E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Oracle of Sieve and Shears (The).
This method of divination is mentioned by Theocritos. The modus operandi was as follows:The points of the shears were stuck in the rim of a sieve, and two persons supported them with their finger-tips. Then a verse of the Bible was read aloud, and St. Peter and St. Paul were asked if it was A, B, or C (naming the persons suspected). When the right person was named, the sieve would suddenly turn round.
Searching for things lost with a sieve and shears.Ben Jonson: Alchemist, i. 1.