Ancient Egyptians worshipped garlic, Greek Olympian athletes chewed it, and many people think it keeps evil away – why?
The word comes from the Old English ‘garleac’ meaning ‘spear leek’. Native to Central Asia, garlic usage dates back over 6,000 years. It is used to flavour food in most cultures and is known to kill bacteria, keep the heart healthy and keep colds at bay.
Egyptians valued garlic so highly that sometimes they used it instead of money. They even placed garlic bulbs in the tomb of Tutankhamen to protect it from evil. In European folklore, vampires, werewolves and demons are repelled by garlic; it was also thought that if pregnant women are protected by it, jealous nymphs would not terrorize them. It was customary for people to hang cloves of garlic in their windows and rub them over chimneys and keyholes to keep the creatures of the night from coming into their houses.
Its association with evil spirits in ancient times is thought to derive from the fact that garlic is antibacterial and prevents certain mental illnesses. In those days the beneficial medical properties of garlic were unknown so when ailments of mind or body were cured, it was believed that the garlic had scared off evil spirits.