It’s official. No more Retrograding. No more Daily Pulse. Just straight out commentary on mysteries, legends, secrets, myths, and folklore from around the world. For those of you new to this, I did something very similar from October 1997 to Dec 2000, then I stopped for a few months for various reasons, started again for a few weeks in Summer of 2001, then stopped again, and finally did a one shot last year of the VC for Halloween, which you can read that column here
I’ve also prepared people for this in my Daily Pulse, by spending the last three weeks talking about the things that would be appearing in Nyogtha.
So let’s begin shall we?
David Goforth asked me to explain the origins of Garlic and why it’s a universal undead deterrent in practically every culture that has ever generated a vampire myth.
For a long time, the Western Vampire had little exposure to garlic, even though it was once a prominent bane of the undead. Somewhere along the way it disappeared as a weakness to the unliving and it took a familiar man named Bram Stoker to reintroduce it to Western thinking in his novel, Dracula. Garlic was used by Van Helsing to cure Lucy by creating a wreath and wrapping it around her neck to keep Dracula from draining her further. He also decorated her room with it.
It succeeded for a while, until Lucy, under Dracula’s mental control begged her mom to remove the stench filled blossoms. Lucy’s mother, being sadly ignorant of what these were for, tore them down, removed the garland and unwittingly sent Lucy to a short span as a vampiress known to the English media as “The Bloofer Lady.”
In between this time where Garlic’s effect on vampires was either forgotten or downplayed, Garlic was the NUMBER ONE undead repellent. To see why this is we’re going to have to go into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback machine.
Garlic is a member of the Lily family. Not something the common person would know or expect right away, is it? Most Lilies are beautiful and fragrant, while Garlic might as well be called Stench Blossoms. Since ancient times though, garlic has been known as both an herb and for medicinal properties.
Garlic appears as an important herb for various cultures as far back as Sumeria, where it is found in Sanskrit and Chinese writings as far back as 3000 BC. Garlic was worshipped by Ancient Egyptians, claiming it to be a cure for 22 different ailments, and fed it to their slaves building the pyramids, as it was believed garlic increased one’s stamina. It was treated like a steroid for Grecian Olympians. The Greeks and Romans believed garlic could cure everything from scorpion stings to dog bites and leprosy and asthma. Even Virgil in his great works refers to garlic as a way to improve the strength and endurance of farmers. In the time of the plague, Garlic was considered a cure for this fatal disease.
Even the Bible talks about garlic for its restorative powers. In fact, the non exodus slave revolt where the Jews rose up against the Egyptians was actually over a lack of garlic when the Nile River flooded the garlic fields that year. Numbers 11:5 (and here is where the use of garlic towards the undead and enemies of God starts to comes into play) We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic: . This line us in reference to the Jews lamenting the specific foods blessed by God no longer being available to them. Even in the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish traditions incorporated into the Talmud, the Hebrews of that time referred to themselves in their writing as “The Garlic Eaters.” So even in early Judeo-Christian society garlic was considered a food blessed by the almighty. And anything considered naturally blessed by One’s God, logically was able to be used as protection against His enemies or those of evil or demonic nature. Even today there are SEVENTY types of garlic growing in the Holy Land, more than any other place on earth.
Let’s talk a little more about garlic as a plant before I get back into its relationship to the undead. After all, longtime readers know I love to cook.
The more man evolved and science became about fact checking over superstition, the more we as a species learned Garlic as a universal healer actually had some factual evidence towards that. Louis Pasteur proved garlic killed infectious germs and bacteria by both eating and by rubbing on a wound. Albert Schweizer proved garlic could cure typhoid fever and cholera. These are two of the biggest names in science people, so don’t think this was anything related to holistic medicine.
In World War 2, when penicillin was rare, the Russian (and eventually other countries) used Garlic as a substitute penicillin because of its know curative abilities.
Even today, Garlic is considered one of the best foods for you. Heated garlic releases a compound used to prevent arteries from clogging, and it also reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Because garlic is a blood thinner, it is suggested, like aspirin, to be used with stroke and heart attack victims.
When garlic is crushed, or even cut, the enzyme that is released is used to cure 2 dozen types of bacteria, including salmonella.
Garlic contains Vitamins C, A, and B, and in known to stimulate your immune system Garlic has even become a major component in studying how to cure carcinogens and even AIDS. Studies in China show people who eat garlic on a frequent basis have a reduced risk of getting certain types of cancer.
Garlic also kills over 60 kinds of yeast and fungi. Got Athlete’s foot? Guess what that powder you rub on your feet contains? GARLIC ENZYMES! Have a yeast infection? Guess what’s the curative property in what the doctor or over the counter products have? GARLIC ENZYMES!
As we can see, garlic has earned its reputation as a herb that can do just about anything. But I know what you want. You want more information about how it affects vampires, right? Always with the bloody vampires!
As mentioned above, as garlic was such a cure-all back in ancient times, garlic eventually became a cure for otherworldly things as well. People stopped eating it and applying it to wounds, and started carrying it like a talisman. This was most apparent in the Salvic regions, where garlic was used to ward of demons, the undead, magicians, witches, the plague, just about everything.
In the Slavic regions of Europe and even good old Romania, garlic became integrated into their vampire mythos early on and because that vampire ended up becoming the template for our Western Vampire, well, it’s stayed part of our cultural beliefs in regards to the vampire and we have Bram Stoker to thank for that.
Even today in Eastern Europe, garlic is used to ward off the undead and to detect them. As late as the 1970’s, Harry Senn was told by his Romanian advisers for his book, A Werewolf and Vampire in Romania, that garlic was still distributed in church sessions and those who refused to eat their cloves were then suspected to be vampires infiltrating the congregation. Like it or not people, there are large portions of humanity that still believe the undead walk amongst us.
Besides the Eastern European/Slavic vampire, garlic was a major repellent of Chinese, Mexican and South American vampires as well as in the Middle East. In Mexico it warded off the Bruja (sound familiar V:TM fans?) and the Tlahuelpuchi, or the male and female vampires respectively. Because the Tlahuelpuchi were primarily drinking blood of babies, this was especially important to the people of Mexico, who stuck cloves of garlic in the cribs, cradles, and even clothing of their infants. In South America, Garlic was the best way to keep away the Asema, who oddly enough are almost the exact same version of the undead as the people of Haiti had, called the Loogaroo. But I suppose comparing those two vampire species are a tale best told for another day. With the Asema, they would not drink the blood of people who had recently eaten garlic as it made the blood taste bitter.
Back to the Western Vampire. With our own version of the vampire, garlic has become a crucial element to disposing of the undead. After driving a stake through a vampire’s heart, one must fill the mouth of the vampire with garlic and then cut off the head. Only then is a vampire truly dead. Again, going back to Stoker’s novel, this is exactly how Lucy Westenra was slain for the second time.
I should point out this is only for freshly made vampires in Stoker’s novel, as the Brides of Dracula and the Count himself turned into dust when killed. However, that brings up the long standing belief that none of the four actually died in the novel as Stoker himself wrote that one of the powers Dracula has was to transform himself into dust. Me? I personally subscribe to the theory, especially when you read the ending of Dracula from Mina’s PoV, that in fact Dracula didn’t die and this was his one last defense and he merely made the humans think they had won. Books like the Annotated Dracula, Stoker’s own Diaries, Stoker’s Wife, and intense literary study of the text in question give rise to this belief, but again, that’s merely a story for another time.
Stoker didn’t make up his form of execution. Instead, like most of the folklore contained in Dracula, Stoker used the book by Emily Gerard, The Land Beyond the Forest and merely transferred the beliefs and methods used by the Romanians to kill their vampires into his book.
Other uses for garlic in regards to deterring the Western and/or Slavic vampire included, anointing windows, doors, and other opening to one’s house with garlic oils. Cattle and Livestock would be rubbed down the oils of distilled garlic in order to keep them from being slain by the undead in either retribution or in a desperate attempt to feed. If a person who had recently died was suspected to be reborn as a vampire, they would place garlic in his or her coffin, and also in their mouth as well.
Since Stoker’s novel reintroduced garlic as a way to prevent an Undead’s advances upon a person, it has become the most used and best-known deterrent for the Undead in all forms of media. Indeed, while religious icons such as a crucifix or holy wafer has become less important and are slowly dying in regards to their effectiveness against vampires, garlic has become a stronger and one of the most universal weapons against fighting the undead. It’s ironic that one vampire weakness, who is blatantly related to the Judeo-Christian religions is become less used by writers, that another weakness, steeped in the same origins in regards to vampire hunting has stayed a stronger part of the mythos. Perhaps because its origins are less known and far more subtle?
Something that was very popular in my Daily Pulse column was my weekly recipe to readers. I’ve decided to keep it in, simply for the fun of it and to break up the pace of this column, which will obviously be on quite a morbid bent considering the majority of topics will be on the folklore and myths involving the dead from different cultures and times. Plus, as I’ve talked about garlic for four pages, it only seems fitting I include a recipe ABOUT garlic. Mr. Goforth did point out that I have yet to include a vegetarian recipe, so I’ll kill two birds with one stone here today.
We all know that you can find pasta in the supermarket not made out of wheat. It became trendy back in the 1980’s and has never left. There’s spinach pasta, tomato pasta, carrot pasta, etc. But what if today we turned everything on its head? We took a pasta dish, and just didn’t use pasta!
Let’s make that dish Lasagna. Yes, I know. And odd thought eh? Well instead of meat, we’re going to be using a variety of mushrooms, so why not take that lasagna and get rid of the noodles and say hello…to potatoes.
Close your mouth kids, it’ll all make sense in a second.
Exotic Mushroom and Potato Lasagna
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onions
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound of assorted mushrooms such as chanterelles, oysters, shitakes, lobster, or portabella, wiped cleaning and finely chopped (about 5 cups)
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 pounds canned crushed tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano cheese (have extra for topping the dish)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 pounds assorted potatoes, such as Idaho, red, sweet, etc, peeled and thinly sliced (try and have three types for a nice blending of flavors)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 13 x 9 baking pan.
2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the onions are soft and lightly golden. This should take about five minutes. Stir in 1/4th cup of the parsley, the shallots, the garlic, and mushrooms. Again season with salt and pepper and cook and stir until the mushrooms are slightly limp. This should take about two minutes.
3. Add the wine and cook, stirring, for six minutes. Add the tomatoes, season again with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for ten minutes. Then season one more time with salt and pepper and add the basil and oregano. Stir and mix. Then remove from heat.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Ricotta cheese, remaining 1/4th cup parsley, 1/2th cup of the grated Parmigiano, the grated mozzarella, and the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon 1 cup of the tomato-mushroom mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly over the bottom. Then arrange the potatoes in a single layer, slightly overlapping each other. Spread one cup of the cheese mixture over the potatoes. Repeat with another cup of the mushroom-tomato mixture, then a layer of a different type of potato, and then 1 cup of the cheese mixture. Next up is another cup of the tomato-mushroom mixture, a layer of your third kind of potato, and then finally another cup of the cheese mixture.
6. Finish with a layer of the mushroom-tomato mixture and then sprinkle it with the remaining 1 1/2 cups of Parmigiano cheese. Cover the Lasagna in aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the over, remove the foil, return the Lasagna to the over and bake for another 10 to 16 minutes, until golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven and let rest for ten minutes before serving. Garnish with grated cheese when served.
There we go. One Vegetarian recipe. Now I’m just waiting for the Vegans to complain.
This is my last week writing for the games section on a regular basis, and I’ll be going out with a bang. Look for reviews on Nightmare of Duraga, Neo Contra, Midway Arcade Treasures, and The Bard’s Tale. It’s going to be an HBK review week!
Also in Games, you can see Bryan Berg’s greatest work ever, Ten years of the ESRB. Even if you are not a video game fan, you do owe it to yourself to read this well written article.
We also have Liquidcross’ History of Kirby.
In comics, Mike Maillaro gets plugged for reviewing FKATJL and oddly enough, John Babos talks about the Comic Code Authority, something similar to the ESRB. John’s topic is all but dead, while Berg’s is growing stronger with each passing year. Maybe they need to do a video game version of “Seduction of the Innocent,” eh?
Laflin writes about sports.
I don’t watch TV
In the Inside Pulse forums, you can join in discussions about what a crappy writer Bendis is and how he has ruined Avengers, and also you can find the Offical Nygotha Thread where you can leave questions for me to answer in a future column.
And that’s it for this week. Keep those questions coming as I will try to answer everything you ask me in future columns. I’ll be back in 8 days to dispense more wisdom long forgotten by the common man. See you then!