In Depth (which means it gets a little long and very twisted around the original premise)
©2017 The Media Desk
Updated two days after being released with a new and strange incident from the news! see first link below.
The question came in as regarding the legend of "Bloody Mary" (the ghost), and, believe it or not "Vampires". The forum user didn't know it, but they had opened up an entire Blood Bank of topics and tangents all revolving around the central idea of the Mystique of Blood!
Well. OK. The Desk is game. It might need a Bloody Mary (the drink), or three. Some Dark Boudin Sausage. And maybe perhaps take a Blood Oath to finish the article sometime before the next Blood Moon without invoking any Blood Magic. But sure. We'll dive into the pool of nevermind, and do it, in the Desk's style (whatever that is), and see if we can get Blood out of a Turnip. ... ... or not, we'll skip the turnips.
Overview, Synopsis, Foreword, Short Answer, Executive Briefing:
You can't get away from the influence of the major religions, and, to be honest, most minor ones, when dealing with this topic, and, as such, they come and go throughout this piece, and, believe it or not, they are mostly in agreement on the topic. There is a separate links page to various sources for them. No single faith was used as a foundation here. If you're upset by that, you don't need to read any further. An entire reference page of religious links is here.
We make a serious attempt to not get bogged down in Blood Science. Yes, that is a real thing, and we'll take a breather in their waiting room on our way through.
While the focus is on Humans, animals are a major part of the history we're dealing with going all the way back to, well, when red blood was invented. Oh, yeah, and the blue blood, green..., clear, pinkish-purple ones as well. You'll see.
The legends and myths that are bathed in blood are as numerous as the religious references, and in many cases they overlap to the point where you cannot sort the one from the other. But, we do our best.
And Again, some of the facets of this topic are slightly disturbing even though we made the effort to not sensationalize anything. If you think reading about this stuff will be digestively unpopular, well, here's the way to get to Atlantis where it's safe.
To keep this one moving, we'll use the old classic "5 W's" of journalism mentioned in the title: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Yes, we know, "how" doesn't begin with 'W'. You'll be fine, but maybe, your doctor will want to bleed you a little to re-balance your 'humors'. We'll explain later when we check in with Dr. Galen and his 'life force' from the Hippocratic tradition.
We need to have that guideline because it is real easy to get off track and end up spending hours looking at rituals, religious and otherwise, involving blood, dietary peculiarities ranging from using blood as food to absolute prohibitions of the same thing, and even the hard science that tries to explain it all.
As usual, stand by for random tangents, innumerable puns and bad jokes, as we peer into a subject many would rather we didn't mention ever again. Oh, yeah. And the Desk realizes this will probably be its reader's least favorite article in the Mystery Series.
We shall repeat this now, and again later. The nature of this topic is by necessity a bit bloody. Some aspects of the topic may be a bit much for most sensitive readers. However, none of them have been made juicier than needed, and are presented as objectively as possible. You have been warned.
Some people think that all multi-celled 'complex' animals have red blood. And, they're wrong. But that partially depends on how you define 'blood', including making certain assumptions about its color and chemistry. If you think all blood is red because of iron, just that some may be redder than other blood, you're liable to end up, well, red-faced.
But. We're going to take that back. Right now.
All Living Things, plants and animals, have some sort of internal liquid that is a critical component of their life processes. And without it, they're no longer alive.
Now, as to whether that fluid can be scientifically called "Blood" is a matter of biological science that is a step beyond the scope of this article. Given that, we'll touch on that in passing in a moment, and then move on.
We're looking at other factors of blood ... (blood factor? Get it? Well, you will. Also, all bloody puns at no extra charge. And we'll explain that too.) ... that begin where the science ends, even though we have to deal with some of the science to get where we're going.
As we'll see as we go, there is a common tradition, through most of civilization, including the vast majority of religions, the history of medical practice, all of the biological sciences, and even art. And that is: Blood is Life.
Think about it. And for this part of the discussion, we'll even throw in plants. If you can actually SEE a living thing, which takes microscopic life forms off the table, but we could count them in as well for now, and we'll come to that... If It Is Alive, it has some sort of 'Blood' in this sense: If you take away that Vital Fluid, it ain't alive no more. It is true for plants, animals, and especially for humans, and even, evidently, true for the Greek gods when their 'ichor' (golden blood) all leaks out.
With plants, the liquid that keeps them alive is usually called some form of 'sap', with insects, as we'll see in a minute, it is something else, and with those one celled critters we mentioned, it is one of the varieties of cytoplasm, which is the 'blood' inside the cell, doing what blood does inside the larger living organism. But again, without this critical liquid inside, whatever it is, it dies. And dies fairly quickly. If it is a maple tree and you drain too much of the sap for your pancake syrup, the tree dies just as assuredly as if you would you were bleeding into that same bucket.
OK. That's the who, as in "who has blood?", which is, well, every - - body. Now:
What: -or- Not all blood is actually 'blood'.
Going in, we're taking things like plants, flatworms, bacteria, many parasites, and so forth back OFF the table. All the way off the table, we won't even make boudin sausage out of them. For now, we're talking about complex animals.
For our mission here we'll try to stick to the definition that works around the idea that 'blood' is the vital fluid in an animal that carries nutrients and oxygen to the various cells of the body, and removes the assorted waste products produced by the life functions of those cells, through some form of circulation from a heart/pump of some description.
However, that won't work for insects. While they are complex, and do have a vital fluid that performs the other functions, it has nothing to do with the oxygen cycle in their cells. Their respiration is direct through pores in their bodies, not through lungs or gills, so they have no need for 'red blood cells' or similar structures. Therefore, the fluid, the hemolymph, is either clear or slightly cloudy, and transports nutrients and waste. Others have blood, but nothing resembling 'red blood cells', such as certain fish and most crustaceans.
And while we're checking the color of animal blood that does circulate, get ready for a shock. It's not all red.
There are critters that base their oxygen carrying factors on copper or vanadium, or have other factors in their blood that make it other colors including blue, green, or even violet. And they're not on a classic science fiction show!
Yes, you read that right. There are living creatures on this planet whose oxygen carrying cells have what, to humans, is an alien chemistry. Remember that, we'll come back to it.
It was rather embarrassing late in the history of medicine, something on the order of the 1600s, that Blood was fully recognized as the principle vital life fluid. And even then, its role in the body was not understood.
"Laziness breeds humors (negative changes) of the blood."
- Aelius Claudius Galenus (129 - 216), Greek/Roman physician
It is worth noting that Galen's ideas about blood, and the various other 'humors' in the body was absolutely wrong on most points, including that he thought blood's journey is one way, and yet the medical community persisted in believing it, and working under it, until the mid 1600s. There's a link below to PubMed with an article that covers more of the history.
To their credit, the Greeks, including Galen, knew that there were various liquids in the body, and that if one or the other was 'out of balance', then illness was often involved, and if it went too wrong, the person died. Those were the 'four humors' red (primarily but not exclusively- blood), clear (phlegm), yellow bile, and black bile. There's enough on those linked below to make you Melancholic from it.
But, they didn't really know what the functions of the various fluids were, or their relationships to each other or the body as a whole. Thusly, their treatments, such as blood-letting, often made the overall condition worse, and resulted in the deaths of notables such as King Charles the Second and George Washington.
To its credit, there is some benefit to the OCCASSIONAL loss of a little blood for a healthy person, such as through regular blood donation at the blood bank. But, as in the case of the King, the attempt to cure him of seizures in 1685 by bleeding him from the neck didn't turn out so good for His Majesty. On the whole though, the practice had a good run originating, as far as we can tell, with the Egyptians or perhaps even before, and is still generally practiced in some Eastern medical traditions for common illnesses, and it is used for a few specific conditions in the West, such as Polycythemia, the over-production of red blood cells.
And, oh, by the way, one of the ways Dr. Galen bled people in about 200 AD has come back into favor, that is, the use of leaches to both drain blood and introduce certain enzymes into the body from the animal. Not to mention the fact that 'balance' in the body's systems does play a role in health and wellness. So, maybe he was onto something after all.
It appears that it was understood that there was something special about blood even before the Egyptians started cutting people to cure migraine headaches or other maladies. There is evidence of prehistoric burials and certain rituals that involved blood, or at least blood colored substances like red ochre, which is made from natural iron oxide, hematite, the name of which is coincidentally is based on the Greek word for blood. And when we said 'prehistoric' we meant exactly that, some of those burials go back to During the last Ice Age, somewhere on the order of 20,000 years before present, or more.
Were these ancient peoples using the 'red paint' to symbolize blood? Who knows, the fact that it was red, associated with death, and used for untold thousands of years is indication that it was important. Perhaps even vital.
And, just like that, we've come to the link between blood and death, which brings us to people like Elizabeth Bathory the infamous Blood Countess, the vampires, and even the legend of Bloody Mary. The spirit not the spirits.
Where should we begin? Well, as we've already mentioned leeches, who live by sucking the blood out of other animals, and by healing patients after surgery, see PBS link below, we'll start with other parasites like them, and work our way up.
On the low end, besides things like bacteria, and the parasite with the best name for this article, 'Dracunculiasis'- the African Guinea worm, you have ticks, and mosquitoes who actively seek out prey, then, moving up you eventually come across the vampire bat which opens a wound in another animal to lap up its blood meal. And then later, you have a rather dapper gentleman in classic grab with an Eastern European accent who also has an aversion to mirrors and garlic. How the bat and the chap became linked we'll touch on momentarily.
"Oh, bloody Nora"
- James May (born 1963)
While the legend of human-ish beings who cheat death by using or consuming the blood of the living may be solidly from the realm of myth, those who believed that blood could prevent their aging and eventual death did, and apparently Do, exist.
(Hold it right there: We are NOT talking about those in the current era who have been diagnosed with a known mental illness such as Renfield Syndrome where the sufferer believes themselves to be a Vampire, while there is no physical need for such a diet. At least we're not right now.)
History remembers Countess Elizabeth Bathory as the most prolific female serial killer ever. She is known to have killed at least 80 young women in Hungary in the 1600s, and may have dispatched hundreds more to use their blood to fill her bathtub. While she didn't drink real "Bloody Marys" that we know of, she did believe that bathing in the blood of young women would keep her young and beautiful, if not alive forever, which is supposedly the rationale behind the vampire's choice of menu.
Of course you can't discuss this the topic without mention of Prince Vlad Tepes of Romania. Better known as Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, during the mid-Fifteenth Century.
No, Vlad didn't drink anybody's blood either, however, he did cause a lot of it to be spilled by imposing horrific punishments on captured enemies as well as many of his own people for, in some cases, imaginary crimes, until he was killed in battle trying to retain his throne during a little dust up with the Ottoman Empire.
Since we've already mentioned the drink named after her, we should discuss one of the several real woman later nicknamed Bloody Mary. Queen Mary the First of England. Who, in the five years leading up to 1558 and her own demise, committed atrocities against her subjects on par with the previous two individuals. The only difference is that the Queen, a rabid Catholic, predominately killed those who weren't, and who left the decision just how those unfortunate Protestants were to meet their Maker up to some of the most sadistic executioners to ever claim that job.
The 'legendary' Bloody Mary is tangled beyond hope with a similar legend of Mary Worth, and related rituals, and the bad things that happen when you repeatedly chant into a mirror, a form of catoptromancy, and similar practices of mirror magic. Not to mention at least one woman who was executed for being a witch while proclaiming her innocence. And a few other 'Marys' who came to a bad end.
Whether or not the 'Bloody' one is the angry spirit of the spiteful English queen, the witch, or some other very unhappy Mary, is open to speculation. Ms Worth is said to be the estranged wife of Satan, of whom there is a lengthy discussion of his contractual requirements in another Desk article (hint: it's 'bloody'), or perhaps another incarnation of Lilith (see link to Desk articles below), or maybe both, who may in fact, be the Queen after all.
Be that as it may, if you stand in front of a mirror and repeat almost anything long enough, you're liable to see things you don't want to see, and, if other ideas about mirrors becoming portals to places best not portal-ed to are to be believed, you may invite company from out of town to come visit you. So Don't Do It!
Yes, a question, go ahead....
"Who is the 'Nora' of Mr. May's rather exasperated exclamation that opened this section?"
Nobody really knows. It's just another one of those peculiar English slang words. Kind of like their use of 'bloody' to begin with. And how bloody old are the expressions? They've been saying variations of them for at least 500 years, and show no signs of stopping. They may have have passed into the slang vocabulary of the island after a plague, maybe based on the Queen so labeled, or something else entirely. Not even the English know.
The most recent popular fascination of Vampires, or Vampyres as it is sometimes spelled, is driven by a series of fresh novels, a handful of new movies, several TV shows (including a vampire who was a police officer!), and a role-playing game that got way out of hand are all wrapped around the classic horror book with its big bat written by Bram Stoker from 1897, and the movie based on it made in 1931 starring Bela Lugosi as the Count when in human form. The 1922 outing with Max Schreck in Nosferatu had the vampyre as a deplorable creature, not dapper and well dressed at all. If his Count Orlok had remained the image of the vampire, we wouldn't be talking about them now.
There were vampires in popular lore before Stoker wrote his book and Lugosi put on his cape. However, those were often shapeless shadows or shambling corpses, kind of like Schreck's edition, having a blood drinker as a suave, even sexy shape-shifting man who oozed naughty innuendo now and terror later was beyond the ken of those whispering about vampires around the hearth before that.
Besides just being a killer, the 'baddness' of the Vampire was at least threefold. The first was the veiled act of reversed sex roles seen in the traditional male vampire. Instead of the male giving a life giving fluid to the female as she submits to him, he is now removing life from her through her submission unto either her own slavery to him, or her death, of which he has total control. In that the Count's sex act involved blood, and the fact the supposedly this is the pretty young woman's first encounter with him, the implication of the act even involves his taking of her virginity as 'back in the day' a 'bloody sheet' was the sign that the bride was a virgin.
Second is the use of the precious substance of Life itself, that which was seen as a holy, or at least something that was to be left alone by commoners, from the realm of physicians also known as 'leeches', or undertakers... the taking of Human Blood for one's own delight. And in most of these stories, the Vampire loved his work.
The third is through a perversion of the Eucharist into liquid cannibalism. From consuming of the Body and Blood of the Lord as ordained at the Last Supper, the Count was killing the innocent to prolong his own accursed life (which also explains why he so dislikes Crucifixes, although why he hates garlic another matter). We'll come back to the symbolism of the Eucharist as transubstantiation and the objections to it in a few moments.
And argument could be made that it is that multiple layers of badness that made them, and makes them, so bloody enticing. Even if they never really existed.
Maybe more so.
Welcome to your local Blood Bank.
As was mentioned earlier, there are various scriptures from the Western Religions cited below that tell their followers to not eat blood.
Judiasm, Christianity, and Islam all forbid the direct, intentional eating of blood. Here, we'll cite the Quran, Surah 2, Verse 173 (link on Religion page)
"He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah . But whoever is forced by necessity, neither desiring it nor transgressing its limit, there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."The prohibition is remarkably similar in the other two faiths Holy Books, even being specifically mentioned by the Apostles in their letter in Acts 15 as something to avoid.
Please indulge us a momentary lapse into the logical extreme of that prohibition. And, yes, it involves the Jehovah's Witnesses, and certain other groups, as in there are Muslims who will refuse even a needed transfusion because the blood may have come from an infidel. With the Witnesses, they interpret the Scriptures that forbid the eating of blood to include the liquid being introduced into a vein through a needle. While to the rest of us, such a view is irrational, they stick to their guns on it. Most will allow an IV of saline, or other medication, but any blood product, such as plasma, is forbidden.
However, those same passages in the Book have not stopped the peasants and other working poor, and in some cases, the elite classes as well, from using what was available, and putting it on the menu.
There are many cultural traditions that treat blood as just another protein source and even offer recipes for turning it into Boudin Noir or, if you dislike most things French, we'll make a nice old style Black Pudding for the meat course. And for the appetizer, we have this nice blood soup as featured in parts of Asia and the Pacific. Or if you prefer your blood slightly fresher, there are those in Africa who basically drink it right from the source, but in a cup, usually, instead of the way our friend in the cape did earlier. And no, if you make your 'red sausage' no matter what language you're doing it in out of liver, you're making liverwurst instead of Dark Boudin.
Medically speaking, humans, and indeed, most species of mammals are not 'of one blood'. While most greyhounds for dogs (who have seven blood types, cats have 4!) and type O-negative humans are considered 'universal donors' for their respective species. Because of the various human types (the famous A, B, O and AB) and the Rh factors positive or negative, if you are in need of a transfusion and are given the 'wrong blood' you might suddenly find yourself with a bigger problem than you originally had. Symptoms range from general mild body pain and low grade fever all the through anaphylactic shock and kidney failure, so the matching of blood types is an important thing to do.
As we mentioned the science of blood earlier, make that: Blood Science. And that's what they call it:
"Blood Science is a relatively new discipline which merges biochemistry, haematology, immunology, transfusion science and genetics. This bringing together of traditional disciplines requires a corresponding change in education and training for healthcare scientists and Blood Science: Principles and Pathology is written in response to this emerging need."Through the Science links below you can check out red blood cells that have a nucleus, most other animals, and compare them to those that do not, mammals. There are creatures with antifreeze in their blood, others who have a unique chemistry that would kill a human in short order, such as an abundance of bile components in the blood.
http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-111835138X.html (link below)
Time to take another step.....
"Blood alone moves the wheels of history."
- Martin Luther (1483 - 1546)
When and Where and other stuff:
Most of the mystery, and yes, most of the Power in what is coming is from blood that we, and the Ancient People we'll mention along the way would recognize as Blood. The blood of birds and sheep, and, yes, the blood of humans.
Most of the mythology associated with blood was how much of it the gods wanted, or in some cases, needed, to live. And this is a World-Wide phenomenon through all of history, which makes the 'where' very nearly 'everywhere', and the 'when'... forever.
Hecate was an ancient goddess-demon who was around before the Olympian gods, she had a never-satiated thirst for the blood of people. In many of her temples, the priests would mimic this behavior by consuming the blood of, well, others. Until said practice was banned. In India, Kali Ma was equally thirsty, but she was less particular about the blood she drank, including that of other gods.
Similar beings ranging from or old friend Lilith (link below to related article) to various New World beings desired blood. If you were lucky, they only wanted the blood of animals.
In the world of the dark arts you don't have to go too far to run into the name Aleister Crowley who is reported to have used his own blood, to call up a demon which he is said to have been unable to control.
Going a little further down that escalator we find the lair of the Bad Guy, where contracts are signed in blood as a symbol of both the seriousness of the matter and to make sure somebody who doesn't like you can't forge your signature and get you in real trouble. More on that side of things in the Desk article, "Can you Sell Your Soul to the Devil?" link below.
And no, we're not just picking on the pagans and others of that stripe here. Everybody knows about the Inca, the Aztecs (see link below), and others in the new world that bathed their temples in gallons of human blood. And, evidently, when they ran out of prisoners and slaves, they started on others, including whatever animals were around, until the thirst of their gods was satiated. So we'll let them do their thing and head back to the Old World.
There is deep tradition in Western religions, and the major Eastern systems as well that require animal sacrifice. We'll talk about those in a moment, and remember, there is an entire Second Page of Religious Links, Eastern and Western, suitable to fire up any argument you wish to have about the topic.
For now, we'll look at the Western 'big three' religions, all of whom regard blood as special, and a selection of Eastern and other religions with, oddly enough, similar views.
Of the 'name brand' religions, it appears to only be Buddhism where a primary figure has written off All Symbolism involving blood. "The Buddha criticized these bloody rituals as being cruel wasteful and ineffective...." (www.buddhisma2z.com link on that page) Like we said, you can read more at your leisure from that page of links.
Of the three major Western Religions, animal blood sacrifice is now only regularly practiced in Islam, especially during the pilgrimage, the Hajj, and is mentioned as an accepted form of worship in the Holy Quran.
"And for all religion We have appointed a rite of sacrifice that they may mention the name of Allah over what He has provided for them of sacrificial animals. For your god is one God, so to Him submit. And, O Muhammad, give good tidings to the humble before their Lord"The Jews used to offer animals to God for various reasons, but they were constrained by the Law to doing so only at the Temple in Jerusalem...
Quran 22 : 34 http://quran.com/
See Religious Links page for more.
"Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy olot in every place that thou seest; But in the place which Hashem shall choose in one of thy shevatim, there thou shalt offer thy olot, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee."As the Temple no longer exists, the sacrifice doesn't either. And, at least according to the sources looked at for this article, the tradition will not be revived until the Temple is. So... don't go out and buy a perfect lamb or a pair of doves just yet.
Devarim 12 : 13 - 14 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)
for comparison, the same verse in the Authorized King James Version, 1611 edition:
"Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.."
Deuteronomy 12 : 13 - 14 (KJV)
"...the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years."
Malachi 3:4 (NIV) see religious links page
Christians believe they come into contact with the redeeming blood of Christ through both the act of water baptism and through the partaking of the Lord's Supper, therefore, the killing of animals is not needed.
Such as the passage in Romans:
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Godís wrath through him!"
Romans 5 : 8 -9 (NIV) link on Religious Links Page
And that brings us back to the Count's problem with seeing a cross when he goes out in the evening for drinks.
The Memorial Meal as established before the Crucifixion was exactly that. The unleavened bread was a cracker and the cup contained nothing but fruit juice (whether it was wine or not is beyond the scope of our work here).
It wasn't until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 (link to New Advent article on Religion page), held at the request of Pope Innocent III that implemented the doctrine, later refined by the Council of Trent in 1563, that said that that cracker and juice became the actual physical body and blood of Jesus through transubstantiation. Nevermind the words in the Book that said that He was wholly and totally taken up to Heaven, and at last check was still there... the Catholics brought Him back.
To their credit, the teaching did standardize the Mass. Where all sorts of variations had been introduced, including reports of entire sit down meals, as were described in various parts of the New Testament has having been a bad idea even in the First Century. Now, with the this edict, the ceremony of the Eucharist was essentially the same world wide as other branches of the faith, such as the Eastern Church (see link to the OCA.org, on the you know where it is), followed suit in their own time and manner. Even the Protestants realized they needed to reign in some of their more wayward brethren.
While the Doctrine only applied to the Roman Catholic Church, the outside world saw the teaching as Christian and it wasn't long before all Christians, Protestant and otherwise, were accused of being cannibals. Which caused some, shall we say, epic misunderstandings with various local peoples now and then.
Now, having said that about the various Christian groups in Europe and elsewhere in the world, the teachings of the Apostles using symbolism didn't stop anybody who wanted to show their devotion from letting their own blood through practices of walking around whipping themselves with various devices, as seen by the flagellants during the plague, all the way up to being crucified to, in some cases of each, their own death. Supposedly the extreme mortification of the flesh would free up the spirit to be more open to the message of the Spirit. And we'll come back to that in a moment in some rather different circumstances.
To take a step to the East you run into something like the Gadhi Mai festival in Bara, Nepal. Where the two week festival includes two days of sacrifice. Every five years for the last 260 years, something on the order of five million worshipers with over 300,000 animals sacrificed by decapitation by sword, including thousands of large animals like water buffaloes, to offer their blood to the goddess. (See links on THAT page for more.)
Again, we see that it is through the spilling of blood, and as in most cases, the death of whatever it was that was using that blood to stay alive, that humans express profound religious ideas and convictions. The blood was from, in the case above, from the great mother goddess known to them as Shakti or Devi, and they give it back to her.
To the government of Nepal's credit they've taken the position that this is their religious custom, and their citizens and assorted pilgrims that come to the shrine to take part in it are free to do so, and those outsiders who want to protest the industrial slaughter of animals can go jump in a lake. And this last time around, in 2014, the regional officials deployed army units to make sure the animal rights protesters kept their distance from the faithful.
A step to the south east from there brings us to the First People of Australia, the so called Aborigines had several rituals that involved blood symbolism. One was where they would cut each other to bleed into a vessel of some sort, then the bloods were stirred together, and everybody there took a drink.
Another involved the drawing of blood during the mourning of a death, and then the dripping of that blood from self-flagellation on the deceased, hang onto thought that for a moment.
Remember the Europeans that whipped themselves that we mentioned earlier? Yeah, those guys. Here we have another similarity between those who were practicing a tribal religion halfway around the world, and the Christians in Mexico and the Philippines on Good Friday, various Muslim sects such as the Shi'a during Ashura, and even the Hindus with various practices such as suspending themselves (now supposedly outlawed) and the piercing of various parts of their bodies with huge sharp objects. Something that is also seen in some ancient Chinese Taoist practices like Ji-Tong which, instead of driving out a demon, invites one in. And, of course, there is a link on The Page devoted to several of them if you wish to see more about it.
Once again, as with the Native Australian's bleeding on the dead to share in the experience and honor their Supreme Being, the belief is that there is no more meaningful act of devotion than the willful letting of one's own blood in honor of one's deity of choice. And then to do so, knowing that your own demise is a realistic possibility, either sooner from blood loss or other damage, or later through infection and other complications, makes it even more meaningful.
You may compare those mortifying rituals and that central idea to the life's purpose of Christ , as stated in the passage from Romans, at your leisure. To some, to compare the Messiah's ordeal with the decidedly Non-Christian ancient ritual in Taiwan (because it had been almost eradicated under the mainland's anti-religion communist regime) would be blasphemous. To others, who had perhaps never considered such a thing, it would be remarkably insightful and clarify something. To the Desk... going from Taoist sorcery to Islamic mystics to the Catholic Eucharist, before lunch... it's just another day at the office.
The point being that, once again, Blood was something that drew humans closer to the Creator God, or at least the practitioner's deity of the moment. And. That your Life's Blood was a gift from that Being, and that us mere mortals had better treat it as such.
Keeping it in the family
There has always been an aspect of being 'blood kin' between humans of a 'bloodline'. And also, between breeding livestock as well, from a champion steer for instance. But, we're more interested in the people than the cattle, at least for now.
Relationships by direct lineage are even mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi, which included laws listing those who one shouldn't 'bed down', to put it mildly. (See laws 154 and following, link below.) As most of his other laws deal with property and so on means such relationships were as already well defined and accepted as, say, the attitudes about personal property, or slaves. And, again, those relationships are By Blood.
We can see similar prohibitions in the Law of Moses and other similar ancient works (see more on that world famous Religious Links page).
Other societies traced linage different ways, some by the father, some by the mother, others listed both, and went back as many generations as they could find. However, there was something special about having 'the same blood in your veins' as whatever crazy uncle was being discussed. Those further out that second cousin were sometimes not even counted as family, at least as far as inheritance and other financial decisions went.
However, in some cases, especially in the royal households of Europe, the 'blood lines' were sometimes so tangled there may or may not have been a direct link between players in the drama. And whether or not said link was acknowledged depended more on politics, and profit, than heredity. For evidence, we cite the 'popularity' of hemophilia in the Royal Houses.
But for the common folk, peasants, and the growing merchant class, who was, and who wasn't kinfolk, was a matter of great importance. A fact that can be quickly established by the great care taken to establish the legitimacy of heirs, and the documenting of adopted children before they were placed in the line of succession to ownership of the estate or business. Which was sometimes more violently contested than a claim to the throne of the country.
The strength of the idea that blood has power, which may have perhaps come from Above, can be demonstrated with a series of terms that most people are familiar with and that occur, in one form or another, in every culture on the planet.
You can make a blood bond, with your blood brother, with a blood oath, the breaking of which was a blood sin.
If somebody gets angry easily, or perhaps they're always 'horny', or even hyperactive, we say they are "hot blooded", and a rock band will write a song about them. Is their blood really abnormally 'hot'? Significantly above 37C (98.6F)? Probably not. But so it goes.
Should we spend a moment and discuss how the opposite claim of being "cold blooded" means a lack of emotion.... ... nah, we'll skip it.
There was: "Something in their blood". We'll see that phrase crop up again, except our next example along those lines can sing and dance! For now we move on to the more violent side.
"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
- Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965), speech to British Parliament, May 13, 1940
You have to admit, World War Two was soaked in all four.
There is archaeological evidence that ranges back to before the beginnings of anything that could reasonably be called a Human Civilization that trace the practice of Blood Feuds or retribution for a wrong either real or imagined. The idea being that if you are related By Blood, then you have the right, and the duty, to vindicate the fallen, or even the insulted.
The practice is perhaps most famously demonstrated by the Native American tribes where such feuds could last for several generations. It is also seen in the old families of Rome where some feuds still rage a millennium or more after the principles had ceased using their own blood for its original purpose.
As we mentioned Hammurabi and his code before it is worth noting here that while the subject of blood feuds and violent retribution for some offense was not unknown in Babylon in his day, his Code does not mention it. It neither outlaws nor permits the act. At least the sections we have don't, there are several paragraphs of his laws that have been consumed by time, so it may have been in the part that is missing.
Were the laws of Athens imposed by Draco actually written in blood? Well, that is pure conjecture, but the impact of them, and the penalty for the slightest violation may have been sealed in blood. Your own.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
- Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)
The "Spilling of Blood" was often the sign that a line of some significance had been crossed.
It is true in local unrest and protests that start out peaceful and then, aren't. And it is true in International Sports such as at the 1956 Olympics where political tensions between the USSR and Hungary ended up cutting short a water polo match forever labeled the "Blood In The Water Match" when a Soviet player punched a Hungarian in the face, opening an ugly cut around his eye, and spilling... yeah.
That Blood had been Shed meant that whatever international incident or sleight that had been talked about was now an act of war (except for the water polo match that is). And that, in fact, more blood was about to be shed. And, as was implied, lives would be lost.
Such as this headline from July of 1914:
"BRITISH TROOPS SHED FIRST BLOOD IN ULSTER WAR" (see link to the New York Times below)
Historical note, the incident was part of the larger issues in Ireland just before WWI between the native Irish and what many saw as occupying British forces. For our purposes here, it is only relevant in that once Irish Blood was on the ground because of direct British military action, things changed. There are many other examples, including one from the American War Between the States where 'first blood' was shed, not at Fort Sumter, but in, of all places, Baltimore, Maryland. (see link below).
But let's stay in Ireland for a moment. The Irish band U2 made international waves with their offering of Sunday Bloody Sunday which focused on another incident of Irish blood being spilled by the hated British occupiers:
"...Broken bottles under children's feetThe problems in Northern Ireland had been going on for ages, literally hundreds of years, since the British had colonized and subjugated the smaller island in the 1500s. Things got much worse in the 1920s when the land was politically divided and Northern Ireland came into being. Since then, much blood has been shed by both sides. And, of course, every time somebody is killed, there must be retribution for that blood. And it never ends.
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall...
Sunday, Bloody Sunday"
- music and lyrics by U2, album, War, released 1983, Island Records.
Also, historically speaking, an injury inflicted during a crime was deemed more serious if it caused the victim to bleed. Now it is realized that some serious injuries don't result in somebody else needing a mop later. However, in the world of sensationalist headlines and video coverage, a bloody crime scene is still more dramatic and tends to get more coverage than other incidents.
Time Out for Music and Sports
"It's in my blood to be around people while I was training."
- Muhammad Ali (1942 - 2016)
"I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me - like food or water."
- Ray Charles (1930 - 2004)
It's a common saying, this writer used it several years ago to describe a gentleman who was perhaps the most talented showman to ever walk the planet:
"Sammy Davis JuniorAs near as it can be told, none of the three individuals cited above ever had a blood test which came back with the results "Type: A. Rh: Neg. Protime: Normal. Music: Positive."
Not only was show business in his blood, he was in its blood.
Sammy grew up on stage. Touring in Vaudeville with the Will Mastin Trio then solo, he sang and danced and told jokes and took abuse as the butt of jokes and... made it."
(themediadesk.com Rat Pack article, link below)
For several years the Desk covered various sports, including college football, NASCAR, and even somewhat offbeat things like medieval weapons tournaments. It was said both by and of those with obvious natural talent at whatever it was, and by those who had more enthusiasm than talent, that "it was in their blood." And yet, if the high school tennis star had been born in another era, or even someplace without a tennis court in the county, their natural gift either would go undiscovered, or perhaps they would have found another outlet for above average eye-hand coordination and a bit of physical prowess. It is also said of writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, Hunter S. Thompson, who we'll quote in a second, and, well...
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
- Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
OK, we're probably overstating it here, but given its prevalence and importance to the discussion at hand, "if it is worth doing, it's worth overdoing" (attributed to several persons, including HST).
The point to this section, is that it is a biological impossibility that dancing was in Mr. Davis's blood, or that singing and playing the keyboard was in Mr. Charles's. As to what was in Hunter Thompson's blood, we won't even try to speculate, but one thing is certain, writing wasn't. All of the above had talent, sure, but that is of the mind. They had ability, as with the athletes, that is a physical gift, and the skill to use that gift to "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", in at least one case above.
Instead of claiming that such a natural gift is from God, or the result of some quirk of evolution, "nature versus nurture", it is just said to .... well, you know.
But instead, it is the result of having that inborn talent, AND being sent to a school where, at age 7, the child was taught and encouraged to explore a talent for music in an environment conducive to such, in the case of Ray Charles,the School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida, where he learned to play several instruments as well as the writing and arranging of music, in Braille. And, for which the rest of us are very grateful that it was, 'one of his parts'.
"I had a soft spot in my heart for Ronald Reagan, if only because he was a sportswriter in his youth."
- Hunter S. Thompson (1937 - 2005)
On the other hand, 'talent' IS a gift from God, or, depending on your inclination, a natural development of the species through evolution. However, it is hard to see how being a good sports reporter could be said to be of advantage on the Savannah of Africa where 'we' were supposed to have gotten our start.
And besides that, there is Scriptures in both the Bible and the Quran as well as other religious teachings that to point to that people do have various gifts, and there is no reason to suppose that said gifts end at the church door.
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them." (See links to 1 Corinthians 12 and Islamic discussion on the the Religion page for more)
In that light, the astonishing talents of the people we're talking about are a combination of talent, opportunity, and, a bit of luck. Or perhaps:
"Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work."
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Something else that isn't blood is the Moon. The idea of a 'Blood Moon' is relatively new. Yes, there are scriptures that speak of the moon, the Earth's natural satellite, the heavenly body that has accumulated more than its fair share of space junk, and a few golf balls, turning to blood, or at least appearing to be as red as blood.
Most famously stated in the passage in the second chapter of the Prophet Joel:
"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come."
Joel 2: 31 (KJV)
Well, Astronomically Speaking, the moon will appear more or less red, and sometimes it is Very Red, during a lunar eclipse, and those occur twice a year, give or take. So it isn't as rare as some TV preachers have claimed, and it has been happening since before there were TV preachers to make money off it. The Old Testament Prophecy (and its citation in Acts by Peter on Pentecost) has more to do with the Second Coming than operators that are standing by to take your major credit card. And as such, the reference appears to be to a coming Supernatural event than something so mundane as to happen every six months.
Whereas such a thing is not specifically mentioned in the Quran, eclipses are discussed in the Hadith simply with the statement that it happens because that is the way they were created and not because any man died. In the Eastern traditions, such as the Vedic teachings of India, they cite the cycle of eclipses that had been happening, and recorded by their observers for hundreds of years, and don't get too worked up about it. Again, see link on the Religious topic page for more.
Ahh, another question...
"Can't you talk about this without dragging religion into it?"
Oddly enough. No.
Even going back to the Egyptians, to Galen, to those Flagellants in the East and West, to the idea of American Indian Blood Brothers..... whatever we've talked about, and whatever you can come up with, except the Hard Sciences mentioned earlier, the concept that blood and life and God are all intertwined is there. You cannot separate the one from the other. Life is given by God (whatever your working definition of that individual is is up to you, or your village elder). Blood is the Stuff of Life as given by God. A Blood Offering is made to God who gave us this Life. And so on, around and around.
That is where the concept of First Blood comes in. It is why Bloodlines and kinship are so important. Yes, blood is precious, human or animal, it is the stuff of gods. Which also explains both dietary prohibitions and the fascination of Blood Sports, if somebody is bleeding in the boxing ring, their Life Force is leaking out all over the canvas. It also explains why there was a warning at the beginning of this article that certain ideas presented may make some readers a bit queasy around the edges, the topic is not one for casual conversation, the idea of using blood to make breakfast is a bit off-putting, the sight of blood can make some people ill, the sight of their own blood may make them faint.
And now comes:
Everything we have looked at is now in play at once.
Let's restate that. Everything: science, mythology, religion, legends, medicine... did we miss anything?... folklore, music, sports... OK, that'll do. It is all on the table. Ready? Set. ....
Let's totally change gears and look at one event from daily life that combines them all in a neat package. Well, no, actually, the package is messy, politically charged, lands squarely in the middle of the medical discussion, has religious overtones, and was even said to be the subject of a ballad from 1975 when instead the song was written describing the horror of domestic violence in marriage. Because of that false assumption, the song was banned from some radio stations until the artist set them straight, or somebody bothered to listen to the song!
"She spends her life through pleasing up her man,We're going to draw it all together and walk around a fire thinking about menstrual blood. Like we said, some people may find some of the topics in this one unsettling. But you've gotten this far, we're almost done, why not stay with it?
she feeds him dinner or anything she can,
She cries alone at night too often,
he smokes and drinks and don't come home at all,
Only women bleed ....."
- Alice Cooper's Only Women Bleed, Song by Cooper and Wagner, album Welcome To My Nightmare, released 1975, Atlantic Records
Oh, oh... we just said something bad.
Deal with it.
Magical incantations involving blood go all the way back to some of those same early rituals including the living bleeding onto the dead, blood being used to prepare the body for the infusion of a spirit, the sharing of blood between individuals to create a bond stronger than family.
And, of course, blood collected from a woman, preferably a virgin on her first period, was reserved for some of the most powerful magical incantations and is used in everything from 'love potions' to rituals to rob an enemy of his strength. And, as before, a link is on the Religion.
Our current example sums up the various points we've been looking at nicely. Shall we run through them on our way out to find some Blood Wine? oh, that's a Klingon thing... sorry.
The blood being talked about IS from the 'fount of life', the sacred Yoni in the East. It is where babies come from. However, the menstrual flow is obviously not a living infant. Before the relationship between the sex act, menstruation, moon phases, and perhaps dinner and a movie was clearly understood, it was a deep mystery. And in some ways, it still is. Which places it in the file drawer marked Mysteries of Life. Right?
As we mentioned, the monthly flow of a woman is deeply ingrained in various cultures and religious traditions, it is also the subject of endless whispering by both sexes, and the amount of misinformation, and even superstitions today. There is even total nonsense on official fliers and school health curriculum sponsored by everybody from public health services to feminine hygiene companies, one of those being that a woman's period should naturally start on the same day every month. That is simply wishful thinking, if not a total fantasy. However, maintaining that that is the case is helpful when your business is selling birth control pills for which one side effect is to so regulate her cycle. Nevermind a slew of other side effects that are much less pleasant. But that ax needn't be ground now.
The cultural aspects of this part of life are both of unique importance, and in the US elections of 2016, some radical feminists decided it was to be paraded on national TV whether it was relevant to the discussion at hand or not. Somehow, the ending of the life created when menstruation does not occur as a result of normal physical encounter between a man and a woman became the centerpiece of the discussion of women's health issues. The idea that an abortion should remain a private matter between the woman, her 'male friend', her medical professional of choice, and her priest or other adviser, and not the Federal Government, is somehow foreign to those who thought their first best course of action was to wave used tampons and feminine napkins at network TV cameras or mail them to a governor (we didn't make it up, see link below). We shan't go any further down that road now.
But there you have it again, twice, if you caught it. The marketing of birth control pills with one eye on the idea that a woman's monthly flow should run by the calender, and that somehow the most private of family decisions should be on the evening news every night for six months. The only consistent outcome for both is, to borrow a British expression, a bloody mess. When you disrupt the normal rise and fall of various hormones in a woman's body you CAN control her cycle. You can. You're also likely to cause some long term problems including an increase in cancers, depression, and other diseases such as a rumored link to things like depression, weight gain, and maybe even fibromyalgia symptoms. You end up with a similar debacle when the blood involved is that of a developing infant. There are no 'right answers' in every case given all the variables that are in the equation, only some that are less wrong, and others that make the best of a bad situation. And when the government gets involved you have a bunch of wealthy, mostly elderly people who are totally and absolutely out of touch with the reality of the common people, and especially clueless about the young women who are most usually faced with the decision involving her pregnancy, and yet, these assclowns... sorry, these- politicians, (the first term was right) know what is best for her.
It still involves blood. No matter what is done in either case, blood is involved. The blood of life. That sacred vital fluid that represents everything from our link to the Eternal and is the reminder of our Mortality. In our current example, the blood is a link to Gaia, the Earth Mother, Eve, the primal feminine aspect of the Creation.
How... ... ...about a conclusion to this bloody mess?
And we're back to where we started: Blood is both the symbol for, and is in fact, Life itself.
Its presence in any event makes the event more serious. Such as that water polo contest in 1956. It was just another game, a match that the USSR lost by the way, and would have been forgotten after Hungary won the gold except for when Blood ended up in the Water. Think about it. Players do get hurt in those bouts. They go for the ball, somebody catches an elbow in the nose, it happens. The player comes out and gets treated, and the game goes on. It's different when it is a flagrant foul, a sucker punch in the eye, and the two countries involved had just come through a bad time of it when Soviet tanks rolled in to suppress political protests in the Hungarian capitol and other cities. Blood was spilled in the streets, and in the pool.
The blood of one battered athlete came to symbolize the blood of a nation.
Draco's laws and that rumored contract with Satan were said to be done In Blood to make the point that what was being done was a matter of life and death, or eternal life, or whatever.
Sacrifices to the gods of very nearly every description from ancient times included both blood alone, and entire animals, as well as the occasional human 'volunteer'. As we've seen, red substances were used in ancient burial rituals. We don't know why, but it has to be more than a coincidence that the pigment used was the color of blood. It was blood that connected the living to the gods, and, evidently, a blood substitute that did the same for the dead.
Mainstream religions in modern times use blood as symbolism for the relationship of man to God. The three major Western religious groups all reference blood as being sacred, including having dietary prohibitions against it which all come from the original instructions given to Noah, (see Genesis 9, linked on religion page, of course).
And we remember things that involve blood.
As we should, because, well, it's in our blood.
"You know you're old if they have discontinued your blood type."
- Phyllis Diller (1917 - 2012)
This hit the headlines not long after the above article was completed, proving, yet again, that 'blood rituals' are alive and well in 2017.
Man sentenced for cutting off woman's finger and drinking her blood in Juggalo ritual
"A Wisconsin man has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for cutting off a womanís finger and drinking her blood in a ritual to honor a fellow fan of the Detroit rap duo Insane Clown Posse.
Twenty-four-year-old Jonathan Schrap was sentenced Friday on one count of second-degree reckless injury.
A complaint says Schrap and his friends were staging a 'ritualistic memorial' at his house in August to commemorate a deceased member of the Juggalos, the name given to Insane Clown Posse fans."
LINKS by section: history, society, science, medicine, etc.
The page of Religious Links of every description can be found at http://www.themediadesk.com/newfiles6/bloodlinks.htm
Per Usual, the Desk did NOT use the 'free online encyclopedia' as a source for reasons that are explained elsewhere.
All links were working at time of original posting 28 Feb, 2017. All will open in new window (tab).
Use of red ochre by early Neandertals
SCIENCE and MEDICINE:
"For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." - Lev 17: 11
"Although I said red blood cells are round in shape, thatís not true for llamas and alpacas - these species have oval red blood cells. Another interesting fact about mammalian red blood cells is they lack a nucleus. Birds and reptile red blood cells have a single dark round nucleus. ... Red blood cell size relative to the animal also differs between species."
"It doesnít stop there; green blood, too, is possible, in some species of worms and leeches. This is an interesting one, in that the individual units of chlorocruorin, the protein leading to a green blood colouration, are actually very similar in appearance to haemoglobin. In fact, theyíre near identical - the only different is an aldehyde group in the place of a vinyl group in the chemical structure ..."
Other Media Desk Non-Fiction Articles Cited:
selling one's soul to the 'bad guy'
The Rat Pack is where we first looked at Sammy Davis Jr.
Miss Lilith, your table is ready
Something else that goes back to the beginning of time:
And, as mentioned in the beginning: Atlantis "There are laws both religious and secular regarding incest. Generally speaking, everybody from Muhammad to Buddha and the Legal Authority of the Crown were against it. Yet there is ample evidence that what many regard as the final taboo was engaged in by many of those who live above the rest of us. To the point where inbreeding was so bad in the Royal Houses of Europe hemophilia almost became a passport to the throne. One of the ways King Henry disposed of at least one of his queens was to accuse her of incest with her own brother. Which had the effect of doubling the charge against her. If the queen committed adultery it was considered Treason against the Crown because of the chance of the heir not being of royal blood, incest just put a little hot sauce in the soup. Once accused, there was no defense." Metaphysical Boundaries Chapter 2 The Good, the Bad and the Worse http://themediadesk.com/newfiles2/meta2a.htm
Instead of "Bloody" this on is..... oily. "What is it about women and Essential Oils?"
A Link To Other Non-Fiction and Mystery Series Articles
from TheMediaDesk.com at- http://themediadesk.com/nonfiction.htm
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[NOTE: This work is to be treated as an educational article as a general brief on the topic. Other conclusions can and have been drawn from the same information, and all are probably equally valid.
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