by Natalie J. Lincoln
Anyone who studies traditional Witchcraft and Folk Magick with any more than a cursory interest will find that many spells call for the use of blood as an ingredient. Blood, being the very stuff that nourishes life, is a powerful Magickal substance. Blood-letting in ritual constitutes a sacrifice more dramatic than simply burying coins or pouring libations. Sealing a spell with blood will strengthen almost any working, provided that the blood is shed in accordance with the theme of the spell. (For example, it would be foolish to use blood in a healing spell.)
It is my conviction that shedding any blood other than your own in Magick is ethically wrong. Although some organizations condone this practice, there are three major reasons why I refuse to participate in such activities.
Primarily, my own instinct tells me that the practice of using another person or creature's blood in ritual is distasteful, obscene and goes against natural law. More practically, using another individual's blood not only Magickally binds them to you, it also can weaken the symbol of blood in the ritual, as the sacrifice made is not your own. Most spells that call for blood can be filled by using only a few drops of personal blood, such as from a finger whose energies correspond to the purpose of the ritual.
With the rise of HIV and bloodborne pathogens there are several practical considerations that need to be taken by a Witch interested in using their own blood in ritual. For the not-very-squeamish I recommend this link (blood vampirism) which provides modern bloodletting safety considerations to individuals in the Magick and vampiric communities interested in extracting blood.
While I do not ethically agree with much of the information presented here, I applaud the site for its efforts in educating laypersons who handle blood.
Other considerations for Magickal bloodletting:
Always use clean, sterilized pins or needles when extracting blood for Magick. Needles can be sterilized by heating them over a flame until glowing (please let the needle cool before using it!) or by swabbing with rubbing alcohol.
Never share a needle that you or another person have used to extract blood with.
Keep a supply of band-aids and antibiotic ointment handy for after the spell.
Substitutes for Blood in Magick
Of course, just because a spell calls for blood doesn't mean that blood must be used. Rather, there are many instances where it is preferable not to use blood in a spell, even if it is called for. Squeamish folks may find the thought of pricking themselves with a needle so disturbing that it detracts from the concentration and focus needed to properly cast a spell. If a spell calls for more than a drop or two of blood I prefer to use a substitute. Here are some common substitutes for blood in Magick:
freshly layed eggs - fertilized farm fresh eggs from a black hen are thought to be the very best, and have long been a charm among the Romani.
red wine - even the Catholic Church approves this Magickal substitute!
pomegranate juice - this has the added benefit of looking and smelling vaguely bloody.
whole pomegranates - splitting these open with a sturdy bolline on the altar can be a memorable and powerful experience, as the fruit is known for 'bleeding'.
salt water - one of the reasons salt water is traditionally seen as such a powerful consecration and banishing charm is its taste, which was thought to be similar to that of blood .
red ink - in place of writing something in blood; I have had good results with dragonsblood ink
menstrual blood - yes, ladies, we can use our own naturally shed blood with great Magickal effect.
Using Blood in Magick and Ritual (excellent!)
Pomegranates in cooking and folklore