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The spellbinding history of cheese and witchcraft

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  • The spellbinding history of cheese and witchcraft

    An amusing and interesting read in The Conversation. The full article is here: https://theconversation.com/the-spel...chcraft-153221

    As I was scrolling through Twitter recently, a viral tweet caught my attention. It was an image from a book of spells claiming that: “You may fascinate a woman by giving her a piece of cheese.” The spell comes from Kathryn Paulsen’s 1971 book, The Complete Book of Magic and Witchcraft – and, while proffering a lump of cheddar may seem like an unusual way of attracting a possible mate, Paulsen’s book draws on a long history of magic. It’s a history that has quite a lot of cheese in it.

    It’s not entirely clear why cheese is seen to have magical properties. It might be to do with the fact it’s made from milk, a powerful substance in itself, with the ability to give life and strength to the young. It might also be because the process by which cheese is made is a little bit magical. The 12th-century mystic, Hildegard von Bingen, compared cheese making to the miracle of life in the way that it forms curds (or solid matter) from something insubstantial.

    In the early modern period (roughly 1450-1750) the creation of the universe was also thought of by some in terms of cheesemaking: “all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed – just as cheese is made out of milk – and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels.” The connection with life and the mysterious way that cheese is made, therefore, puts it in a good position to claim magical properties.

    Cheese magic stretches back long before Hildegard and the medieval period. The 2nd-century diviner, Artemidorus, mentions “tyromancy” – cheese divination – as a method of discovering the future in his treatise Oneirocritica. Ironically, given our later association of cheese with vivid dreams, Artemidorus claims that cheese fortune-telling is among the most unreliable.

    [...]

    Charming cheese


    The idea that cheese is seductive also has a long history. Writing in the 13th century, the moralist and theologian Odo of Cheriton used the alluring smell of grilled cheese to explain adultery:

    Cheese is toasted and placed in a trap; when the rat smells it, it enters the trap, seizes the cheese, and is caught by the trap. So it is with all sin. Cheese is toasted when a woman is dressed up and adorned so that she entices and catches the foolish rats: take a woman in adultery and the Devil will catch you.

    The link between cheese and love magic doesn’t stop at seduction, though. In 14th-century Germany, biting a piece of bread and cheese and throwing it over your shoulder was meant to ensure fertility in a relationship. Cheese could also cure male impotence: if a pesky witch had cursed a man’s genitals, a medieval Italian cure was for the man’s wife to bore a hole in cheese, and feed him the resulting pieces.

    Given Europeans’ longstanding attraction to cheese, perhaps it’s no wonder that Kathryn Paulsen’s spell is so short and why it needed no further elaboration

    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

  • #2
    Does this then mean that this guy is a warlock?
    And his dog, Gromit, his familiar. It would explain so much.

    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
      Does this then mean that this guy is a warlock?
      And his dog, Gromit, his familiar. It would explain so much.
      Ah but the power of cheese to fascinate a women did not work for Wendolene . Not even Wensleydale!

      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

      Comment


      • #4
        I know some cheeses, like Limburger, can drive away women - and just about anyone else.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

          Ah but the power of cheese to fascinate a women did not work for Wendolene . Not even Wensleydale!

          Must have rolled a 1 when he cast his spell

          I'm always still in trouble again

          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
            An amusing and interesting read in The Conversation. The full article is here: https://theconversation.com/the-spel...chcraft-153221

            As I was scrolling through Twitter recently, a viral tweet caught my attention. It was an image from a book of spells claiming that: “You may fascinate a woman by giving her a piece of cheese.” The spell comes from Kathryn Paulsen’s 1971 book, The Complete Book of Magic and Witchcraft – and, while proffering a lump of cheddar may seem like an unusual way of attracting a possible mate, Paulsen’s book draws on a long history of magic. It’s a history that has quite a lot of cheese in it.

            It’s not entirely clear why cheese is seen to have magical properties. It might be to do with the fact it’s made from milk, a powerful substance in itself, with the ability to give life and strength to the young. It might also be because the process by which cheese is made is a little bit magical. The 12th-century mystic, Hildegard von Bingen, compared cheese making to the miracle of life in the way that it forms curds (or solid matter) from something insubstantial.

            In the early modern period (roughly 1450-1750) the creation of the universe was also thought of by some in terms of cheesemaking: “all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed – just as cheese is made out of milk – and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels.” The connection with life and the mysterious way that cheese is made, therefore, puts it in a good position to claim magical properties.

            Cheese magic stretches back long before Hildegard and the medieval period. The 2nd-century diviner, Artemidorus, mentions “tyromancy” – cheese divination – as a method of discovering the future in his treatise Oneirocritica. Ironically, given our later association of cheese with vivid dreams, Artemidorus claims that cheese fortune-telling is among the most unreliable.

            [...]

            Charming cheese


            The idea that cheese is seductive also has a long history. Writing in the 13th century, the moralist and theologian Odo of Cheriton used the alluring smell of grilled cheese to explain adultery:

            Cheese is toasted and placed in a trap; when the rat smells it, it enters the trap, seizes the cheese, and is caught by the trap. So it is with all sin. Cheese is toasted when a woman is dressed up and adorned so that she entices and catches the foolish rats: take a woman in adultery and the Devil will catch you.

            The link between cheese and love magic doesn’t stop at seduction, though. In 14th-century Germany, biting a piece of bread and cheese and throwing it over your shoulder was meant to ensure fertility in a relationship. Cheese could also cure male impotence: if a pesky witch had cursed a man’s genitals, a medieval Italian cure was for the man’s wife to bore a hole in cheese, and feed him the resulting pieces.

            Given Europeans’ longstanding attraction to cheese, perhaps it’s no wonder that Kathryn Paulsen’s spell is so short and why it needed no further elaboration
            Some of this reminded me of how, years ago, I toyed with the idea of writing a short story about a mid 20th cent. time traveler getting apprehended by some 17th cent witch hunters and accused of practicing the dark arts when they found an old style cigarette lighter in his possession. Aside from trying to explain that it was merely a mechanical device that used flint and steel to ignite a flammable gas (and showing how it was refilled with lighter fluid) and not sorcery, I had worked out a rough draft of a conversation (more like a lecture) he had explaining how easy it could be to mistake science and inventions that simply employed natural objects for witchcraft.

            The two examples he used was glassmaking and metallurgy.

            In the case of the former he pointed out how, if they weren't already familiar with the process involved, it sounded like some sort of witches brew that transformed sand, ash from seaweed or wood (preferably beech) and lime (from things like chalk and shells) into something completely unlike any of those substances. And how various powdered metals could be added or heating techniques used to give it different colors (stained glass) or lead could be added to make it shinier and more transparent. There was also stuff about blowing glass and creating lenses to create spectacles and telescopes. All of which seems like magic to anyone not familiar with it.

            Likewise, metallurgy, where you crushed and heated certain rocks to get metals would seem like magic (and IIRC, was likely treated as such by people in the Copper Age). The character described how just by combining copper with zinc you could change into brass or if tin or phosphorous (which can be made by heating boiled down urine) was added you could make bronze. Likewise iron could be changed into steel by adding carbon and a type of stainless steel can be made by including phosphorous into the process.

            In my story it didn't convince them (he was accused of being as sly as a fox with Lucifer's tongue) but manages to escape and barely get back to his concealed time machine in time. The disappearance of him and his machine become the basis for an encounter that was regarded as a fanciful legend in later times akin to people vanishing into the faerie world and cited by ancient astronaut enthusiasts as an example of an abduction by spacemen.

            I'm always still in trouble again

            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
              Must have rolled a 1 when he cast his spell
              The character is not real!
              "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                Some of this reminded me of how, years ago, I toyed with the idea of writing a short story about a mid 20th cent. time traveler getting apprehended by some 17th cent witch hunters and accused of practicing the dark arts when they found an old style cigarette lighter in his possession. Aside from trying to explain that it was merely a mechanical device that used flint and steel to ignite a flammable gas (and showing how it was refilled with lighter fluid) and not sorcery, I had worked out a rough draft of a conversation (more like a lecture) he had explaining how easy it could be to mistake science and inventions that simply employed natural objects for witchcraft.

                The two examples he used was glassmaking and metallurgy.

                In the case of the former he pointed out how, if they weren't already familiar with the process involved, it sounded like some sort of witches brew that transformed sand, ash from seaweed or wood (preferably beech) and lime (from things like chalk and shells) into something completely unlike any of those substances. And how various powdered metals could be added or heating techniques used to give it different colors (stained glass) or lead could be added to make it shinier and more transparent. There was also stuff about blowing glass and creating lenses to create spectacles and telescopes. All of which seems like magic to anyone not familiar with it.

                Likewise, metallurgy, where you crushed and heated certain rocks to get metals would seem like magic (and IIRC, was likely treated as such by people in the Copper Age). The character described how just by combining copper with zinc you could change into brass or if tin or phosphorous (which can be made by heating boiled down urine) was added you could make bronze. Likewise iron could be changed into steel by adding carbon and a type of stainless steel can be made by including phosphorous into the process.

                In my story it didn't convince them (he was accused of being as sly as a fox with Lucifer's tongue) but manages to escape and barely get back to his concealed time machine in time. The disappearance of him and his machine become the basis for an encounter that was regarded as a fanciful legend in later times akin to people vanishing into the faerie world and cited by ancient astronaut enthusiasts as an example of an abduction by spacemen.
                Your tale sounds rather like a confection of Ray Bradbury meeting H G Wells with a dash of Nevil Shute thrown in.

                However, as to witches and cheese let us not forget Tiffany Aching who is a gifted cheese-maker, and Horace!

                "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                  The character is not real!
                  And the reference itself is to a role playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, where for certain actions the players roll a 20-sided dice to determine the outcome of those actions. Rolling a one typically denotes extreme failure -- a fumble.

                  And as an aside casting a magic spell isn't exactly real either.

                  I'm always still in trouble again

                  "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                  "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                    Your tale sounds rather like a confection of Ray Bradbury meeting H G Wells with a dash of Nevil Shute thrown in.

                    However, as to witches and cheese let us not forget Tiffany Aching who is a gifted cheese-maker, and Horace!

                    It owes a lot to Arthur C. Clarke's famous maxim that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"

                    I'm always still in trouble again

                    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                      And the reference itself is to a role playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, where for certain actions the players roll a 20-sided dice to determine the outcome of those actions. Rolling a one typically denotes extreme failure -- a fumble.
                      Don't worry your secret is safe with me!

                      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                      And as an aside casting a magic spell isn't exactly real either.
                      And Terry Pratchett was brilliant.
                      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                        Don't worry your secret is safe with me!



                        And Terry Pratchett was brilliant.
                        I've been watching the series The Watch on BBC America that's VERY loosely based upon his Discworld's Ankh-Morpork City Watch. If you can completely forget the source material it is pretty good, but if you don't, it makes you want to tear your hair out. This is best typified by Richard Dormer's portrayal of Vimes, which is great unless you start comparing the character to the one in Pratchett's books.

                        I'm always still in trouble again

                        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                          I've been watching the series The Watch on BBC America that's VERY loosely based upon his Discworld's Ankh-Morpork City Watch. If you can completely forget the source material it is pretty good, but if you don't, it makes you want to tear your hair out. This is best typified by Richard Dormer's portrayal of Vimes, which is great unless you start comparing the character to the one in Pratchett's books.
                          I've not seen The Watch so I cannot comment but I did not enjoy an early production of The Colour of Magic. That, in my opinion, failed to capture the essence of both the characters and the book. So often dramatisations of books one has read and loved disappoint.

                          However, both Hogfather and Going Postal were brilliant perhaps because both had input from the man himself including his cameos..

                          The rich tones of the late, great Ian Richardson [the original House of Cards villain] as Death in Hogfather were perfect he even had a nod to his Francis Urquhart character's famous "You might think that, I could not possibly comment" remark and Charles Dance as Lord Vetinari in Going Postal was wonderfully sinister in such a very well-mannered way.

                          I also enjoyed Good Omens [who could not enjoy Sheen and Tennant] with which Gaiman, was heavily involved. The BBC did a radio version of the book a few years ago with both Pratchett and Gaiman having cameos as the police officers who try and catch Crowley for speeding.

                          I would like to see more of his works dramatised but each would have to be done very carefully in order to keep the spirit [and wit] of the originals.
                          Last edited by Hypatia_Alexandria; 01-24-2021, 03:39 AM.
                          "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            cheese.jpg


                            I'm always still in trouble again

                            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                              Purely as a point of information that particular comment appears in the second sentence within the article that I cited in the OP. "As I was scrolling through Twitter recently, a viral tweet caught my attention. It was an image from a book of spells claiming that: “You may fascinate a woman by giving her a piece of cheese.

                              "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

                              Comment

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