Sunday, November 4, 2007

Hold the Onions

Dion Fortune, Psychic Self-Defense. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1993 [orig. ed., London, 1930], pp. 182-3.

Among country people, an onion is sometimes placed in a vase on the mantelpiece as if it were a hyacinth bulb when unpleasant visitors are expected, and solemnly burnt in the kitchen fire as soon as they have departed, it being believed that the onion tribe have the property of absorbing noxious emanations. It is curious to note in this respect that in one coal mine to my knowledge the miners are forbidden to take onions down into the workings as part of their dinners because the onions absorb the underground gases and become poisonous. My informant told me that he and others had smuggled onions down and learnt from bitter experience the wisdom of this rule.

[It is (or was) a widespread Anglo-American belief that onions can absorb harmful germs or effluvia. -- bc]