Geek Trivia

Cromniomancy Is A Form Of Divination That Relies On Reading?

Rabbit Droppings
Tea Leaves
Clam Shell Patterns
Onion Sprouts
In British Culture, An "Agony Aunt" Dispenses?

Answer: Onion Sprouts

You have likely heard of reading palms to tell the future and checking tea leaves for omens, but unless you happen to have some very superstitious relatives from Europe, Africa, or northern Asia keeping this particular tradition alive, you’ve likely never heard of using the sprouting behavior of onions to forecast the future.

Yet using onions to divine the future, or, to be technical, engaging in cromniomancy, used to be a fairly common method of divination. Why onions instead of any other vegetable or fruit? Onions have long been held in high regard for their shape and layering: the spherical shape and the many layers of the vegetable have divine contexts in many cultures.

The way onions were used for divination varied as much as the old cultures that believed in the process. A widely used method was to select similarly sized onions and carve the names of people on them. Sometimes the technique was simply used to check in on far flung kin—the better the sprout, the better the kin were doing. Sometimes the method was used to decide between people, like romantic suitors—the faster sprouting onion was the mate you should pick. Other times, the methodology was more complex (though still just as dubious in utility).

In southern Germany, for example, onions were used to forecast the weather for the year ahead via an elaborate process wherein twelve big, sphere-like pieces of onion were lined up on a board, a grain of salt was put into each, and then they were left overnight in a cold (but not freezing) room. The next day, the amount of liquid found in each onion piece predicted the amount of precipitation for the month that onion stood in for.

We don’t know about you, but that kind of weather forecasting makes checking a ground hog’s shadow to forecast spring seem down right scientifically rigorous.