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April 14, 2010

Take that, bloodsucker!

There are many items in folklore and legends concerning protection against vampires. Some of these items are religious in nature, but in this post I will focus on the “secular” items that are used to protect against the living dead.

Garlic is a pungent herb and a member of the lily family. Garlic is used as both a medicine and a food flavoring and is found in nearly all parts of the world, particularly in warmer climates. Garlic is considered a protection against vampires nearly everywhere I have researched so far. It is a tenant of vampire myths in Mexico, South America, China, and Europe. A theory on this coincidence is that garlic derives its powers from its pungent smell and its duality of uses, since it is used medicinally and conventionally in food preparation. Some say that since it holds so many uses it lends itself to being manipulated in a supernatural way to ward off evil forces such as vampires. Medicinally garlic is rumored to have magical powers and has been used as a protection agent against the plague and various supernatural evils. In several societies, garlic was seen as a catch-all remedy to many maladies, giving garlic a reputation for supernatural capabilities. On a side note, I found it interesting that garlic was used against the plague and vampires, since vampires have been tied to the plague in the past. Check out this website to learn a bit more about vampires and their association with the bubonic plague. Garlic could be rubbed on surfaces to keep a vampire from entering a home or room, and it could often be injested to make a persons blood poisonous or simply unappetizing to vampires. In some cultures cattle were even given a rub-down in garlic to ward off vampires from attacking the herd. Garlic might also be placed in the mouth of a corpse or coffin to prevent the deceased from becoming a vampire. In severe cases the corpse was decapitated and garlic was then stuffed in the mouth as a further precaution.


Thorns have a long history of being used to protect humans from vampires. Common thorns used are thorns from the rosebush and from the hawthorn tree. Thorns are used as a protection against vampires in Europe, Asia and the Americas. There are a few reasons thorns are used as a protection against vampires. Thorns could be seen as a nuisance but could also be utilized by humans for good. This duality in their nature may have resulted in their perceived supernatural powers, much like the duality of use that influenced the supernatural attribute assigned to garlic. In ancient times, thorns were used as a symbol of hope against witchcraft. This anti-witchcraft use transferred to vampires in many cultures. Thorns were believed to act as a symbolic barrier that could block intruding supernatural spirits or forces but not physical forces. Thorns were placed on the outsides of coffins, in a corpses’ sock, and on top of corpses. Sometimes stakes were made out of the wood of a hawthorn or blackthorn tree as further protection.

The hawthorn is common across southern Europe, and it is also known as the whitethorn. The hawthorn is associated with Jesus’ death as it is believed that the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head was made of a hawthorn branch.


Seeds are also a commonly used protection against vampire in folklore.  Seeds are seen as a barrier against vampires and also as a distraction to vampires.  Vampires were said to be fascinated with counting and collecting seeds.  Some types of seeds used as protection were linen, carrot, and poppy seeds and rice on occasion.  Mustard seeds were most common since they are affiliated with Christianity through the parable told by Jesus.  Millet, or seeds from various grasses and grains, were also popular.  Seeds were scattered in the coffin, over the grave, on the path between the grave site and the village, or surrounding a home if the inhabitants feared a vampire would attempt to enter.  The vampire was thought to be distracted by the seeds and it as believed that the vampire would be inclined to collect and count each seed it encountered.  In some cultures it was thought the vampire could only count one seed a year, and in others it was thought that the seeds could simply hold off a vampire until dawn.

Filed by at April 14th, 2010 under Weapons Against Vampires
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