Garlic, in most cultures that have it handy, is an ancient cure for what ails us. Garlic will keep away upper respiratory infections when eaten, crossed conditions when hung in the home and revenants when worn. In hoodoo, the uses for garlic – aside from being a tasty addition to savory dishes – are specific to health and protection. Other disciplines tend to have a broader view.
In European folk magick, garlic was often worn and not just to keep the undead at arm’s length. Garlic as a necklace is an ancient way to keep away plague. This is still the case in some modern Wiccan traditions. Scott Cunningham mentions wearing a clove of garlic for thirteen days and then, in the middle of the night on the thirteenth day, tossing it over one’s shoulder at a crossroads and running away without looking back as a way to avoid contracting hepatitis.
Roman soldiers received garlic routinely in their rations and ate it before battle to improve their courage. Medieval sailors carried garlic to keep their ship from sinking, and soldiers of the same era wore it to protect themselves from fatal injury. Garlic was hung on the doors of homes to turn away the evil eye and keep out robbers until the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th century turned the practice into a sign of witchcraft going on behind the door.
Garlic is used to keep bad dreams away from children by placing it under their pillow. Brides will carry a clove of garlic to keep envy at bay. Rubbing garlic on new pots and pans before use neutralizes negativity which could contaminate your cooking (this is especially true with hand-me-down pots or old flea market finds that have been used before).
In the New World, garlic came to African-American folk magick through the European tradition. Old root workers will recommend peeling a clove of garlic, rubbing it on the afflicted area of the body (for example, the temple for a headache) and then tossing it into a body of running water so that it can take the pain or illness away with it. Hanging a braid of garlic in the kitchen is considered wise. It keeps the evil eye away and promotes harmony. The garlic should be actively used throughout the year in cooking and then the braid should be replaced in January, with any leftovers from the year before discarded.
Garlic can be added to water and used to scrub down a residence or place of business to neutralize negativity and keep away government or local law enforcement. Garlic is one of the four ingredients in Four Thieves Vinegar which itself can be added to wash water to turn the evil eye. It is said to be especially potent for keeping away people you don’t like when sprayed on the front door or used to wash down the front stoop. Here’s a recipe:
Into a 16 oz bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar put:
1 peeled clove of garlic
1 High John the Conqueror root (about the same size as the garlic clove)
1 tsp of black pepper
1 tsp dried vetivert
Close and shake the bottle gently then put it in a cool, dark place to steep for a week. Strain the vinegar through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and add a tablespoon to a bucket or spray bottle of water for use. This mixture can also be used for jinxing, but that’s another topic for another time. Bon chance ~
Header: Souvenir de Mortefontaine by Jean-Baptiste Collot c 1864