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‘In a pig’s eye’ is an American colloquialism meaning ‘not a chance in hell’. I’ve never heard anyone actually use it, but it does pop into my mind once in a while.

Rote memorization of facts someone else thinks go together because they were told at one time to memorize them sometimes strikes me as worthy of the phrase. “Here’s what you need to memorize,” they may say to me, and I may say back to them, “Why?,” and they may say “Because it’s always been that way,” and I may think to myself in response “I’ll do it your way in a pig’s eye!”

But a long time ago when magic and memory were topics happily married in the same sentence, there was a book which helped people do magic or memorize things they wanted to memorize, or some combination of the two.

The book was written by a man named Giordano Bruno. His ideas didn’t fit the general thinking of the thinkers of the times, so naturally they killed him off and he is now defined as a ‘martyr of science’. The name of the book with the cute picture of the hairy pig posted above is ‘Cantus Circaeus’.

Cantus Circaeus (“Incantation of Circe”) is an early work by Bruno on the art of memory with strong magical elements. It is written in the form of a dialogue between the great sorceress Circe and her assistant or apprentice Moeris. It opens with Circe’s incantations to the planets which appear to be based on Agrippa, De Occult. Phil. II, lix. These incantations are described as “barbara & arcana”. These are accompanied by various magical operations including the use of an altar, fumigations, and notae. This is followed by an Art of Memory.

According to I.P. Couliano, “Giordano Bruno’s magic is based not only upon the Ficinian tradition but also on techniques relating to the art of memory. This art consisted of a manipulation of phantasms or inner images, whose purpose varied from the mere learning by heart of a text to mystical contemplation.” (‘Magic in Medieval and Renaissance Europe’ in Hidden Truths: Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult: 1987).

About right now I bet you’re thinking “What does this have to do with food?”, and “When can I get something to eat around here?”. Patience. And besides, if you are sitting here on the computer it’s likely you eat three hearty meals a day plus all the snacks you want, anyway. What’s the rush?

Today we don’t worry about Circe and magic too much. But we do think about pork a lot. So I’ve decided that knowing your pork and knowing it well (and being able to memorize what you know!) just may be important.

Above you see pig. Nice hairy pig. There is an alphabet surrounding the pig. For each letter there should be some piggy-thing which connects to eating the pig. Or cooking the pig. Or growing the pig.

Do you know what they are?

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