Myths & Legends

Garlic: Superstitions, Folklore and Fact

 

GARLIC SUPERSTITIONS & FOLKLORE

  • According to Pliny, garlic and onions were invoked as deities by the Egyptians at the taking of oaths. The inhabitants of Pelusium in lower Egypt, who worshipped the onion, are said to have held both it and garlic in aversion as food.
  • Egyptian slaves were given a daily ration of garlic, as it was believed to ward off illness and to increase strength and endurance. As indicated in ancient Egyptian records, the pyramid builders were given beer, flatbread, raw garlic and onions as their meager food ration. Upon threatening to abandon the pyramids leaving them unfinished, they were given more garlic. It cost the Pharaoh today's equivalent of 2 million dollars to keep the Cheops pyramid builders supplied with garlic.
  • During the reign of King Tut, fifteen pounds of garlic would buy a healthy male slave. Indeed, when King Tut's tomb was excavated, there were bulbs of garlic found scattered throughout the rooms.
  • When Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt (around 1,200BC), they complained of missing the finer things in life - fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.
  • The Koreans of old ate pickled garlic before passing through a mountain path, believing that tigers disliked it.
  • In Mohammed's writings, he equates garlic with Satan when he describes the feet of the Devil as he was cast out of the Garden of Eden. Where his left foot touched the earth, garlic sprang up, while onion emerged from the footprint of his right foot.
  • In Palestinian tradition, if the bridegroom wears a clove of garlic in his buttonhole, he is assured a successful wedding night. Among practitioners of Auryvedic medicine, garlic is held in high regard as an aphrodisiac and for its ability to increase semen.
  • Garlic was placed by the ancient Greeks on the piles of stones at cross-roads, as a supper for Hecate -- a goddess of the wilderness and childbirth, or for protection from demons. The garlic was supposed to the evil spirits and cause them to lose their way.
  • Greek athletes would take copious amounts of garlic before competition, and Greek soldiers would consume garlic before going into battle.
  • It became custom for Greek midwives to hang garlic cloves in birthing rooms to keep the evil spirits away. As the centuries passed, this ancient custom became commonplace in most European homes.
  • Roman soldiers ate garlic to inspire them and give them courage. Because the Roman generals believed that garlic gave their armies courage, they planted fields of garlic in the countries they conquered, believing that courage was transferred to the battlefield.
  • Homer reported that Ulysses owed his escape from Circe to "yellow garlic".
  • The herbalist Culpepper linked garlic with the planet Mars, a fiery planet also connected with blood.
  • European folklore gives garlic the ability to ward off the "evil eye". Central European folk beliefs considered garlic a powerful ward against devils, werewolves, and vampires. To ward off vampires, garlic could be worn on one's person, hung in windows, or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes. When diseases caused by mosquito bites were considered "The touch of the vampire," garlic came in handy as a mosquito repellent.
  • Alexander Neckam, a writer of the 12th century, recommends garlic as a palliative of the heat of the sun in field labor.
  • Dreaming that there is "garlic in the house" is supposedly lucky; to dream about eating garlic means you will discover hidden secrets.
  • This old Welsh saying may indeed have merit as a health remedy: "Eat leeks in March and garlic in May, Then the rest of the year, your doctor can play."

GARLIC FACTS

  • The ancient Greek name for garlic was scorodon. According to Fulder and Blackwood, French physician Henri Leclerc derived this from skaion rodon which he translated as rose puante, or "stinking rose".
  • Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Sanskrit records show its medicinal use about 5,000 years ago, and it has been used for at least 3,000 years in Chinese medicine. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans used garlic for healing purposes. In 1858, Pasteur noted garlic's antibacterial activity.
  • Historically, garlic has been used around the world to treat many conditions, including hypertension, infections, and snakebites, and some cultures have used it to ward off evil spirits. Currently, garlic is used for reducing cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk, as well as for its antineoplastic and antimicrobial properties.
  • There is a long history of using garlic to get rid of many insects, from slug to mosquito. In particular garlic has a reputation for protecting people from mosquito bites.
  • Hippocrates (300BC) recommended garlic for infections, wounds, cancer, leprosy, and digestive disorders. Dioscorides praised it for its use in treating heart problems, and Pliny listed the plant in 61 remedies for a wide variety of ailments ranging from the common cold to leprosy, epilepsy and tapeworm.
  • During World War 1, the Russian army used garlic to treat wounds incurred by soldiers on the Front Line. Although Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin in 1928 largely replaced garlic at home, the war effort overwhelmed the capacity of most antibiotics, and garlic was again the antibiotic of choice. The Red Army physicians relied so heavily on garlic that it became known as the "Russian Penicillin".
  • Today, garlic is used by herbalists for a wide variety of illnesses including high cholesterol, colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis, fever, ringworm and intestinal worms, and liver, gallbladder, and digestive problems. Several scientific papers have been published in the last two years which strongly indicate that garlic is highly efficient in preventing heart disease and cancer, and even reducing the severity of established cancer.
  • Garlic Caution: Olive oil infused with fresh, raw garlic should not be left at room temperature to cure. While it may produce an awesome flavor, botulism threatens its safety. Garlic infused vinegar, on the other hand, is safe because the high acidic level of vinegar prevents spores of botulinum bacteria from incubating.
  • Italians apply poultices of garlic to alleviate stomachaches. During the early 20th century they sent their children to school wearing necklaces made of cloves of garlic to prevent them from catching colds. Though this practice made them rather unpopular, it did keep them healthy.
  • Dramatic results in treating animals infested with ticks showed that garlic was able to effectively kill the ticks within 30 minutes, while garlic proved to be a repellant toward new infestations. Garlic was also successful in treating cattle with hoof and mouth disease.
  • In a study conducted in Russia in 1955, garlic extract used therapeutically was found to bind with heavy metals in the body, aiding their elimination. Workers suffering from chronic lead poisoning while working in industrial plants were given daily doses of garlic extract and saw a decrease in their symptoms. Other experiments that took place in Japan using mercury and cadmium also found that garlic bound with the heavy metals.

     

 

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