Click HERE to read a Sufi master story about "The Impact of Onions"
Can you stand another one? This one is Riddle 65, similarly ambiguous, same answer."Quick; quite mum; I die notwithstanding. I lived once, I live again. Everybody lifts me, grips me, and chops off my head, bites my bare body, violates me. I never bit a man unless he bites me; there are many men who bite me.
And a third? Can you stand a third? This one translated from 4th century Symphosius by poet Richard Wilbur.I bite, when bitten; but because I lack/
For teeth, no biter scruples to attack,/
And many bite me to be bitten back.
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Native to the broad region stretching from Israel to India, the onion has been cultivated since at least 3000 BC.
Primitive man rubbed its juices on his body for protection. Sumerians wrote about it in Sanskrit. Egyptians saw in it a sacred symbol of the universe--with its 9 layers representing eternity that, peeled away, left two stem buds as the naked beginnings of new life.
In the 5th century BC, Herodotus records probably the first organized sit down strike in history when he tells of slaves refusing to build Khufu's pyramid unless they get their onions. Indeed, as mentioned in the section on garlic, onions were one of the foods sorely missed by the children of Israel after their exodus from Egypt. Their cultivation spread rapidly throughout the known world, but they did not arrive in the New World until Spaniards brought plants to the West Indies.
Columbus, it's been said, planted the first great crop in the Dominican Republican--from thence it spread to Mexico, down to Central and South America and up to North America. The Pilgrims weren't taking any chances, though. They brought onion seeds with them and planted them near Plymouth Rock.
It has been prized medicinally, for ills as various as dog bites, earaches, and stings of "venomous worms." It's been rubbed on British and Shaker heads, hundreds of years apart, to prevent baldness. It has also been regarded as a cure for warts: cut an onion in half, rub it on the wart, tie the onion halves back together, and bury them. When the onion decays in the ground, the wart reputedly disappears.
Once again, modern science ends up, to some degree, catching up with folklore. Onions contain Prostaglandin A-1, a potent agent to lower blood pressure. And their anti-bacterial qualities--wow! can completely sterilize the lining of the mouth and throat after just five minutes of chewing raw onion bits.
One last word from Roy Blount, Jr., in his "Song to Onions":