little monster over in my hand, and sure enough, on the bottom was a smooth, round belly, not at all spiky like the surface of the top.
“A lizard,” I said, my face reflecting the thoughts I carried about cold blooded reptiles.
But the woman smiled broadly.
“Yes,” she said. “It does look just like a lizard. And do you know what that means?”
I shook my head.
“Lizards love to lounge in the sun. They are one creature who likes to be still, and be with themselves in total consciousness. They are a little defensive, but have been around for centuries and are very in tune with the earth. This is an excellent portent for your year to come.”
I hugged this r to come.”
I hugged this woman, whose name I never caught.
A little later, I left the party. At the door, my hostess said “Bring your lead back next year to melt it down and throw it again.”
I hugged her too. How nice that already there would be another year,
another party and another chance to change my life.