An herb that should be on hand for every magical practitioner is Allium sativum commonly and lovingly known as Garlic from the Anglo-saxon gar (spear) leac (leek). As the common name suggests, this warrior of an herb is helpful for protection but also healing and empowerment. Its ease of use and of obtaining from the local grocery store make it an ally for the novice as well as the experienced witch.
My partner and I have a magical quirk that we rely on. We can intuitively tell when we’ve been around illness of some kind or when it is coming our way before any symptoms manifest. For him, he craves oranges. For me, I crave garlic. Not that either of us eating these things is a sign that we’ve intuited illness as these are favorite foods. It’s the craving that alerts us though. We often laugh as we stand in the kitchen, me making garlic bread and him guzzling orange juice, that our spidey senses are tingling. Sure enough the next day we will get a text from a family member or coworker we just saw saying they’re coming down with something or our kid or one of us will get the sniffles. I then thank garlic as I reach for more along with other medicines and herbal allies that I put into use to heal and drive away sickness.
Bad Boy Reputation
Perhaps one of the reasons I love garlic so much is that it has a bad boy reputation. While of course we in the west commonly associate it as a ward against vampires we also warn against it for young people on dates. Don’t eat garlic if you want to kiss, is of course the suggestion. A common folk name for garlic is stinkweed and stinking rose.
Add to this that Mohammed associated garlic with the Devil himself, saying it sprang up where his hooves touched the earth.
Astrologically it is connected to Mars in the heat of battle and all its hot fury and passion.
In herbal tarot associations and correspondences, garlic is connected to the Tower, a card that is known to give several readers and clients fits of worry.
However, much like the bad boy in a spicy romance novel, garlic wins many over despite its reputation. It certainly won me over, anyways, and I am now one of his loudest advocates.
Garlic is pungent, bitter, warming, antiviral, and despite its hot nature, is an anti-inflammatory. It is also said to be antihelmintic, anti-asthmatic, antilipemic, anti-epileptic, anti-hypertensive, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, and an expectorant. In addition to all of these awesome abilities to help healing, garlic stimulates the body’s immune system, making it a great choice for prevention, during, and after illness.
CAUTION: Garlic does interact with some medications for HIV, anticoagulants, and can affect how the liver processes some medications. It can also cause indigestion and heartburn. Topically, especially prolonged, it can cause skin irritation that varies depending on skin sensitivities. Discuss large or medicinal consumption of garlic with your health care professionals.
Magically, garlic is great for healing spells, spells and rituals to boost ones strength, talismans for warding or battle (whether literal or metaphorical), and for rituals and offerings.
Garlic is sacred to several deities including Hekate, Asklepios, Ungnyeo, and Odin (specifically in His role as a war general bearing a spear). It is a fantastic offering to Them when seeking aid, healing, or other guidance as well as a devotional offering in general.
“Hecate, chthonic goddess of sorcery who brought on or cured illness, was offered garlic in the form of a wreath to accompany the suppers provided for her at crossroads, which, as we have seen, were associated with her, and that Hecate was believed to punish with madness anyone who dared eat her suppers. Despite the rise of Christianity, Hecate and crossroads offerings did not disappear. Crossroads offerings persisted as late as the eleventh century, when there were reports of the Church attempting to put an end to them.”
– Simoons, Frederick J. 1998. Plants of Life, Plants of Death. USA: University of Wisconsin Press, pg 143-144.
Offer Hekate garlic either upon her altar, in a dug pit (aka a cthonic altar), or at a crossroads on the night before or on the New Moon. Other traditional offerings include small Roman cheese cakes, wine, goat meat, blood, and black furred animals.
Say a prayer to Her then bury or leave the garlic along with whatever petition you might have for Her. Walk away from it and do not look back over your shoulder or return to see it until dawn.
A Stinking Aphrodisiac
While garlic’s pungent scent might not hint at it, many fans of garlic believe it to be the perfect ingredient for a love potion. This may have to do with the fact that garlic is a circulatory stimulant that promotes heart health and gets the blood pumping. It might also be connected to garlic’s association with Mars and potent masculine energies that ignite the passions especially in men.
Garlic for Protection
Fiction and horror movies have long ingrained the image of a necklace of braided garlic to ward off the threat of vampires and other undead creatures. The belief that garlic can protect people from evil creatures that would do them harm is a belief that reaches across time and beyond borders and oceans.
Hang garlic by your door or near your sheds, barns, or stables to protect yourself and your property from the evil eye and ill-meaning spirits. Change out hung garlic yearly, burning it at the end of the year to drive off any stagnation and wickedness from the year past. Images of garlic work as well, lending magical credence to folksy kitchen art.
Use leftover garlic skins in poppets or satchets for added protection or use them in protection incense. Notice I say skins and not the cloves of garlic itself – using these could make for a particularly smelly poppet and, if in a moist area, entice mold growth. Decide what parts you’d like to use for these spells at your own risk.
My favorite method of using garlic magically is in the kitchen. I sometimes take heads of garlic to the altar and have them blessed for healing or love or a magical boost (leaving behind an offering or a promise of part of my kitchen work). I then take the garlic into the kitchen and cook it into a meal that will be come the vessel for my own magical workings – garlic rosemary bread, thick stews with healing bone broth and herbs, or yummy spreads for friendly finger foods. It is an ally that even in the cooking does its work. For me, no aromatherapy is better than sauteed garlic and baking bread. This is the mark of a blessed and magical kitchen.
Both Garlic and Rosemary have been used as aphrodisiacs over the ages. This kitchen witch recipe is a simple loaf that can be shared among lovers to increase intimacy.
3 large heads garlic (about a dozen decent size cloves each)
Olive oil for drizzling
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups warm water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove most of the peel from the heads of garlic except for one layer to keep the garlic in tact.
Cut off the top of each head of garlic (about 1/4 inch).
Roast the garlic at 400 degrees F. for 45 – 60 minutes. The garlic should be soft and golden.
Let the garlic cool then remove the cloves from the peel by squeezing from the bottom.
Combine the warm water and dissolve the sugar in it. Sprinkle the yeast over top.
Once the yeast is bubbly and active, add together flour, salt, rosemary, yeast mixture, and roasted garlic cloves in a large bowl.
Mix until a wet, sticky dough forms.
Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place overnight (at least 8-12 hours).
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Reduce heat to 375 degrees F.
Bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Slice and serve with butter or olive oil.
[Written by December Fields-Bryant.]