“Do you believe in voodoo, Chucky? The power of magic?”
“I do. There's an old wives' tale in Sicily that a new bride waits until she menstruates, then she takes the blood and puts it into the first tomato sauce she makes for her husband.”
“If he eats her blood, she can control him forever.”
OZ Season Two
Episode 7, Animal Farm
Original Airdate: August 24, 1998
Commentary: The use of blood, and other personal concerns, has a long history in the practice of magick. Perhaps the earliest example of blood-magick occurred around the Axial Age (but probably even earlier) and involved ritual sacrifice of humans or animals to appease the Gods. These sacrifices were usually considered special in some way (i.e. virgin, the fattest calf, or the firstborn of a generation) as the Gods often demanded the best in return for their favors.
The first account of animal sacrifice in the Holy Bible occurs in the book of Genesis 4:3-5. During the context of the story Cain, a farmer, and his brother Abel, a shepard, both offer sacrifices to God. Cain makes an offering of produce and is rejected, while Abel’s sacrifice of livestock is accepted by God. Later, in the book of Exodus, God instructs Moses to have every house sacrifice an un-blemished male-lamb in its first year. The blood of this lamb is smeared around the doorpost to every Jewish home. When the spirit of death comes through Egypt to kill every first born male child it passes over each dwelling that has done as God commanded, sparing the children within from death.
Perhaps the greatest act of blood-magick occurs later on in the bible, however, when the blood of the sacrificed Jesus is said to have washed away the sins of the world. Even today Catholic Priests perform a ritual in which wine is believed to be transformed into the blood of Jesus whereupon believers drink the wine (and eat his body in the form of a wafer) to receive him wholly. So powerful is his blood that devout Christians often invoke the blood of Jesus as a powerful force of cleansings and protection against evil.
In ancient Rome it is written that Empress Faustina, wife of Marcus Aurelius, once became sexually obsessed with a certain gladiator. When the oracles were queried about her condition she was instructed to bath in the gladiator’s blood and it is said that she was cured of her obsession by doing so. Similarly, legend has it that Countess Elizabeth Bathory bathed in the blood of virgins to retain her youth and beauty, however evidence of her alleged crimes is few and her guilt is widely debated.
Bloodletting, a form of healing practiced for roughly 2000 years up until the 19th century, involved withdrawing blood from a patient to cure and/or prevent disease. Though not considered “magick” at the time, the idea of bloodletting does show hallmarks of ‘magickal thinking’.
The idea of bloodletting was based on two concepts. First, that blood was produced by the body and did not circulate, thereby becoming stagnate in the body. Second, that the basis for illness or health is based on the balance of humors in the body. There were four humors in all which were based on the four elements. They were
• Blood (air)
• Phlegm (water)
• Black Bile (earth)
• Yellow Bile (fire)
To balance the humors, a doctor would remove the stagnate/excess blood from the extremities by bloodletting, inducing vomiting, or urination.
Just as it is referenced above, in the folk-tradition of Sicilian Witchcraft, as well as African American Hoodoo, women are often instructed to feed their menstrual blood to their husbands or lover to capture their interest and attention and to prevent them from straying. To disguise their blood, it is over served in tomato sauce, or even coffee.
According to Richard Cavendish in his book The Black Arts © 1967 the blood of a healthy man cut down in the prime of his life was once thought to be a powerful protector against disease and misfortune. So much so that when John Dillinger was killed by the FBI in Chicago in 1934 people gathered round to soak their handkerchiefs in his blood and women even dipped the hem of their skirts in his blood to retain some of his power for their own.
Mythological lore states that Vampires drink the blood of the living and that the blood of the dead weakens and, in some cases, kills them. The drinking of a living person’s blood allows the vampire to absorb their victim’s life-force energy thus retaining their immortality.
Witches who made pacts with the Devil were thought to sign contracts in their own blood. Sometimes sigils or other magickal talismans were written in blood. In fact, one’s own blood added to any spell is believed to vastly increase the power of the spell simply because it contains the energy of one’s own life-force. An old folk magick spell for love calls for pricking the third finger of the left hand and using the blood to write your first name on paper and your lover’s last. This is surrounded by a square (also drawn in blood) and then burned in the flame of a red candle as you make your petition for lasting love.
Perhaps the most common use of blood in the practice of magick concerns itself with contagious magick, a belief which holds that “things once in contact with one another continue to exert an influence on one another after they have been separated.” An example of Contagious Magick using blood would be to include a sample of a person’s blood in a doll to represent him or her. Thereafter, whatever is acted upon the doll is also believed to occur to the individual.
As you can see the use of blood in the performance of magick is very old practice that has endured even into the modern age.