Drawing blood The Devil’s pact and witchcraft
Modern customs portray that we endure both cursed and engrossed by plans about witchcraft and the supernatural that we have inherited from previous centuries.
One of the most obvious characteristics of witches is their ability to cast spells; a “spell” is the word used to signify the means employed to carry out a magical action. A spell could consist of a ritual action, a set of words, a verse, or any combination of these. Although a majority of the spells are spoken in the native language of the witch, some spells require the use of other languages, such as Latin, and African vernaculars among others.
Starting from the view of blood as a liminal matter, manifesting fertile, positive aspects in conjunction with dangerous, negative ones, I show how it was believed to attract supernatural forces within the natural world. It could empower or pollute, restore health or waste corporeal and spiritual existence. While this theme has been studied in a medieval religious context and by anthropologists, its relevance during the early modern period has not been explored.
I argue that considering the impact of the Reformation on people’s mentalities, studying the way in which ideas regarding blood and the body changed from late medieval times to the eighteenth century can provide new insights about patterns of social and religious tensions, such as the witch-trials and persecutions.
In this regard the article engages with anthropological theories, comparing the dialectic between blood and body with that between identity and society, demonstrating that they both spread from the conflict of life with death, leading to the social embodiment or to the rejection of an individual. A comparative approach is also employed to analyze blood symbolism in Protestant and Catholic countries, and to discuss how beliefs were influenced by both cultural similarities and religious differences.
This method is called “condoling magic,” and it appears in folk magic throughout the world. The idea is that using something related to a person in a spell will link the spell to the target — whatever you do to the representation of the person, you do to the person. Hair, fingernail clippings, dried skin, and clothing all establish sympathetic links, but bodily fluids like saliva or sexual fluids are stronger, and blood is the strongest. A photograph can work too, the same way a statue of a deity can represent the god.
Hollywood movies will make this look as sinister as possible by having witches use “voodoo dolls” (poppets) to kill people or force them to fall in love or whatnot. But this technique can be used for any purpose, including healing or binding. You can even use it on yourself. Sympathetic magic is not automatically “baneful” magic.
In Europe, blood themes emerge prominently in the ritual murder accusations made against the Jewish community during the late medieval period, which served to outline and exclude an ethnic and religious enemy, enforcing the Christian community.