Vampires and Garlic
by Christine B.
Everyone knows that to ward off a vampire all one needs is a garlic necklace or a bunch of garlic hanging in the house. But why garlic and not smelly cheese, carrots, or beets? What’s the deal with garlic? Aside from the smell of it, (which Italians love and all other nationalities seem to shy away from), garlic has many other more redeeming attributes.
In the far eastern European country of Romania, garlic has been used for hundreds of years to ward off evil. And since the vampire “legend” is thought to have originated in this country, I guess one legend might have gravitated to the other. The Romanians believed so strongly in the protective power of garlic that they would make sure they ingested garlic every day, smeared it on the windows and doors of their homes and on the gates outside their homes, and also on the horns of their cattle. The Romanians also believed that every corpse was in danger of becoming among the walking dead, so they also stuffed cloves of garlic into every open orifice of their dead bodies. And just for added protection, they concocted embalming fluid using oil, fat, incense, gunpowder, and garlic and then rubbed the entire corpse with that, as well.
It’s uncertain how the early Romanian people knew this, but garlic is also beneficial to a healthy body. When ingested, small particles of garlic are taken up by the blood system. When garlic is in the blood it eliminates any viruses it finds there. Many studies have recently been documented in the United States proving that garlic actually repels viruses in humans. (Not in dogs, however… it can be lethal to canines.)
Garlic has also been popular for centuries as a natural mosquito repellent. Since the mosquito is the “vampire” of the insect world, perhaps this also added credence to the legendary association. It is interesting to note that the mosquito has long been the reputed carrier of Malaria, a disease that mimics the same symptoms as being bitten by a vampire; for instance, exhaustion, fever, anemia and in some cases, eventual death.
The most infamous vampire of all time is Dracula. He reportedly originated in Transylvania, which is a province of Romania. Contrary to public belief, the character Dracula did not commence with Irish author, Bram Stoker’s book by the same name published in 1897. Stoker molded his main character from a real person known as Vlad the Impaler, who lived in Romania in the 1400s. Vlad’s father’s name was Vlad the 2nd Dracul, which is Romanian for “devil”. So Dracul’s son, Vlad was referred to as Dracula, or “son of the devil.”
In Stoker’s book, the Romanian custom of using garlic to ward off evil was capitalized on and garlic was used as an amulet against Dracula. From thence forward, vampires and garlic have been forever more linked.