Why Vampires Despise Garlic
Of all the demons and monsters in folklore and in the horror genre there is none more fascinating than the vampire. However, what is even more fascinating are the idiosyncrasies that embody the image of the vampire. For example, vampires are frightened of crucifixes, are sensitive to sunlight, and despise garlic. Growing up as a child and watching vampire movies (everything from Salem’s lot to The Lost Boys) I was always bewildered as to why vampires hate this delicious herbal condiment.
Although nobody really knows why this is so, there are many theories as to why there is such an intolerance for garlic among the undead. It essentially makes no difference what form the garlic comes in whether it is bulbs, cloves, juice or flowers, garlic is universally despised by every ethnicity and species of this repulsive creature. It certainly is a monolithic phenomenon, and one that has every lover of vampires scratching their head as to why this happens. It is left to the realm of the theoretical. Below three different theories will be explored.
The Biological Theory
The first theory to be explored is the biological theory. Severe allergies to garlic are common among people who suffer from this autoimmune disorder. Anybody who watches and is familiar with vampire novels, movies, and folklore knows that when a vampire comes into contact with garlic it causes two major reactions. Either the vampire will projectile vomit the garlic out of their mouth or the skin of the creature will burn much like what sunlight does.
Many people who are allergic to garlic have the same symptoms. Severe skin rashes and hives with a burning sensation are known to develop among allergy sufferers. Some are major; some are minor. Nevertheless, nobody (including vampires) likes to be uncomfortable in their own skin. In addition, swelling is another side effect of garlic consumption. This is why when vampires accidentally devour or are purposely given garlic they often times break out and look like the Toxic Avenger.
Garlic is also known to ward off mosquitoes. Think about it and note the comparisons; both mosquitoes and vampires are blood sucking nuisances who love to prey on the blood of animals and especially humans. Any nutritional expert will tell you that garlic contains an antibiotic call allicin, and mosquitoes are repelled by it. Allicin is a sulphuric compound that when consumed travels throughout the body via blood flow and is consumed by the tissues and ultimately is dispersed through every pore in the epidermis.
Still, some vampire scholars believe that these creatures of the night suffer from the disease Porphyria. Porphyria is an enigmatic blood disorder that is the amalgamation of eight separate disorders that stifles the production of the chemical heme in the blood. The symptoms range from the dissipation of tissue surrounding the mouth to skin discoloration and light sensitivity. Just as people with celiac disease are not able to tolerate gluten, people with Porphyria are not able to tolerate foods that have a high sulfur content such as garlic. Therefore, if you want to avoid a vampire attack eat and surround yourself with a ton of garlic!
Vampires and Garlic
The Existential Theory
The existential theory concerns the problem with death and dying. Anybody with a smidgen of knowledge about the vampire knows that he/she cannot die. The vampire is an immortal being with only a few things that are able to annihilate it. Before the advent of antibiotics and other man made manufactured drugs, garlic was considered a very potent natural cure for a range of diseases. Holistic practitioners still use this herb. According to Dr. Josh Axe, a chiropractor and nutritionist, he states on his website that garlic is extremely beneficial for seven different diseases: heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, common colds, hair loss, and Alzheimer’s disease.
So what does this have anything to do with the vampire? The study of folklore teaches us that vampirism is a supernatural demonic disease that is transmitted through the blood. One of the most common but beneficial side effects of the disease of vampirism is immortality. Immortality is a something that has been sought after for millennia. The quest for immortality is a transcendent Jungian archetype that has permeated every culture of the world. One of the most common concepts of this sentiment is the fountain of youth.
Therefore, since this is acknowledged as a blood disease and garlic is known to be a cleanser of the blood, it stands to reason that no vampire, or human for that matter, would want to be exposed to something that would be detrimental to their longevity. Garlic has a homeopathic effect on the vampire. Homeopathy functions through the science of the law of similars, which means that whatever substance causes sickness in a person the same, in a minute form, will affect a cure.
The vampire then has an existential reason to hate garlic. Since they have been living substantially much longer than humans, they are no doubt very well read in intellectual disciplines that have embodied Western and world culture. They have read the finest of literature, history, philosophy, medicine, and metaphysics. They use this knowledge to their advantage to think critically and to make informed decisions that humans take for granted. They think on a philosophical level.
The Mythological Theory
The Mythological Theory
In mythology and folklore, garlic is used extensively to combat demonic and malevolent forces. For example, in Slavic and Romanian folklore garlic is used to repel vampires. Bram Stoker, in his legendary book “Dracula”, makes references to this superstition. The herb was deified by the ancient Egyptians and buried with them in their sarcophaguses according to early Roman writers such as Pliny the Elder. In ancient China, garlic was smashed and spread on the foreheads of little children to protect them from evil omens and forces. Some cultures even assign Christological properties to the plant.
Montague Summers, a deceased Catholic priest, theologian, and vampire folklorist, wrote that garlic was to be stuffed into the mouths of vampires even after they have had their heads cut off and to surround their burial plots with the herb. The common elements here are that both vampires and the virtues of garlic permeate every cultural mythology and milieu and are inextricably intertwined together.
In Summary, although there are many other theories out there as to why vampires despise garlic, I personally believe that these three theories are the most legitimate. Vampires essentially hate garlic for three reasons: the first reason is that although they are immortal, it affects their physical health. Secondly, it puts the vampire through an existential crisis with the potential for a loss of their immortality which produces anxiety. Lastly, according to all cultures, garlic, in a mysterious and metaphysical sense prevents them from wreaking havoc on humanity and accomplishing their evil deeds.
Stephen A Brown (author) on September 23, 2019:
Yes, the comparisons are pretty interesting. It just makes you wonder who sit around and made all of these connections.
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on September 22, 2019:
I always knew vampires had bad taste...preferring blood over garlic anyway. Yes, interesting the comparisons between vampires and mosquitoes being both bloodsuckers and both repelled by garlic. Interesting article.