If you’re like me, you’ve wondered countless times why does garlic work against vampires? I mean, it’s smelly, but really? Why did garlic come to the forefront as the vampire repellant herb of choice?
Well, there are several theories as to why garlic and vampires are a lethal combination. Of course, it depends on your novelist’s world whether it works or not. But here are some of the common reasons why we think vampires can’t abide this particular potent plant.
Garlic: Medieval Antibiotic
Perhaps it was the smell, but garlic was often used as a medicinal herb in the olden days. In Egypt, it was considered a powerful healer. In Medieval Europe, garlic was used as a kind of cure all. Skin ailments were treated with garlic rubs. Dishes were sanitized with garlic water. Have a cough? Well, eat some garlic.
Vampirism was considered a disease. If garlic was a magical cure, then vampirism the disease couldn’t fight garlic. Some sources associate vampirism with rabies, or other violent illness. Corpses were even buried with garlic in their mouths to keep them from raising as vampires.
Also, garlic is a coagulant. So it can make the blood thick and nasty to drink. That might be enough to get the vampires to choose a different victim.
Want more info about the medieval antibiotic and the vampiric disease? My favorite article is here from Vampires.com.
A Smelly Mosquito Repellant
Some sources think garlic came about as a vampire repellant because it does the same to their tiny, insect-like distant relatives. If garlic stops a mosquito from sucking your blood, shouldn’t it do the same for a vampire?
Yes, garlic is actually a repellant for mosquitos. If you want the technical explanation, don’t ask me. Check out this site, and ask someone with a chemical background. But the fun part? If you eat enough garlic, it actually seeps out through your skin to coat your flesh with a smelly deterrent. So the next time you go camping, have italian before hand. 🙂
A Supernatural Myth
Of course, we don’t really know how the widespread garlic theory came about. The rumor can be traced to China, Europe, Malaysia, and the Slavic areas as well as Egypt. Such a widespread phenomenon had to have some common ground, right? Well, I’m not a historian so I really couldn’t tell you. I think it’s probably a mix of both these ideas plus superstition.
Several religious or spiritual teachings associate garlic with vampires. Garlic has roots in witchcraft and church superstition. It was used in funerals and church services. When a supposed vampire was killed, the hunter would stuff garlic in their mouths and chop off their heads to keep them from coming back. Garlic could be smeared over the heads of children to ward off evil bloodsuckers.
Pick Your Poison
As always, each paranormal novelist is given their own creative license. For me, I like the coagulant theory in my novels. So you won’t find garlic cloves in the kits of my hunters. However, popular stories like Dracula by Bram Stoker and the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer both use garlic as vampire repellants.
So, if you’re a paranormal author, then it’s up to you to pick your vampire poison. If you’re a paranormal reader, then just watch for the signs. Your author will usually make it pretty clear.
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