Garlic (Allium sativum)
Keywords: protective, guarding against negative influences, having a personality that is either loved or loathed with very little in between, balancing strength and kindness, a tendency towards asexuality, not needing a partner to fulfill one’s self-worth, taking care of one’s heart (both literally and metaphorically), strong connections to traditional medicine (most notably Chinese), connections to Italy in general and Rome in particular, warrior, playful connection to vampire lore, finding comfort in earthy energies
Garlic is a member of the onion family and related to chives and leeks. The species cultivated for human use is domesticated. Its ancestor probably arose in China although this isn’t a known certainty. Garlic is grown year round in temperate climates all across the globe.
Garlic’s uses as an ingredient are incredibly diverse. It is used raw, roasted, or sauteed to flavor a wide range of vegetables, meats, breads, and pastas. Cultures living on all inhabited continents have embraced it as a crucial element of their cuisines, though it is perhaps most famed for its use in Italian and Chinese cooking. While the stalks and flowers of the garlic plant are edible, the part of the plant most often consumed by humans are the cloves, individual sections found clustered within the bulb from which new garlic plants can be cultivated.
Garlic has also been used medicinally since ancient times. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks both connected it to increased stamina and strength, the former included it in the diets of their slaves and the latter encouraged athletes and warriors to regularly eat it. In traditional Chinese medicine, garlic is said to promote longevity while Indians believed it aroused passion. Garlic was seen as such a potent aphrodisiac that chaste monks and grieving widows were warned away from it lest lust take over their better natures! Garlic has also been used to ward off demons and diseases (some cultures making no distinction between the two) and was employed for this purpose during Europe’s Black Plaque. And, of course, garlic is famed as repellant of vampires, a belief that may have arisen due to the fact that garlic can indeed help ward off less supernatural bloodsuckers such as mosquitoes and fleas. Modern medical science has found that compounds found in garlic are effectively antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal as well as potentially boosting the immune system and cardiovascular health. Scientists have yet to comment on garlic’s effectiveness against the Nosferatu.
Garlic, whose name is derived from the old Germanic words for “spear” and “leek” is also known as “the stinking rose”. The characteristic pungent odor of garlic has led to a somewhat reviled reputation among some people. Garlic contains sulfuric compounds that can sometimes be detected in the breath and sweat of those who’ve eaten it recently. Because of this, both Hindus and Muslims have historically considered it improper to eat garlic before entering holy buildings. This smelly quality is so offensive that one Islamic tale has garlic being created in the footprints of Satan when he left Eden.
As a totem, Garlic is protective. It prefers guarding and warding more than offensively seeking threats. A good way to symbolize Garlic’s attitude towards protection is to imagine a guard who prefers pushing back threats with a shield and only uses weapons as a last defense. Garlic is a good team player with other culinary totems and often strengthens and protects their energies. For example, while working with Cabbage to increase abundance, Garlic can help one learn to avoid situations that could drain finances. Likewise, while consulting with Tomato for lessons of love and passion, Garlic can be seen as a guide to recognizing inner and outer threats to the harmony of one’s romantic relationships.
Garlic can also teach lessons of self-acceptance and self-sufficiency. Garlic is used to people either strongly loving it or strongly hating it. For people who have “strong” personalities like Garlic, this totem can teach how to accept adoration without becoming arrogant and how to shrug off other people’s displeasure without belligerence. Garlic can also help those struggling with issues of asexuality or those who feel like they must have romantic partners to feel fulfilled. While familiar with the realms of passion and lust, Garlic most often reproduces asexually, needing no partner plant to complete its life cycle. Thus, Garlic can bestow lessons on how to flourish alone (whether that stems from natural inclinations or not).
Because its most prominent feature, its bulbs, grow under the ground, and because of its pungent smell, Garlic has connections to chthonic realms and entities. It is sacred to Hecate and considered a plant of the Underworld. Garlic isn’t a “dark” totem, per se, but it is very earthy. Also, as an entity frequently called on to ward against darker entities and demons, it is aware of the natures and manners of these beings and can be a guide for those seeking to understand them while simultaneously offering protection against them. Students of energy cleansing, exorcisms, or protection against psychic attacks would do well to seek out Garlic as an ally.
People who use garlic for medical purposes may also want to seek out this totem for added insight.
“Garlic” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic
“Garlic-History” Plant Cultures: Exploring Plants and People. http://www.kew.org/plant-cultures/plants/garlic_history.html
Green, Aliza. Field Guide to Produce. San Francisco: Quirk Productions, Inc., 2004
Lasinski, Kirsten. “The History of Garlic: Nature’s Ancient Superfood” GooGoBits.com. 28 June 2005 http://www.googobits.com/articles/1167-the-history-of-garlic-natures-ancient-superfood.html