An onion is intimately known in both myth and symbology for the ability to draw tears. I see this all around me in the cultures of New
Mexico. Long ago they have not only incorporated onion into their delicious cooking but they have embraced her as a way of
releasing both privately and in the community.
So why do onions make us cry? When an onion is sliced or diced, the onion’s cells release these compounds into the air. When this occurs, “enzyme” works to alter the amino acids into lachrymator compounds. This form of sulfuric acid irritates the nerves around the eyes making them tear. Tips for avoiding this include using a sharp knife and choosing “fresher” onions. But the reality is that onions, much life life itself, is difficult to work with and brings discomfort.
Much of our Western culture does not approve of crying. We are to remain stoic and not show our emotions. Onion doesn’t give us a choice, we must release. These tears of release are actually a defense mechanism our eyes use to keep out irritants. We all know that if we try not to cry while cutting an onion, it only makes the pain worse. If we give in to it, release, cry, and feel a healing purge from the inside out the results are refreshing and the pain of the moment is soon forgotten.
Let’s take a lesson from onions.
The Onion says, “Release, release, release, what is no longer serving you, which no longer feels right or good to you. Release the
trauma you have suffered.” The tears shed during an onion cutting episode are tears that release the body, mind, and soul.
There is a saying in Finnish which is used during times of grieving. “Cry until you can’t.”
The Onion shares the same philosophy.
Potent and pungent, an onion as a teacher is asking each one of us to look in between the layers of our lives. To release, through the
power of tears and sweat those things that are no longer serving us, and to welcome in the sweetness of new things ready to root
themselves deeply in the earth. An Onion is asking that we marry two ideas together, to create unity between the earthy elements of this plant and the mystical elements of this plant.
So 2023 comes to a close and the promise and freshness of 2024 begins to shine, use the teachings of onions to travel gently into the new year.
And may we al travel with lighter loads and bigger insights thanks to the layers we’ve left behind.