St Thomass Onion

Apples and onions seem to have been the chosen agents for St Thomas's Eve (20 December) love divinations. It was even said that the onion was sacred to St Thomas (Moldenke & Moldenke), and one of the old cries of London was, "Buy my rope of onions -white St Thomas's onions" (Dyer. 1876). St Thomas's Onion, then, became the recognized term for the one used tonight in one way or another. You could perhaps peel it, wrap it in a clean handkerchief, and put it under your pillow, all the while saying:

Good St Thomas, do me right,

And see my true love come tonight,

That I may see him in the face,

And him in my kind arms embrace.

Or the girls could quarter the onion, and then whisper to her quarter the name of the man she expected, or hoped, would propose to her. She would then wave her bit of onion over her head, and recite a rhyme very similar to the above. She had to be in bed by the stroke of twelve, and then would expect satisfactory dreams. Another way to conduct the ritual was to stick nine pins in the onion, with eight pins round one in the centre. The name of the lover was given to this central pin. Then the whole lot was put under the pillow (Northall). While the pins were going in, the usual words were recited:

Good St Thomas do me right, Send me my true love tonight, In his clothes and his array, Which he weareth every day, That I may see him in the face, And in my arms may him embrace.

The significance of lines three and four in the rhyme is fairly obvious. The girl would want to know what trade her future husband was to follow, and this would be recognizable from his working clothes, so she would want to see him "not in gay apparel, fine array ...", as a Suffolk rhyme has it (Porter. 1974) but in "the clothes he walks in every day". To get the expected dream in this Suffolk case, she had to go to bed backwards, and to maintain strict silence till morning (Gurdon).

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