Something that has come across my YouTube, TikTok, and WordPress feeds a few times now have been comments on blood offerings in a Heathen context. Both Beofeld and Wolf the Red are opposed to them because of the lack of context, namely that we are not an agricultural society and blood offerings, especially those of animals, no longer hold the same societal context as they once did.
Sure, but we can approach the same point of view from literally any offering we could make, mead or even water included. Nothing holds the same cache as it once did to the Ancestors of our various religions. It cannot. We are not Them.
Both Beofeld and Wolf have made the point that, before the Gods, human blood is profane. This is one of the goofiest assertions regarding offerings I have seen in a long while whether we are looking at this from a historical standpoint or that of a modern Heathen one. Sacrificial sites containing both human and animal remains are part of most sacred spaces where the ancient Scandinavians are concerned. As noted in Children of Ash and Elm by Dr. Neil Price, bones and blood have been found among the sites, indoor and outdoor (211-218). Uppåkra’s temple (211), Götavi (213-214) and Hofstaðir (216) are just three notable examples. Bog and forest sacrifices show that not only were weapons and boats offered, so too were animals and people.
Wolf notes in his video that the ancient Heathens were giving the whole animal, and all that animal might produce. His assertion is that blood itself was not the offering, which to me seems rather disingenous given how much blood is found at offering sites, and the notion of the hlaut-twig sprinkling blood at blot mentioned in Heimskringla and Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks. In short, blood hallows and there is no reason I have to believe that it is lacking in sacrality.
Among a great many other things, blood is part of our lyke, our body. The body is part of the soul matrix, and since we have neither original sin nor do we have a world-denying component to our religion, this assertion seems wrong-headed to me. Wolf made the point in his video that we are too polluted and that cutting ourselves for ritual purpose is miasmic and blasphemous. I wonder if this is not just a holdover from Christianity. We can offer our sweat, our tears, and the various things we procure through those things, including food, alcohol, herbs, water, and so on. Why would blood suddenly be off the proverbial table? If anything, it falls in line with all the others. Wolf notes in his video that looking at other polytheist religions whose religious terms and practices lived on, such as Hellenismos and Roman religion, blood was profane. I would argue this is where Heathenry differs significantly from them.
When it comes to offering blood I think that folks are more apt to have issues because of the overculture or personal issues rather than anything inherent to Heathenry as a whole. Perhaps there is something within Beofeld and Wolf’s Heathen religion(s?) that is not in my own. I have no reason to not give blood. Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir have called for it from me.
This may be an issue of exoteric practice vs that of esoteric. Exoteric practice are those things that are engaged in by most people while esoteric are not. In religion, exoteric practices are the things that are at the baseline of the religion, that everyone is expected to know and engage in. For Heathens these are things such as hearth cultus, offerings of food and/or drink, and prayers to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Esoteric practice are those things that are still part of the religion, but they are engaged with by a small number of people. The quiet assumption within the word esoteric in how it is used today is that mystical, ecstatic, and similar experiences tend to belong to it, which is my experience with it. While exoteric practice is the firm foundation for my Heathenry, my spiritwork is decidedly in the latter category, and influences how my exoteric work comes about. Most Heathens do not practice seiðr, spá, or Runework to a great degree, so it is little wonder so few engage with esoteric practice.
Exoteric practice, generally speaking, would not call for blood at all, sacrificed by a person or an animal. Most of us have no call or need to work with it, and as Beofeld and Wolf have both pointed out, the sacrifice itself is largely lost on folks who would just buy pigs’ blood, as though the point was just to splash blood on everything. That being said, both exoteric and esoteric practice does have use for blood. It is a connection point. It flows through us, providing a powerful link between the gifter and receiver. Yes, regarding sacrifice of our own blood, you can regain the volume of blood you gift, but the blood you gift you can never come back. The point is the gift of the blood, the pain that it took to get the blood, and the lifeforce connection it carries with you.
We have to harvest the life force of others for any other sacrifice, whether the yeast needs to die for the mead to brew, the chicken dies for its sacrifice, or the herb needs to be harvested. Our entire existence is bound up in ties of Gebo, of gipt fá gipt. Our blood, sweat, and tears are one of the few things that belong to us that we are not taking from someone or somewhere else. We are a living embodiment of the hamingja of our Ancestors and the connections we hold when we make that offering. We are a living embodiment of the megin we have built, the hugr we have. It is a beautiful offering that we can give, though few of us may have cause to give it.
Being a diabetic I have no choice but to bleed every day. My blood sugar testing and my medicines require it. I have no interest in folks engaging in blood offerings or blood magic in an unsafe or unwise manner. There are safe ways to do it. A simple diabetic lancet kit with alcohol pads, cotton balls and bandages should be all a person needs to do blood sacrifice, assuming this is something that they need to do at all. This is where divination and negotiation come in, something all too seldom talked about in Heathen circles. Perhaps Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir have asked it of you, but needles or blood squicks you out, or you do not feel like poking yourself for Their benefit once a week. Negotiate on it. Ask for something else to take the place of that. Don’t engage with Them if that is Their line, or anyone who says you have to. Plenty enough Heathen Runeworkers get great results without going through what I do, and it may simply not be necessary for you.
It is worth pointing out that I have not just given my own blood. I have learned how to properly slaughter and have sacrificed animals to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. The aversion to death in our overculture has rendered much of our relationships with animals, and plants for that matter, to be completely inverse to what I understand it should be: based in reciprocity, with as much care taken as able to ensure a good death for the Being and good effect on the environment in the course of raising and taking the life of that Being. Blood offerings, whether from ourselves or others, are not some useless waste; they are a gift of life force, of blood, and of body. They are to be gifted in a holy way. This is why the animals to be sacrificed need to be treated with the utmost care and to die well, with as little pain as possible. It is why before making sacrifice, whether offering my blood or another’s, I cleanse.
The gifts we give need to be made cleanly whether it is of me or comes through my hands. This necessity to cleanse stands whatever the offering is, whether it is my blood, animal blood or parts, herbs, alcohol, and/or water. The necessity to cleanse is so that what comes from or passes through our hands is clean, free of anything but that gift. Everything needs to be made sacred before we gift it to the Gods so that we are giving in right relationship with Them, not because the world is fallen or that we are inherently polluted. To bring something to the Ginnreginn it needs to be made and/or brought to the Them in a good way. Cleansing is respectful and good spiritual hygiene whatever the gift is.
Most folks will have no cause to give blood whether the practice at hand is exoteric or esoteric. Where I have taken issue is several Heathen folks have made it seem as though blood offerings are outside of Heathen norms. While it may not be, and I would argue should not be common as an offering, it is a normal thing to offer it as a Heathen.