For about two years I worked full time in the computer industry. I worked in quality assurance for two computer game companies (including Disney Interactive) and then taught basic computer operation, graphics and 3D animation at USC. Later, I returned to QA (quality assurance) at another company and also did some customer support.
When you help consumers, to keep track of how you spend your time, you keep a record of each call and how you handled it. There is an abbreviation often seen in the record: RTFM. Without going into details, it basically means that the consumer could have avoided their problem and not wasted our time if they had just Read The Freakin’ Manual. (The “F” doesn’t really stand for “Freakin,’”but you get the idea.)
In the early lessons ofÂ Modern Magick I give definitions of different types of magick, such as “Black” or “White.” I do this because for many students they’re familiar terms and give these beginning students of magick something solid and understandable to work with. I have been critiqued for giving these superficial designations. And frankly, if I had left things with these categories, I would agree with those critiques. But if they had simply RTFM, they would have learned by studying the entire book I make clear that magick is magick. Black or white or grey or red or green categories are not written in stone and are, at best, conveniences. Magick is more like electricity: you can use it to run computers and light the night or you can set up a way to electrocute someone to death. Magick itself is as neutral as electricity. It is only our need to categorize, especially when people are just learning magick, that gives it labels. Magick is not okay or forbidden based on predetermined practices. Rather, the focus, I believe, should be onÂ completely accepting personal responsibility for one’s actions and the inevitable results of such actions.
Some people think that sex magick is, well, wrong. To them, sex is something spiritual (or merely fun) or for procreation. Harnessing the forces of sexual expression to achieve goals is improper. Napoleon Hill, the original popularizer of Â the Law of Attraction with his book, Think and Grow Rich, came up with a series of rules or techniques to make the LoA work. Some of the basic concepts he presents include putting all your attention on your goal: wealth. Putting any attention anywhere else prevents you from achieving your goal. Therefore, you should make all sexual desires subordinate to your desire for wealth. Focusing on sex will simply take you away from your goal.
Even if you assume that sex magick is okay (at least for others, if not for you), many people consider certain sex practices too outside the norm even for sex magick. In my Modern Sex Magick I refer to this as “Forbidden Sex Magick.” These techniques include working with more than one partner and using intense sensation. Increasingly, however, such activities are becoming accepted. There are even dominatrix costumes for pre-teens. Sex and magick have hit the mainstream.
And yet, there is still one taboo for even some of the most advanced magick practitioners: blood.
People have used the accusation of the use of blood in ritual to attack others for thousands of years. Jason Pitzi-Waters gives a brief history of this in a recent post on his blog, The Wild Hunt. But just as people make wild accusations of others, it’s also true that sacrifices of blood have been used as part of magick and in the appeasement of deities. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the biblical story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son to God. His hand is stayed by an angel and Isaac is saved, but a ram is sacrificed instead. According to some authorities, this marked a turning away from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice. Today, there are some who want to bring back animal sacrifice as part of Jewish ritual practice (beyond the ritualized method of butchering animals used in kosher slaughterhouses).
Magick and Blood
In magick, there are four potential sources of blood. Three are from humans: arterial, capillary, and menstrual. The fourth is animal blood.
But why? Haven’t we moved beyond that? The vast majority of Jews today have no interest in bringing back animal sacrifices and see the rules of kosher butcheringâ€”whether an accurate interpretation or notâ€”as a way of following the biblical injunction to keep animal suffering to a minimum. Even during biblical times, only a few types of sins required animal sacrifice.
So why use any kind of blood in magick?
In an incredibly brave book, Charlotte Rodgers answers that question. The Bloody Sacrifice combines a look at what contemporary magicians and artists are doing with blood along with her own journey of personal evolution. This is a book of why, not how. It won’t give social misfits ideas for how to cut themselves or sacrifice animals. They’ll have to get that from popular movies or novels. Instead, it is primarily a series of brief interviews with artists, magicians, and religious practitioners on why they have used blood and the changes it has engendered.
By not giving how-to instructions, it moves this book to philosophy, theology and motivation. All of the people here take such work very seriously. Eric K. Lerner, a priest of the Afro-Carribean tradition known as Obatala-Ajaguna writes that an animal sacrifice should be “only performed by a priest who has undergone rigorous training.” It should only be done after a deity has requested it (via a trance medium). Each person at the rite pinches their own neck to remind themselves of the sacrifice of the animal. Later, the head of the animal is raised to indicate the priest’s “thanks to and support of the animal in its flight to heaven. I’m appalled,” he says, “when I hear of people embarking on an animal sacrifice without such rigorous criteria in place.”
Also interviewed is Louis Martinie, an Honorary Member of the Louisiana State Legislature, brilliant percussionist, and who has found a way to combine New Orleans Voodoo with Tibetan Buddhism. He has found a way to replace blood with the “blood” of a plant. There are also interviews with artists, such as Mishlen Linden and Keith Theriot revealing how the use of blood in their art has changed and empowered their work.
The Bloody Sacrifice is an intense and thought-provoking book. It’s certainly not for everyone, but for those who want to know the reasons people are still using blood in their work, this will give you much to consider.
The Ultimate Sacrifice?
Luckily, there is one type of sacrifice that now seems to have disappeared. Or has it?
Thailand, with a population of 65 million, is almost 95% Buddhist. An article by Justin McDaniel, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, recalls how in 2010, the corpses of almost 350 aborted fetuses were discovered in a Bangkok Buddhist monastery. They had been purchased from abortion clinics to sell to “magicians and amulet dealers.” They use something called nam man phrai or “corpse fluid” from aborted fetuses or freshly deceased adults to empower their magick.
Where I Stand
Mr. Lerner says in The Bloody Sacrifice, “I cannot tell you howe many times I have had people come to me who had PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) bumperstickers on their cars and ask me to kill five birds for them just so they can get laid.” I once had a disagreement with a friend who denounced animal sacrifice before he had fried chicken for lunch. So the truth is, I see an awful lot of hypocrisy among those who denounce animal sacrifice on the basis of it being hurtful to animals and to the people who perform the sacrifice.
I’m not going to denounce it on that basis. I will, however, disagree with it. The reason for my disagreement is based on my understanding of magick, not religious or social morality that hides abattoirs or personal ethics. For some, especially artists, the use of blood is exhilarating, boundary-breaking, and energizing. The magicians and spiritual leaders speak of the power that is in the blood. I would respectfully contend that it is not the physical blood, but the energy that is contained within the blood that energizes and empowers. I would also contend that it is possible to work with that energy directly, getting all of the results of blood without shedding it.