If I made a list of all the things I do not know, assuming I knew all the things I do not know, that list would likely stretch around the world at least once, and it would include tyromancy. That is to say, I’ve never, ever, done divination using cheese, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I suddenly got the notion to try it out.
Why tyromancy in particular, you ask? Well, I often peruse The Phrontistery when trying to come up with titles for posts for the Pagan Blog Project, and the word (and its brief definition) jumped out at me. I wanted to know more about what seemed to me to be a fairly obscure practice, and what I was able to find online solidified that position. While several people have referred to it in blog posts, or online word compendia (compendiums? See, here’s another thing I don’t know – what is the appropriate plural for compendium?), I am unable to find anything that indicates it is practiced now.
(If anyone knows differently, please let me know!)
So, what did I find when I went a-looking? Well, most of the mentions appear to be derived (some word for word!) from an entry on Occultopedia:
“Derived from the Greek tūros (“cheese”) and manteia (“divination”), it (tyromancy) is the art and practice of divining the past, the present and the future by interpreting omens found in cheese…”
The entry goes on to describe the characteristics that were used for interpretation (among them: shape, number of holes, mold patterns) and to note what types of predictions were made (love, money, death). I have to say, my favorite recreation of Occultopedia’s entry can be found on a blog with an amazing name – Medieval Cheese Forum.
(The name of the blog is why the entry is my favorite!)
So, by looking into tyromancy, I’ve learned some new facts to be filed away in one of the many bins in my brain (probably Miscellanea, under the heading Divination). I’ve also been hit in the face (again!) with the fact that the more I learn, the more things there are that I haven’t learned. That’s actually one of the more interesting things about life, I think – no matter how much I learn, there will always be more things to learn. No matter how much I know, there will always be more things that I don’t know. And, in fact, I will never know ALL THE THINGS.
I am human, and I cannot know everything – the amount of time and space I have will not allow for it. To realize this, and the attendant fact that there is no way I can possibly know everything, is very freeing; it makes stating that I don’t know something a necessity, and therefore easier to do. It makes asking questions about things I want to know a requirement. It means, if someone acts surprised that I don’t know about watchtowers, or chakras, or whatever thing all pagans do, I can remind them that asking questions is how humans learn, and that no one knows everything.
And, I can do it with a smile.