As such, ancient men and women hung cloves of garlic on their door to ward off disease and other evils of an unknown, unclean environment. Accordingly, in the dream sense, the use of garlic may represent a cautious attitude involving a corrupt or contemptible situation in our waking life. On the other hand, if we fear garlic in our dream, we may be expressing guilt about our own poisonous behavior, including perhaps, social vanity. Lastly, since garlic’s potent odor is able to revive an individual who has fallen unconscious, we may be indicating a necessary awakening from a charm or enchantment which is damaging our better judgement.
Central European tradition prescribes a bunch of garlic nailed to the bed-head or a wreath of garlic flowers as a remedy against vampires. Earlier, Pliny had observed that garlic drove away serpents and was a preservative against madness. In Siberia, the Buryat believed that the smell of garlic was a warning of the presence of the souls of women who had died in childbirth and who now came to persecute the living.
In Borneo, the Batak endow garlic with the power of recovering souls which have become lost. Frazer also records the former custom of the inhabitants of Draguignan in southeastern France of roasting cloves of garlic on the bonfires lit in every street on St John the Baptist’s day. These cloves were then shared out among all the households.
Classical Antiquity acknowledges that garlic had certain virtues and traces of this belief are still to be found in modem Greek folklore. Thus, during the festivals of the Thesmophoria (sacred to Demeter) and the Scirophoria (sacred to Athene), women chewed garlic, since the plant was reputed to make easier the sexual abstinence imposed during these festivals. The Ancient Greeks in any case loathed garlic. However, the most persistent belief current in the Mediterranean basin and extending as far as India, was that garlic was a preservative against the evil eye. This is the reason for the bunches of garlic tied up with red thread to be found in Sicily, Italy, Greece and India. In Greece, saying the word ‘garlic’ brings ill luck.
The protagonist in the rites of Spring, Dionysiac ceremonies still celebrated in Thrace and recently analysed by the ethnographer, Katerina J. Kakouri, carries a string of garlic in a ritual which includes the ordeal of fire-walking.
Even today, shepherds in the Carpathians rub their hands with garlic which has been blessed before they milk a ewe for the first time. This is to protect the flock against snake-bite.
All these practices demonstrate the belief that garlic is a preservative against evil influences or dangerous attacks.
The Ancient Egyptians made garlic what was probably an anti-serpent god, because of its smell. In Rome, those who had just eaten garlic were forbidden to enter the temple of Cybele, and Horace pours out his harshest invective against garlic in one of his epodes. However, because it was part of the rations of the Roman legionary, garlic became a symbol of the soldier’s life.