Tag Archives: Cousin Silas


Cousin Cate arrived this morning in a whirl of clouds and wind. My family tends to arrive unannounced and always with gifts. Cate arrived with a basket of delicious cheeses and some fascinating creatures she found in the Netherlands. (Once they’ve been categorized and observed, they shall be viewable in the Vivarium.)

Silas put out a delicious spread, including the cheeses brought by Cate, and she regaled us with tales of her latest travels and why the citizens of The Hague not-so-subtly requested Cate to vacate their city. This brings us to today’s word.

Tyromancy (noun) is a form of divination based on the observation of cheeses, especially as it coagulates. It is derived from the Greek tūros for cheese and manteia for divination.

In the Middle Ages, the shape, number of holes, and patterns of mold were often used to foretell money, love, and death.

And, according to the website occultopedia.com, in some villages, young ladies would divine the names of their future husbands by writing the names of prospective suitors on pieces of cheese. The one whose piece of cheese grew mold first was deemed the true love match for the maiden.

Fool proof, right?

Cousin Cate has never hidden her divination talents, and it seems that many people in modern society find this upsetting. The Hague is not the first town she’s been run out of, and it won’t be the last.

And I don’t need a piece of cheese to know that.

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Hopping Mad

At approximately 3 o’clock this morning, a great shriek and a crash echoed through the house. There were bellows, furniture went flying and a brown furry creature the size of a small ottoman rushed past me as I wound my way through the hallways to Silas’s room.

Apparently, Suluk brought back a pygmy yeti from her travels last month.

Apparently, said pygmy yeti bit off Silas’s supernumerary toe.

You must understand: everyone in our family is born with a supernumerary toe. It is often on the left foot for men, and the right foot for women. And we always lose our supernumerary toes in odd and adventurous ways (naturally).

Cousin Octavia lost her toe getting drunk with sirens off the coast of Cuba.

Uncle Ruprecht lost his toe whilst in the Congo. It seems that he was bare-chested wrestling with a chubacabra in some sort of strength display.

Cousin Cate lost hers whilst playing polo on a hippogriff.

Great-Uncle Ebenezer lost his hunting with korrigans in Scotland.

Aunt Agatha lost hers in a freak accident whilst dancing with a Japanese Tatsu.

Silas had managed to keep his toe the longest. Most of us lose ours at a fairly young age, doing something reckless and dangerous. Silas’s ability to keep his supernumerary toe had become a point of pride with him, and the family often theorized on how he would finally lose it.

I suppose losing it to a pygmy yeti – currently a cute and fluffy little cryptid the size of a beagle puppy – was too much of a disappointment for poor Silas.

He left in a black rage before the sun came up. I have his toe in a jar, along with all the other toes of the family (we’ve always kept them, organized and labeled).

And now I have a pygmy yeti. I think he’s rather adorable, don’t you?


Silas has been a nervous wreck, his wings are constantly, yet subtly, fluttering and he’s making the entire house edgy. He’s tossed salt over his shoulder, spit, and lit a candle in the garden.

You see, Silas ran across a Barghest last night.

A Barghest is a dog-like goblin said to portend misfortune or even death. It has been described as monstrous, unspeakably large, and is said to have enormous teeth and claws. Some say if you see the dog, you will die soon after the encounter, though most people agree that you will just enjoy terrible misfortune.

The word is said to have originated sometime between 1725 and 1735 (most likely from someone seeing said creature and shrieking like a maniac). An Old English word, it’s a combination, apparently, of bar(row) + ghest or gaest, a variant of ghost.

Whatever the origin, Silas says he saw it across the street when he came back from his run through Prospect Park (he runs at night, since his eyes are so sensitive to daylight) and he’s not been the same since. I’m not sure what Silas considers a great misfortune; some might consider breaking the last egg a great misfortune, though I think Silas is worried about something more sinister. Losing a limb or the like.

I just wish he’d snapped a photograph. Or sketched a quick picture for me. I’ve never seen a barghest.


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It is All Soul’s Day. Cousin Silas, being a fan of rituals of all kinds, woke early this morning and wandered The Green-Wood Cemetery to commune amongst the gravestones and observe what the Roman Rite liturgy calls The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. As usual, Silas will celebrate with a culinary fete; I believe he will be making a stuffed pumpkin tonight. Last night he made pears stuffed with brie and pistachios for Dia de los Muertos. I can not keep up with all his rituals, but I will gladly eat the food.

This, of course, brings me to today’s word.

Hagiolatry (pronounced hag-ee-OL-uh-tree) is, simply, the worship of saints. (It can also mean To treat someone with undue reverence.)

It stems from the Greek hagio- holy plus -latry worship.

According to Catholicism, each day has a saint (or saints) associated with it. The faithful celebrate the lives of these saints each and every day. Silas keeps tiny totems of each of the saints in his home – he does not travel beyond his nest with them. Not a Catholic, Silas also keeps totems of Hindu gods, Buddha, and Islamic walis. Clearly he couldn’t travel with all of his totems, it would weigh him down too much in flight.

Luckily, Silas travels with all his recipes tucked away in his brain. Not one for hagiolatry myself, I am rather interested in gastrolatry.

Whatever your beliefs are, today, go find something delicious and appreciate it.

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