Herb of the Month: Garlic

Garlic

The Herb of the Month for October is Garlic. Not just for keeping away vampires!

Latin Names: Allium sativum ophioscorodon (Hardneck), Allium sativum sativum (Softneck)
Anglo-Saxon Name: Garleac (Spear-Leek)
Old Norse Name: Geir-laukr
Irish Name: Gairleog

Folk names: Garlic from the Anglo-saxon gar (spear) leac (leek), Stinking Rose, Ajo, Poor Man’s Treacle, Stinkweed

Medicinal

Eat leeks in March and garlic in May, Then the rest of the year, your doctor can play.
– old Welsh proverb

A warming herb with carminative, diaphoretic actions that is stimulating to the circulatory and respiratory systems. 

Pungeant, hot, loud and proud, garlic is a common herb used in the kitchen, the medicinal apothecary, and in the witch’s tool chest. 

Garlic is used in many medicinal systems including Ancient Egyptian and Greek, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, various Native American traditions, and more. In the middle ages, plague doctors and the notorious Four Thieves used garlic among other beneficial herbs to ward off illness, burning it at doorways or wearing it on their person or in infusions like Four Thieves Vinegar. 

In modern times, garlic was said to be the food and medicine of the poor and the immigrant (often accompanied with many nasty derogatory terms) but that didn’t stop doctors from using it when necessary. In WWI, and even in WWII when penicillin was scarce, garlic was used as a wound wash, valued for its antiseptic properties. Since then, scientists and doctors have studied garlic for a wide variety of uses from preventing preeclampsia in pregnant women to cancer prevention and removing heavy metal toxicity. 

Today, one of the easiest ways to utilize garlic is to eat it in abundance before and during cold and flu season to nurture the respiratory and immune systems as well as keeping our blood from becoming stagnant during the cold season. 

A Stinking Aphrodisiac:
While garlic’s pungeant scent might not hint at it, many fans of garlic belief it to be the perfect ingredient for a love potion. This may have to do with the fact that garlic is a circulatory stimulant that promotes heart health and gets the blood pumping.
A common saying is that men who eat 3-4 cloves of garlic a day will never need for viagra.

Magical

Gods associated with Garlic:
Asklepios (Greek)
Hekate (Greek)
Thor (Norse)
Odin (Norse)
Ungnyeo (Korean)
Mohammed associated garlic with the Devil himself, saying it sprang up where his hooves touched the earth. 

Astrological Correspondences: Mars
Tarot Associations: The Tower
Powers: Protection, Healing, Love/Lust

“Hecate, chthonic goddess of sorcery who brought on or cured illness, was offered garlic in the form of a wreath to accompany the suppers provided for her at crossroads, which, as we have seen, were associated with her, and that Hecate was believed to punish with madness anyone who dared eat her suppers. Despite the rise of Christianity, Hecate and crossroads offerings did not disappear. Crossroads offerings persisted as late as the eleventh century, when there were reports of the Church attempting to put  an end to them. Hecate herself, moreover, led the well-known witch ride of medieval times.”
– Simoons, Frederick J. 1998. Plants of Life, Plants of Death. USA: University of Wisconsin Press, pg 143-144.

When Asklepios discovered the secret of immortality, Zeus saw to it he was killed. His papers were destroyed but where the pieces lay and rain fell, garlic grew. Garlic contains many beneficial properties to aid those who are sick or desire to strengthen their physical vitality. Seeking Asklepios and his father, Apollon, god of the Sun and healing.

Garlic for Protection

“The younger brother of Leek, Garlic is a warrior, short, tough, skilled, and
pugnacious. He can also be cheerful, but he’s the sort who laughs as he kills and then tells tall tales
about it later. In the heat of battle, however, he is ruthless and merciless, and will keep on destroying
until he can fight no more. As a slayer of evil spirits, he has few equals, and he knows it. He carries a
spear stained with the blood of evil spirits. Salute him as the powerful wight that he is, and do not
underestimate him.”
~Raven Kaldera, The Northern Shamanic Herbal

Fiction and horror movies have long ingrained the image of a necklace of braided garlic to ward off the threat of vampires and other undead creatures. The belief that garlic can protect people from evil creatures that would do them harm is a belief that reaches across time and beyond borders and oceans.
Hang garlic by your door or near your sheds, barns, or stables to protect yourself and your property from the evil eye and ill-meaning spirits. Change out hung garlic yearly, burning it at the end of the year to drive off any stagnation and wickedness from the year past. Images of garlic work as well, lending magical credence to folksy kitchen art.
Use leftover garlic skins in poppets or satchets for added protection or use them in protection incense.

Resources

Garlic: An Edible Biography by Robin Cherry
The Northern Shamanic Herbal by Raven Kaldera
Pantry Folk Magic by Sarah Anne Lawless http://sarahannelawless.com/2013/08/01/pantry-folk-magic/