Out of the Shadows
by Kris Aaron
[Reprinted from THE DRUID'S PROGRESS #5]
The major problem with the use of blood in magick rituals is that it was almost always used in excessive amounts, and was inevitably taken from unwilling participants. Blood is astonishingly powerful stuff, and it seems that early pagan priests must have operated on the "If a little is good, a lot is better" theory.
They were wrong. Blood, when used with the appropriate words, rituals, herbs and the correct phase of the moon, undoubtedly did add quite a bit of horsepower to the proceedings, but if taken under protest from an unwilling victim the results could be similar to an extremely powerful car out of control at high speeds - it may go where the driver wants it to, and then again it may fly off the road and do a tremendous amount of damage before stopping.
BUt when the people liked pagantry and teh priests liked power, the Gods and Goddesses HAD to like blood - and a lot of it. (It was also an easy way of eliminating enemies of the state local loudmouths who challenged the establishment and the prisoners of war who were getting expensive to feed). Thusly, blood sacrifices became all the rage and a powerful, magickal tool was distorted in an ugly, unpleasant way.
Neo-Pagans, thanklfully, are beyond the politically motivated aspects of blood sacrifice, and that includes those of you out there with aspirations for public office (bribery and a juicy contra fund work better than blood anyway). However, to eliminate this incredible substance (blood, not the contra fund) from all spells and ceremonies may be a mistake. There are times when a drop of blood can be of extremely important use in saving a life.
Which brings us to the first and most important "rule" for blood in magick - IT MUST BE YOUR BLOOD THAT IS USED!!! The person who is working the spell, performing the ceremony or creating the charm is the individual holding the power - and therefore she or he has the most powerful blood of anyone (or anything) in the group, and should not be afraid to shed a few drops. NOBODY ELSE'S BLOOD WILL BE AS EFFECTIVE AS THE BLOOD OF THE PERSON WHO IS PERFORMING THE MAGICK!!!
I'm belaboring this point because it's undoubtedly the most important aspect of blood use in Ritual magick - if its you who wants the spell done, and done right, YOU must shed your own blood, whether others are eager to volunteer or not. Of course, if its a big, serious spell that requires more power than you can summon alone, then everyone in the grove, coven or circle may wish to work together equally and shed an equal amount of blood, but this decision is up to each individual member of the groupand no-one must be pressured to spill a few drops - the magick won't work (or worse will backfire in a most ugly way) if those participating aren't fully enthusiastic about pricking their fingers.
How much blood? Like most things metaphysic, blood is an incredibly powerful symbol, and a little goes a long way. The willingless to undergo a tiny bit of pain (especially in our comfort-oriented culture) and the act of parting with precious bodily fluids can bring forth tremendous forces that have little relation to the actual amount spilled. It would seem that the more blood shed the less one can focus on the act and its true meaning, and after a certain point individuals simply kick back and try to let the power of the blood itself do all the work. This is where the horsepower starts to get out of control. Those working blood magick need to be in control at all times, with their minds focusing and directing the strength from the blood. So a few drops are certainly enough for any imaginable ritual - at least if those participating are hoping for a positive outcome.
When to use blood? Again, everyone's idea of "important" may differ, but blood is VERY SERIOUS STUFF. Most cautious magick workers would hesitate to use a blood charm for mundane benefits (if blood worked for lottery winnings we'd all be awash in it). Consensus seems to have it that blood should only be used to protect living creatures from dire threats to their life and health. This does not mean that a blood charm should be used to protect one from an annoying but harmless co-worker, or even from a boss who may be writing up your pink slip. THere are other methods of protection and if these don't work on mundane problems perhaps it's ones karma to go through a trying time.
Blood is used to keep yourself and those you love alive and healthy, not prosperous and powerful. Blood is elemental and basic, and should only be used for the basics, which don't include money and prestige. Did your significant other buy a mototrcycle that will do 162 mph? By all means make this person a blood charm. Is a beloved familiar going in for surgery? Again the blood charm or spell is appropriate.
But here it must be said that even the most powerful magick won't protect individuals from themselves - it will only act as a defense against the negligence, stupidity or outright malice of others, or as a petition to the elements. Blood is the strongest stuff we know, but even it can't overcome the charmholder's stupidity, incompetance or suicidal tendancies. For example, a blood charm will keep an experienced rider on that 162 mph motorcycle safe from a drunk in a buick and guide him or her to shelter during a vicious storm. But it is a guarenteed fact of metaphysics tha the same charm won't work when the begining rider forgets which is the clutch and which is the brake and subsequently strains him - or herself through a chainlink fence. (The efficiency of blood magick also decreases in direct proportion to the charmholder's alchol intake, but its also been said that Baccus watches out for his own. However, if any reader has a charm, spell or potion that cures dumb behavior please please write in!)
Now, down to the nuts and bolts of the actual charm. Blood is simply an additive and will work quite nicely with the magick, rituals and spells you are currently using. All it requires is respect and an acknowledgement of the incredible power contained therein. I have found that my normal spell and charm making ritual accompanied by the words "May this be the only pain felt, the only blood shed" works most satisfactorially. The phrase may have to be altered appropriately, of course, if the charm is being made for someone undergoing surgery -- always adjust for the need and the individual.
And speaking of individuals, the person or living thing receiving the charm, spell or magick should have given his, her or its permission in advance for the work to be done. Never never, never do blood magick for someone without their full knowledge and approval -- otherwise, it may interfere with their beliefs or karma and cause an incredible amount of damage, no matter that you only wanted to help. Also, this is a good time to strongly advise against ritually mixing your blood with someone else's (transfusions aren't magick and don't count). Too often, relationships fall apart but there you are, still bonded to this person who you'd just as soon be without. It's tough to undoi a blood mixing, but if you insist on it as part of teh handfasting, marriage or life-bonding, be very sure that you can at least remain good friends should circumstances change and lust and love die off. Because with a blood bonding, you and the other individual are going to be interacting with each other, in one way or another, pleasant or awful, for a long long time.
Lesser points - blood magick needs cooperation from the recipient. To paraphrase: The Goddesses and Gods Help Those Who Help Themselves. Don't waste a blood charm on a suicidal person or a non-believer who is likely to down two six-packs and test it by standing in front of an oncoming train - instead, drag the individual to counseling RIGHT AWAY. And don't ask for too much; it confuses the issue. Keep the phrasing simple : "Let this be the only pain felt, the only blood shed, and keep my love from frostbite and hypothermia," if your love is planning to climb Mt. McKinley in January. DOn't wander down a long list of every possible injury; it dilutes teh chamr's true effectiveness and bores the goddesses and gods.
Blood magick is very effective for living things -- people, familiars, trees and the earth (in small areas). One charm per life, however, or the power is diluted. Blood charms for inanimate objects confuse the issue -- they only seem to work on living substances. Besides, most inanimate objects can be nicely protected in other ways; your car in for an overhaul may need to be circled and protected (more for your finiancial benefit than the car's, since most any vehicle can be restored), but a living thing won't always come out of surgery better than it went in.
And one last warning : ritual blood magick is bad public relations since most people can't get past the word "blood" and won't hear you say "Its my own!". Thanks to Charlie Manson and his little family, anything to do with bloodletting is now associated with the most negative of behavior. Best to keep positive but heavy magick to yourself or within the group, and only offer to do a blood charm or spell for individuals who you are sure would welcome it.
(Note From The Archdruid: Blood Sacrifice is forbidden in all official A.D.F. ceremonies)
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