Garlic and Dreamland Book, Superstitions on Pentecost, Rusalii

Hanging garlic for good luck when Dreamland, my new book, hits the Amazon shelves goes with the theme of the collection, and it reminded me of other superstitions involving the well-rounded garlic on Pentecost, de Rusalii..

My family loves garlic and, growing up in Romania I developed a close relationship with this vegetable (apparently garlic is classified as a vegetable, but used as a herb and a spice).

I know its smell before I bite into it.
Bitter.
Beastly.
Pungent.
Even vampires stay away.
I bite with gusto and as soon as its scent reaches my nose I love its earthly, grassy aroma.
Tonight, I’ve adorned myself with garlic. Safety first.

In Romanian folklore (as in the western world), garlic is believed to ward off not only vampires, but other evil spirits too. Must be its pungent, sulfide odor. And its fiery scent.

If you’re looking for a more scientific explanation as to why vampires and generally evil spirits shy away from garlic know that, apparently during the 17th century’s Great Plague of London the physicians in charge who constantly chewed garlic and never caught the plague. The idea that such evil-inducing demons must be repelled by garlic came to life.

garlic at windows ward off evil spirits folklore Romania
Hanging garlic at windows to ward off evil spirits, folklore of Romania

Plate a garlic wreath and wear it around your neck or place it at any entry point into your home, such as windows or doors, and you should be safe. In the same way, garlic is believed to keep diseases out of your home – next to its many medical benefits.

In Romania especially on Pentecost day, de Rusalii, observed on 12 June this year, garlic is as desirable as a pitcher of water on a torrid day.

Pentecost, Rusaliile, are celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday to remember the moment when the Holy Spirit allowed the Apostles to understand and speak in all the languages of the world, thus increasing the number of God’s disciples.

But Rusaliile also marks the day when the Gates of Heaven and of Hell close for another year. The spirits of dead maidens known as Ielele, who haunted the earth and settled near waters since before Easter, on Rusalii day will be pacified and lured back into their graves by Călușari‘s dance, and convinced to rest for another year. Folk people join in to, placing flowers on the graves of those girls who died well before their time.

Ielele show themselves during the nights between Easter and Rusalii but only before the rooster’s first song. They can be seen floating and fluttering through the air, near fountains, between trees, or under the eaves of houses, often accompanied by music and they also join their voices in a haunting choir.

Have you spotted them? I sincerely hope not.

Rusalii is the last day when these maidens, Ielele, can perform their mischief, turning the minds of young men who happen to glance upon them or hear their haunting song. They will be “hit by Iele”, or “taken by Iele” when falling sick.

garlic cross, superstition folklore Romania

Thus, garlic on Pentecost, Rusalii, comes in handy. Men wear it tucked in their shirts, or adorn their hats with it. Garlic is also hung near windows and doors to ward off other evil spirits too, in this last night when the gates of the nether-worlds are still open – a belief shared by the ancient Greeks too. While the Romans associated garlic with strength and bravery, often planting it whenever their troops reached, as a reminder and encouragement for their soldiers.

There are many charming Romanian traditions involving garlic, and we’ll return to them with a future story.

In my latest book release DREAMLAND one story in particular, “Old Beliefs on an Old Land”, involves garlic.

Dreamland-Patricia Furstenberg-stories myths folktales

DREAMLAND, Amazon buy links (expanded distribution coming soon): Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia.

16 Replies to “Garlic and Dreamland Book, Superstitions on Pentecost, Rusalii”

  1. Congratulations on your new book! That’s interesting about the garlic and the plague. I’ve never heard that before.

  2. Hi Patricia! Thank you so much for sharing so many interesting facts about garlic. I didin’t know the power of garlic was so useful during the Great Plague in London.

  3. This is so interesting and wonderful. I love folklore and anything that involves evil spirits. haha! I love garlic myself. The favor and the aroma, but it’s a pain to peel. We even have pickled garlic here in India. It’s a spice that Indian cooking can’t do without. Maybe a garlic garland wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Would keep away disturbances of any kind. Loved reading this, Patricia. 🙂

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