Tyromancy, also know as Tiromancy, Typomancy, Tyromantis, and Tyromantia a form of divination involving observation of cheese, especially as it coagulates. It is the art and practice of divining the past, the present and the future by interpreting omens found in cheese.
For cheese, like the innards of sacrificed animals, the flight of a swallow or vivid dreams, can be used for divination. The depth and size of a cheese’s holes reveal when rains will fall in the coming year, while the color of the mold veins tells who shall love whom, and the scent of a hard grana padano predicts which army will vanquish its foes and which shall perish.
In the Middle Ages, young maidens in countryside villages would divine the names of their future husbands by writing the names of all prospective suitors on separate pieces of cheese. The one whose name was on the piece of cheese that grew mold first was believed to be the ideal love mate. This also worked just as well for the opposite sex.
Another method of Tyromancy was to write the possible answers to a question on separate pieces of cheese and them place them inside a cage along with a hungry rodent. Whichever piece the mouse ate first would provide the desired indication. This manner of divination was also a form of Myomancy.
On yet another method, omens were drawn from the patterns and designs formed by the coagulation of cheese.
According to some, the best divination is done using the ancient method of fondue. One must simply melt two different kinds of cheese, preferably emmental and gruyere, in white wine, or in a pinch, in a dry apple cider. Then one must use a long stick to immerse a morsel of bread in the resultant thick soupy mixture, all the while keeping in mind the question, “What shall my child be like when he (or she, as the case may be) grows?” Then bring the cheese-covered morsel of breat up to a candle, so that it casts a shadow on the wall: the shape will provide a sure and easily understood answer to your query.
In François Rabelais ‘Gargantua and Pantagruel‘, we can find a reference to this type of divination:
“By tyromancy, whereof we make some proof in a great Brehemont cheese which I here keep by me.”
The Englishman John Gaule, in his The Magastromancer (1652), also lists it:
“Typomancy, by the coagulation of cheese.”
Tyromancy, like most divinatory systems, is quite ancient, and has been practiced since time immemorial.
Sources and further reading:
- Walker, Charles, The Encyclopedia of the Occult, Random House Value
- Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group
- Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing
- Pickover, Clifford A., Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction, Prometheus Books
- Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan’s Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group
- Gaule, John, The Magastromancer, EEBO Editions.