We have all heard the myth before, that vampire can’t stand garlic whatsoever. To use garlic on a vampire would make them run away in disgust. It’s a classic method of protection and an item that any sane vampire hunter has on them. But where in the world did that legend come from? Out of all the herbs why is it the pungent garlic that does the trick? Well let me full you in on where this old legend comes from.
Garlic originally got its good reputation from ancient Egypt. Back then it was believed that garlic held incredible healing powers. From Egypt it spread and developed more uses and powers. It was known not only for healing but also protection against the plague and supernatural evils. In southern Slavic regions in was used to protect oneself from demonic forces, witches and sorcerers. The Christian St. Andrew was said to be the donor of garlic to humanity.
Garlic used against vampire was big in southern Slavic countries and Romania as well. It was used to find vampires and to prevent vampires. A vampire in hiding could be spotted by not being willing to eat garlic. In the 1970s , a Romanian church distributed garlic during service, observing those who refused to eat it and figuring out if the person was a vampire. Crazy that this happened only 30 or so years ago right?
To prevent someone from being turned into a vampire it was common to stuff cloves of garlic in the corpse’s nose, mouth and ears to keep out all evil. It was also smeared over the eyes. Also, once they killed a vampire and cut off its head they would then fill its mouth with garlic to keep it from returning.
It wasn’t just the Slavic areas that used garlic. In China and Malaysia it was rubbed on children’s foreheads to prevent vampire attack. In the Philippines it was rubbed under the armpits. Damn, can you imagine how badly they smelled? And of course many countries simply hung garlic from their doors to ward off vamps.
When it comes to vampires and garlic now, most authors choose to have their vampire characters unaffected by garlic. But in some books/movies vampires don’t like garlic, but it is simply because they have a heightened sense of smell and the stuff reeks. One author that did use garlic as protection was the famous Bram Stoker in Dracula. That there is how vampires and garlic became so popular and well known.
I'll end this post with a quote from Dracula, the scene in which Van Helsing protects Lucy from the Count by placing garlic around her...
We went into the room, taking the [garlic] with us. The Professor's actions were certainly odd and not to be found in any pharmacopeia that I ever heard of. First he fastened up the windows and latched them securely. Next, taking a handful of the flowers, he rubbed them all over the sashes, as though to ensure that every whiff of air that might get in would be laden with the garlic smell. Then with the wisp he rubbed all over the jamb of the door, above, below, and at each side, and round the fireplace in the same way.
It all seemed grotesque to me, and presently I said, "Well, Professor, I know you always have a reason for what you do, but this certainly puzzles me. It is well we have no sceptic here, or he would say that you were working some spell to keep out an evil spirit.""Perhaps I am!" He answered quietly as he began to make the wreath which Lucy was to wear round her neck.