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Garlic by Sue Perryman

Garlic - Allium sativum

This month I thought I would look at Garlic, it is easy to grow and one of the most useful additions to your garden being used in food, medicine and magic. As one of the oldest plants known to man, there is also a lot of folklore and myth surrounding it.

Garlic is a hardy perennial plant grown as an annual, it can grow to between 40-60 cms and is really easy to grow. Plant individual cloves pointed ends up in the ground about 15 cms apart and 5cms deep. Plant in Autumn for a late Summer harvest or early Spring for a late Autumn harvest. They are ready to pick after the blooms die back and the leaves fall over.

A single clove of garlic planted beside a rose bush is said to keep greenfly away.

It is believed that garlic is native to Siberia but spread to other parts of the world over 5000 years ago. The common word 'garlic' is reputedly from the Anglo-Saxon 'leac' meaning pot herb and 'gar' meaning spear or lance, perhaps referring to the shape of the leaves.

Garlic is sacred to Hecate and can be left at a crossroads as an offering to her.

In Greek myth, Odysseus used Moly, a wild garlic, as a charm to stop the sorceress Circe from turning him into a pig. Garlic was also used by ancient Greek athletes at the Olympic games to enhance their performance.

Ancient Egyptians used garlic medicinally, believing that it promoted good health and strength. Images of garlic have been found in Egyptian tombs depicted as offerings to the Gods and the slaves constructing the pyramid Cheops were given garlic cloves daily to sustain their strength.

It is believed that the Romans introduced garlic to Britain. Roman soldiers would eat a clove of garlic before going into battle for strength and courage.

Garlic has been used medicinally for centuries. The ancient people must have been on to something as modern science has proved it has many beneficial medical properties.

Normal amounts of garlic in food is usually safe for most people (unless you are allergic to it as one of my friends is). If you want to take it medicinally though please consult a medical practitioner first, particularly if you are on any other medication.

I'm not going to look into the medicinal properties of garlic here, but I do find some of the old remedies interesting including this old folk remedy in 'Discovering the Folklore of Plants' by Margaret Baker which sounds more like a spell to treat Measles. It states that a piece of homespun linen should be torn into 9 pieces, each piece should be spread with garlic powder made from 9 pulverised bulbs. Wrap each piece around the patient and nurse him for 9 days. Bury the linen in the garden; the cure will follow.

In the first World War sphagnum moss soaked in garlic juice was used as an antiseptic wound dressing.

An old remedy for whooping cough was to put a clove of garlic in the shoes of the patient.

Culpepper states that garlic helps the biting of mad dogs and other venomous creatures and that it is a remedy for everything from plague-sore's to haemorrhoids!

Some people are put off eating garlic because of the smell it leaves on your breath but chewing parsley or a cardamom pod will help this.

I can't talk about garlic without mentioning Vampires, we all know it is said to protect from them, but it in many ancient cultures it was used to ward off the evil eye, witches and evil spells!

A tradition in New Mexico is that garlic will help a young girl rid herself of an unwanted boyfriend, maybe by eating loads of the stuff!

Garlic bulbs are hung on the boats of some Turkish fishermen for good luck.

Garlic is an herb of protection, and if you don't fancy carrying whole bulbs or cloves around with you or adding them to pouches, the white papery skin can be used instead.

Garlic salt carries the protective energies of both garlic and salt, making it even more powerful than each ingredient used alone.

Garlic is an ingredient in Four Thieves Vinegar. There are many versions of the story and equably many different recipes, most people have heard at least one of the stories.

For those that haven't heard of it before it says that four thieves were arrested during an outbreak of the plague in France for stealing from plague victims. They were given their freedom in exchange for the secret of how they manged to avoid contracting the disease themselves. The recipe they gave was named 'Four Thieves Vinegar' and it has become a popular ingredient in Hoodoo and other folklore traditions for a wide variety of spells including healing, protection, banishing and hexing.

To make Four Thieves Vinegar use the best vinegar you can get, apple cider and red wine vinegar are popular choices. Pour the vinegar into a jar with a lid. Peel and crush 4 garlic cloves and add to the jar, then add equal amounts of four of the following herbs: Lavender, rosemary, sage, oregano, mint, cinnamon, cloves, rue, wormwood, thyme, chillies. Allow to sit for four weeks, shaking each day and after the fourth week it is ready for use, you can either strain it or use it as it is.

Four Thieves Vinegar is antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and anti fungal. Keep it in a spray bottle and use as a potent disinfectant around your home, particularly when someone is ill.

It also makes an effective insect repellent. Keep it in the fridge to minimise the vinegar smell and to make it more refreshing, and spray on your skin and clothes when needed.

If you add only edible herbs, it can be taken internally to protect against illness; dilute 1 tsp in a glass of water and sip throughout the day. You can also use it as a gargle for sore throats.

Mixed with a good quality olive oil, it can be used as a salad dressing, although I've not tried this myself.

To make an enemy move away write their name on a piece of paper nine times and place in a bottle with a tight-fitting screw lid. Cover the paper with Four Thieves Vinegar, seal shut and throw into a river or bury. A simpler method would be to write your enemies name on a piece of toilet roll, spray with Four Thieves Vinegar and flush it down the toilet.

Sprinkle liberally around the perimeter of your home to keep your enemies away.

Add a couple of tablespoons to your bath water for personal protection.

To use as a healing spell, dab a few drops on a poppet of the sick person.

Add a tablespoon to your floor wash to clear negativity in your home.

To banish an enemy, bury a bottle of Four Thieves Vinegar under their doorstep or porch.

Sources: Kitchen Medicine- Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal A Kitchen Witches world of Magical Food - Rachel Patterson Pagan Portals Hoodoo folk magic - Rachel Patterson Old Wives Lore for Gardeners - Maureen and Bridget Boland Jekka's Complete herb book - Jekka McVicar Utterly Wicked -Dorothy Morrison

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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