I am spurred to write this now, after all this time, by several recent experiences that coincided with each other rather well. Because many of these experiences are private and involve other people, both friends and detractors, I shall leave it at that. Needless to say, however, these experiences made it clear to me that I really ought to talk in more detail about the particular and often seen as peculiar practice of my path: bloodletting.
The experience of what the Aztecs called nextlaoaliztli, "the giving of that which is right," is at the crux of what I follow. It is easy to talk about it in theory and in history, but not so easy to talk about the actual experience of it. Generally, it is a private matter, and to speak of it in no uncertain terms would surely give too much voice to the fears of many. And yet, I find that I must do so, because too much goes unsaid without it. In the end, I hope that in doing this I create understanding, rather than condemnation of my gods and rites. I believe this should be spoken of because there are too many people that do not understand just what exactly it means to sacrifice their own life's blood to the gods. They may understand the esoteric, official meaning, but they do not understand the meaning that can only be found through the experience of it. That is, the meaning that is given to it by the gods themselves; what it means to them, as much as what it means to the provider.
I do not intend to speak for the gods here, nor to know their thoughts. The place that I speak from is that of a practitioner who has given his blood many times, and who has also advised others looking to practice it for themselves. From these experiences, I know what I have felt during such rituals, and have spoken to others on what they have felt. I also have seen many people unprepared for what was to be felt during the giving of blood. I am not speaking of the pain of it, or any other physical thing. I am speaking of the spiritual experience of the devotee, and how the gods themselves seem to react to the blood.
Many people come into the experience believing that, though it is a solemn and sacred practice integral to the religion, it will not be anymore intense or different from any other ritual they may have practiced, with the physical exception of the pain of the sacrifice. In the end, however, they find this is not true. Some of them have not been prepared in advance - I don't mean that they "couldn't take it" when it came down to it, only that their conceptions as to what to expect were inaccurate. In the end, only experience can tell you how it feels. But as the experience is often vastly different from what is expected, I feel that I should give a "heads up" to interested parties, and also perhaps a more intimate glimpse into the true spiritual value of this sacred practice, beyond discussions of history and tradition.
First and foremost, people will usually find that blood sacrifice is "more real" than most other forms of offering and ritual that they have experienced. This is for several reasons. One obvious reason is that it is physical and visceral, that it is an "in your face" form of sacrifice that cannot be denied for the simple fact that it involves your blood and your pain. Another reason is that through a willingness to endure this pain and give of their life's energy, a practitioner shows true devotion of a level that many are unwilling to step up to. This alone predisposes the sacrifice to be a more powerful experience than any other a person may have had with a deity.
It is also more real for the gods. If you offer blood to an Aztec deity, you will get their attention, and very strongly so. It is also instantly useful and inherently valuable to them. Other offerings may hold sentimental or traditional value, and there are offerings that have more specific uses to certain deities. But blood is the most quintessential and universally valued of offerings possible to give to the Aztec gods in this day and age. Even in historical times, blood was second only to the heart itself. Giving blood has a meaning to these deities that is clear, immediate, and deep. They know what it means when a mortal gives their blood; it is thus up to the devotee to understand what it truly means, because if any confusion is to be had, it will be on their part. The gods do not misunderstand, and they will come into the process assuming that you do not misunderstand it either.
Furthermore, since it brings the gods strongly, and tends to be a very personal experience between the sacrificer and the god, it may bring an intensity of deity experience that a practitioner has never felt on such an individual level before. For most Pagans, rituals that call so strongly on the gods are group affairs and geared towards a particular purpose. In bloodletting, the god comes personally and powerfully to the individual giving in the rite, and the purpose of the rite is specifically "the giving of that which is right." No distractions, no sharing (even if others are present for this ritual, the attention of the deity will go directly to the individual giving the blood). Only yourself and the very strong presence of a deity intent on nothing but you. The only exception to this rule is during rituals in which one person may draw the blood of another (willing) person. In this case, the attention is split between the sacrificer and the sacrificee, and the attention given to each is different but still very intense. The sacrificer will usually find that the god identifies with them and perhaps even joins with them for a time, while the sacrificee will receive the attention as the source of the offering. In any case, the experience is almost certain to be uniquely intense.
In addition to the general intensity and reality of a bloodletting experience, there are two distinct experiences one tends to have in making a sacrifice of your own blood. These experiences correspond respectively to the bloodletting itself and the offering of the sacrifice (where you burn the blood or otherwise send it to the gods). The first is what keeps people coming back for more; it is the experience of a deep connection to the deity you are sacrificing to that really only manifests through blood sacrifice. I do not mean to imply that there are not other ways that you can feel deep connections to your gods; only that the sort of connection between the god and the devotee that blood sacrifice gives is unique onto itself, and not really comparable to any other forms of establishing a connection. When the blood is let, while the deity is not consuming the blood at this time, they tend to connect with the practitioner energetically, partaking of the devotion and pain expended through the act itself.
The act of offering the blood through burning or other means seals the bond. Spiritually speaking, the blood is the essence of your life, and the gods take this into themselves when it is offered. The Aztecs believed that the blood contained traces of the teyolia soul, and so the sacrifice gives what is no less important than a portion of the soul itself. This is also why the act of bloodletting is to be taken seriously and not engaged in by people of only passing curiosity. This does not mean that by giving a blood offering, you are swearing your soul to that deity for eternity or anything else like that. What it does mean is that you are offering something pure and deep, and that speaks of something more meaningful than a simple wish to dabble in Aztec ritual practices.
When actually offering the blood for the first time, many people are taken aback at first, because often what is felt during the actual sacrifice itself is a rush of energy when the blood is burned, and often, that energy is aggressive. The Aztec gods do get a rush from blood, they get a "high" from it. The "high" they get is often one of warrior aggression and intensity, though this may differ somewhat depending on the mood the deity is in and the individual deity them self. Some may mistake this aggression for anger, but it is not. However, I do find it best to offer the blood at the very end of a ritual (the blood may be let at any time, however), because they tend to want to be left alone to enjoy the rush of it. This experience of their apparent desire for and intense pleasure in blood may initially intimidate people, but it also seems to impress upon the participants the reality of the entire activity and the reality of the gods. The experience seems to be more real than the common mentality that all rituals should end with something like a 'cosmic hug' so to speak from the gods.
Elsewhere, I have discussed how the Aztecs viewed sacrifice based on the term nextlaoaliztli. This discusses the human end; how the Aztecs believed that the sacrifice of blood was deserved by the gods, how it was "right" to give it to them in homage and devotion. But does this term hold any meaning for the gods?
From my experiences, it certainly seems to. Many modern people, particularly those coming from a Neopagan background, might expect the Aztec gods to react with gratitude or appreciation when given a bit of blood. Not only this, but they might even expect an exaggerated amount of gratitude due to the common Neopagan misconception that the gods are overjoyed for any slight attention given to them by their human associates. I cannot speak for how the deities of other pantheons may react if given blood, but I do know this: the Aztec gods fully believe that They deserve it. They do not rejoice or shower the devotee with thankfulness for their oh-so-difficult sacrifice. They expect the blood, they take the blood, and yes, they do appreciate it, as in the fact that they value blood and prefer it as an offering. But they do not appreciate it the way a beggar appreciates spare change. You give blood to say thanks to them; they do not say thanks to you for the blood.
They do know that modern people are not predisposed to giving blood offerings, and seem to value more highly those that are willing to give so of themselves. But it is not a matter of seeing people who are willing to give blood as wonderful, considerate people giving the gods a special blessing.
Over time in associating with the occult community, I have become aware that people have a fear of evil entities that go out of their way to trick innocent practitioners. You've seen it in the whole scale rejection and demonizing of the Ouija board, or the condemnation of Satanists as toying with forces that should not be touched. And I have seen it in the warnings given by others to people who express even a mild interest in darker deities or entities, or believe that a deity could want a sacrifice. "No," they say, "if a deity wants sacrifice, they're not a real god. They're a malignant spirit trying to trick you into worship! If they seem to enjoy blood, run and hide!" Considering the fact that sacrifice is a time-honored human tradition, I can only conclude that these people have been influenced by the very old-school Christian idea of being tricked by demons and the like.
My gods are benevolent to those whom they choose and who know how to show the appropriate reverence to them. By benevolence, however, I do not mean the common modern belief in all-loving, gentle deities. They are benevolent in that they will both bless and punish, but their punishments are always appropriate and just. They love those who follow them, but expect appropriate humility to be displayed before them. And they do not give free rides. They do not seem to float around in a heavenly existence free from desire or emotion, but rather revel in that which they enjoy. One of those things happens to be blood. Other deities from other pantheons have other preferences, and none of this article is meant to suggest what those may be. However, for my gods, this is their preference, and any who might want to suggest to me that I'm worshipping malicious spirits simply has no idea the tremendous rewards, including love, that develops from such practices between a sincere devotee and their god or goddess.
If you liked this and would like to know more you might enjoy the following links:
Re: Bloodletting (Nahua) By: Personified Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 3 Jul 01, 2012
I love this post quite a bit. If you'd allow I'd like to save it and refer to you and to it for further use later on down the road.
Once again I find myself really amazed and curious about the similarities between our practices. Who would have thought they'd have so much in common? Bloodletting is used in similar ways in our tradition, for essentially the same purposes. While blood is not an offering mandatory nor given necessarily to all northern deities there are some for which blood is a very acceptable and powerful offering or to make a ritual/working more personal between the person and the deity/wight they are working with. I know that you and I have discussed the Ordeal work done in that practice before, so there's no need for me to go too far into details with it now, but blood plays a key factor in some of those deep altered states when attempting to achieve workings with the deities mentioned.
I definitely agree with everything you said, especially when you point out how "real" and "in your face" this type of offering and sacrifice is. It's definitely not a type of thing you can ignore when you are in the moment, it's very real very intense very personal. And from experience it does seem to serve as an almost direct line to whatever entity you are working with. When I have given my blood as a form of offering or sacrifice to Hel, I have felt that it definitely strengthened the bond that was there and allowed me to do workings, like val-galdr, more in depth.
It's an interesting concept to me, what you wrote in the last paragraph. Again, it coincides with my own practices and the deities I work with. I definitely would love to see more of your writings and get to know a bit more about the deities you work with from your own perspective. This, again, is a great article and I loved it. I'll definitely be looking into those sources and reading up a bit more on it.
Of course you can save it, Person! I wouldn't mind that all.
Most definitely. Blood offering is very personal and blatant, showing fantastic dedication towards the deity, in which mutual respect will be transferred. Of course, bloodletting isn't mandatory when working with a deity, but I do think it can help a great deal when building up a connection with them.
It does sometimes baffle me how people consider deities to be all loving and what. They are very much neutral. Punishing and loving at the same time.
Of course, if you have any questions do feel free to ask.
Re: Bloodletting (Nahua) By: Brysing Moderator / Adept
Post # 9 Oct 09, 2014
Humans are the only animals on Earth to deliberately injure their bodies by blood-letting. No other animal would be so stupid!
There are young people for whom life is so unbearable that the pain of "cutting" eases the greater pain of their existence.These need sympathy and/or counselling to help them.
But, anybody who would deliberately injure that sacred body because of some religious belief is in need of psychiatric treatment in my opinion!
Aztecs, Incas, and many other ancient religions believed in the shedding of human blood to the extent of actually killing people to "please God". Even Christianity believes that Jesus had to die, with great loss of blood, to "save humanity"!
Have we learnt nothing? To cut yourself, I believe, is a sin against nature. To cut somebody else is a crime!
Re: Bloodletting (Nahua) By: Personified Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 10 Oct 09, 2014
I am sorry, Brysing, but I disagree with you completely and find that what you said was rude .
I do not condone human sacrifice or most animal sacrifice, and neither did the original user who posted this (as I knew her). The post was not meant to be about that- rather the willing sacrifice of ones own blood in their practice. Just because your beliefs on the matter differ does not give you the authority to call a person stupid or in need of mental help just because their practice involves such a thing. It's cultural and a long standing part of their religious practice. It is also their body and if they choose to use their own blood for their own religion- you have no part in that.
Many different practices and paths incorporate the use of blood into their workings. Ranging from self-inflicted cuts to the collection of menstrual blood, or the collection of animal blood, or the drinking of blood, etc. This is because many beliefs find that the body is considered a sacred vessel or at least one of personal importance: to give an offering from ones own body, then, means quite a bit and makes the working more personal and (in some beliefs) powerful.
Within my practice, it was traditional and cultural to use animal sacrifices in our workings. Horses were often used for many things. An example of one practice would be the creation of the nidstang, which is a runic cursing pole. A horses head would be placed at the top of a spike which was engraved with runes and often smeared with your own blood (to make it personal). In modern practice, we do not do most animal sacrifice- as we are a bit more ethical with the animals, and I personally do not believe in taking from another thing without cause. There are many deities within the Norse pantheon for which blood is considered an acceptable offering as well: Odin, for instance, stabbed himself with a spear and hung himself for nine days to learn the runes. While most Heathens do not follow the same route as he did, giving blood and working with blood in your rune work is considered normal. One of our main rituals, known as a blot, roughly translates to "sacrifice" (blod=blood). However, because of this, we use more of our own blood to achieve the same thing- trying to be as close to the original practice as possible. It's cultural. A part of what made my religion, my people. Therefore, to me, it means quite a bit.
(you'll have to copy and paste the two sections of the link)
Those who choose to use blood for some purpose, such as thing, take precautions about it. We don't just slit our wrists or otherwise harm ourselves in a bad way. It could be as simple as a prick of the finger. If more blood is needed, we often first go to a doctor to ensure that we are medically fine. We take precautions with the equipment to ensure that it is sterile and free of infection. We do not take more from ourselves than what we need for our purpose. And we give ourselves time to heal afterwards. W e are all very safe about it and aware of what we are doing.
It is wrong of you to call members who decide to do this stupid. Just because it is not what you believe, it is not wrong for them and their path and they do not need to see a doctor because of it.