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Garlic’s Folklore and Magic

Published by Cristina Aguilar in Offbeat
May 18th, 2008

Every culture has their own legend about garlic, each one is unique, but all agree that garlic wards off evil.

When flowers first started blooming after the extinction of the Dinosaurs, the one flower standing out among the rest was the pungent bloom of the garlic. It’s blooms only led to the promise of what was beneath the earth, the garlic’s root, were all power is sustained in one little bulb.

This herb of all herbs is believed to have originated in Siberia. It then spread to the Mediterranean, Rome, Greece, and Egypt. Chinese scholars wrote the praises of garlic in 3000 BC. It was mentioned in the earliest Indian Sanskrit writings where its name meant “slayer of monsters.”

In the world of folk magic, the overall power of the garlic lies in its ability to protect, from disease and from harm. Bullfighters were a clove of garlic around their neck to protect themselves from the horns of the bulls. In Balkan countries, garlic is rubbed on doorknobs to protect themselves from vampires and died garlic wreaths are hung on doors to protect from evil witches or the evil eye. Some Europeans place garlic in a newborn’s cradle with salt and iron for the period from birth to baptism, so the child will be protected from original sin. In Sicily, it is placed in beds with women during childbirth and making the sign of the cross with garlic was said to drive a variety of tumors away. English nannies believed they could cure whooping cough by placing a clove of garlic in a child’s sock, and Cubans believe they can cure jaundice by wearing thirteen cloves of garlic for 13 days.

In Islamic tradition or mythology, garlic sprang up from Satan’s left foot as he was driven out of paradise. The Egyptians saw garlic and onions as divide and the Romans looked at the clove as the magic that created great strength and stamina. In Homer’s epic story of Ulysses, the hero ate garlic to protect himself from Circe’s magic. Jupiter revealed that a head of garlic, human hair and a fish’s life would revert lightening and save the crops.

The Italians also say garlic keeps poverty away particularly when you eat it in April because that is when you are more open to receiving strength, stamina, and courage for the rest of the year. Shepherds in Scandinavia rub their hands with garlic before milking animals, and they were cloves of garlic to keep trolls from taking the livestock.

When women in Egypt wanted to know if they were pregnant, they would put a clove of garlic in their belly buttons and if their breath smelled of garlic the next day, they were most decidedly pregnant. In ancient days if one wanted to rid themselves of the odor of garlic, they would eat a mint leaf, parsley, a coffee bean, or anise seed. For the most part people lived with the garlic odor because its benefits far outweighed the smell.

Science shows that if you cook garlic correctly, it may have the power to fight off an even a more frightening villain than vampires and evil spirits: cancer. You should chop, slice, or crush your cloves, then set them aside for at least 10 minutes before sautéing. Breaking up garlic triggers an enzymatic reaction that releases a healthy compound called allyl sulfur. You should then wait to cook it after it’s crushed for about 3-5 minutes. The timing allows garlic enough time for the full amount of the compound to form.

Today modern wise women or witches use garlic for a multitude of spells. One old spell to get rid of someone who is stalking or bothering you is to take a clay jar, or glass jar with a lid, up a hand full of coffee grounds, three cloves of garlic and an egg into the jar and bury it somewhere on your property during a full moon. This insures your “enemy” or evildoer does not come into your house or hurt your person.
To bring prosperity, rub a green candle with garlic that you have mashed in your fingers and light the candle while you work around the house or in the kitchen to bring more food and prosperity into the household overall.

Garlic is also hung on kitchen walls to promote prosperity in the kitchen and slow down the decomposition of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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1 Comment
  1. M J katz
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I have loved and used garlic for years. I think it’s antibiotic property, alone, is well worth it’s use. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I seldom get sick. Garlic has even been used to treat fungus infections. In several scientific experiments, a peeled and cut garlic clove was placed into the center of a petre cup full of bacteria, only to find much of the bacteria dead within hours of this placement. Apparently garlic has sulphur-based antibiotic properties similiar to Bactrim, for one example.
    Great article!

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