Why I Chew Onions

"Onions," by Sleepy Neko on flickr.

“Onion Harvest” by sleepyneko on Flickr.

Onions are kind of a shitty food.

They’re hard to peel, with all the paper you have to tear away.
When you cut them open, they release a chemical that burns your eyes.
And when you eat them, they burn at your throat!

The most famous holiday of Bast falls on March 4th this year. We know little about it; we don’t even know why they celebrated it. The name of the festival makes our instructions very clear: it is a day of Chewing Onions for Bast.

Given a childhood of picky eating, it may not surprise you to learn that when I first heard of this festival some five years ago, my response was something along the lines of “no, fuck you.” As it stands now, I’m still not very partial to onions, but I am a sucker for anything fried. Throw a stack of onion rings my way, and we’re all set. I don’t mind them caramelized on a burger, either.

But you know, there’s something more important than whether or not I enjoy this onion chewing. It’s all about why I chew them.

As I said, onion cooking is not a pleasant process. It smells, it stings, it gets frustrating. I find myself crying and, more often than not, cursing myself for having wanted to make something with onion in the first place. But when the onions are diced and simmering in a pan, things start to change. The harsh aroma lightens and becomes something sweet. The pale onions become darker and richer in colour. Before long, they are combined with other ingredients to make something filling and delightful.

"Walla Walla Sweet Onions," by ady_Fox on Twitter.

“Walla Walla Sweet Onions,” by Lady_Fox on Flickr.

Onions are thrust whole into the dark, smothered by earth, yet they reach out toward the light and water. They spring up from the ground and bring forth even more onions than before, rejuvenated by the light of the sun. Earlier in the Kemetic year, a festival of planting onions for Sokar celebrates the process of rejuvenation the dead through this process – chewing those same onions for Bast in merely a continuation of it.

For me, the onions become symbols of transformation toward joy. Thrust in the dark, bringing about tears and pain, they grow toward something better, filled with sweetness that only multiplies. The onions I chew are an affirmation of the growth process Bast has put me through, a reminder that in pain, there is a sweetness to find and produce. My growing process has not been easy. I too have been thrown in the darkness, filled with burning feelings, wondered about the point of it all. Onions can be an excretion of that pain.

That’s why I chew onions for Bast.