Garlic Garlands

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 23

Occupation: Student

Residence: New York City

Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/2021

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Korean

Background: MB has family in Filipino, Korea, Mexico, and US, and so he has heard cultural stories from many different parts of the world. Here he is explaining one belief that his Filipino grandfather told him. I contribute with a belief from my Indian culture.  MB – informant. SD – interviewer


MB: My grandfather told me that if you keep a garland of garlic near your bed or somewhere where you spend a lot of time, it wards off witches and bad spirits. Does your family have a similar tradition?

SD: I know in Indian culture, it’s lemons and green chilis. Like when you do something big like open a new shop or get a new house, you tie a string that has one lemon and a few chilis strung through it on the front door of the establishment. This prevents evil from entering the home/shop. My family doesn’t do this but I have seen this in many places in India. 

MB: Yea. I know people like sages here so there are many things to ward off evil I guess. 

SD: Do you think the garlic garland has anything to do with vampires? (laughs)

MB:  (laughing) Maybe!  


Here we discuss the many different ways where people ward off evil spirits. The belief of evil spirits is present in almost all cultures and is probably tied to religious beliefs. It is often passed down through the generations, like in MB’s case. I have also noticed that the item that wards off the bad spirits is also a food item, which can be because it comes from nature and is available to everyone. In an institutional and religious context, spirits are warded off by holy water and other items that aren’t available everywhere, but from a folk belief standpoint, everyday items can be used by the masses to ward away evil spirits.