A to Z Herbarium: Onion
Protection, Healing, Money, Prophetic Dreams, Lust
Onions were worshiped in ancient Egypt. The multiple layers symbolized eternity, and were used in funeral rites. Paintings of onions appear on the inner walls of the pyramids and within tombs. They have also been entombed with mummies, found frequently in the pelvic region, the thorax, flattened against the ears, attached to the legs and feet, and placed in front of the eyes. King Ramses IV was entombed with onions in his eye sockets.
It’s theorized that the Egyptian’s may have believed the onion’s strong scent/magical properties would make the dead rise. Another theory is that the onion’s antiseptic properties (which were considered magical back then) would come in handy in the afterlife.
Onions protect against evil forces, whether grown in the garden or in pots. Taking a white onion, sticking it full of black-headed pins and placing it in a window will prevent evil from entering the home. Carrying an onion will protect one from venomous creatures (snakes, again!). When halved or quartered, onions will absorb negativity, evil, and disease.
Onions placed beneath one’s pillow will cause prophetic dreams. If you throw onion skins on the ground, it’s said you are throwing away your prosperity. Instead, you are supposed burn them to attract riches.
Strangely, onions are also supposed to promote lust. (This has not been my experience…)
History and healing
In the Middle Ages, onions were one of three main ingredients in the European diet (along with beans and cabbage). In addition to food, onions were used to alleviate headaches, snake bites, and hair loss. They were also used as money to pay for rent, and given as wedding gifts.
Onions have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. New England settlers would hang strings of onions to prevent infections, as well as leave a cut onion underneath the sink for the same purpose. For magical healing, rub a cut onion against an afflicted part of the body, visualizing the disease going into the onion, and then destroy it either by burning the onion, or smashing then burying it.
On a less magical note: eating onions has been linked with reducing the occurrence of certain kinds of cancer, particularly stomach and colorectal cancers. Onions may also help alleviate depression, promote good sleep, promote cardiovascular and bone health, and aid in digestion.
Nerd Alert: Davos Seaworth from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels is called the Onion Knight. Though, the game Final Fantasy had an Onion Knight first.
Cunningham’s Encylopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham, 2016, Llewellyn Publications