Blood Symbolism & Spiritual Meaning (Magic, Life & More)

Blood symbolizes all the integral qualities of fire, heat and vitality inherent in the Sun. With these qualities is linked all that is lovely, noble, generous and high-minded. Blood also shares some of the symbolism of the colour red.

Blood and it’s connection to the color red

In terms of color and biological order, blood, since it corresponds to the colour red, represents the end of a series which begins with sunlight and the colour yellow, the intermediate stage being the color green and vegetable life.

From a chemical perspective, moving from yellow to green and then to red corresponds to increase of iron.

Unlike sunlight and yellow, or gren and vegetation, the relationship between blood and the color red is much deeper to the point where the two are one and the same.,

That is because both are reciprocally expressive: the passionate quality characteristic of red completes the symbolism of blood, and the character of blood as a life force of blood informs gives deeper meaning to the color red.

Blood as a fertilizing power

Among primitive peoples the blood of a sacrificed animal or human, mixed with seed or spread on the ground, magically fertilized it.

An example are the ears of corn that sprang from the bull slain by Mithras.

In another Greek myth, the nymph Anemone appeared from the blood of the dying Adonis.

In Hinduism, Kali, the destructive aspect of Devi, the Mother-Goddess, kills one demon, only to find that the fiend’s blood creates a thousand more.

Thus, blood symbolizes new life arising from death. Religious Hindu images depict Kali beheaded, with life-giving blood streaming from her, the goddess’ cosmic energy.

The Tibetan Buddhist version of Kali, called Lha Mo, is shown in Tibetan tanka paintings holding a skull-cup and sipping from it.

In Christianity, Christ’s blood also symbolizes renewal and redemption, and on occasion angels are depicted capturing his blood in a grail.

To this day, blood and and the color red are still seen as symbols of Christian martyrdom.

Blood as a symbol of magical power

Blood has long been viewed as the symbol of life force, and there was a near universal belief across all cultures that blood contains the divine energy or spirit of the creature or person it flowed through.

A famous example of the power of blood is that of Longinus, the blind Roman soldier who supposedly pierced Jesus with his spear, but was then cured of blindness when Christ’s blood touched his eyes.

Aztecs even considered blood to be the life force of the Sun itself, and so they sacrified tens of thousands of victims every year as a way to renew the Sun every day, following it’s slumber the night before.

The Norse people also considered blood to contain magical powers, and thus would collect the blood of sacrified animals and spray it upon worshippers and buildings as a way of obtaining the might of the gods.

Norse priests would even drink or use blood as a way to divine the future.

This is the reasoning behind the ancient Roman custom of taurabolium, where a bull would be sacrified every year and it’s participants drenched in the animal’s blood as a way of sharing it’s power.

This custom has survived in some places to this day, with Mexican bullfighters drinking the slain animal’s blood.

Blood as a symbol of union

Mixing blood was a frequent symbol of binding two or more people in a contract, brotherhood or bond.

A good example of this are blood-brotherhoods, or perhaps more famously, pacts with the devil where the person would sign the contract with their blood.

In the Middle East for example, marriages would often be celebrated by having the bride step upon the sprinkled blood of a sheep.

In India, kings would be anointed with the sacred blood of the Goddess Sarasvati, symbolized by the water that flowed in her river, and symbolized the divine connection between the king and the goddess.

Blue blood, as a symbol of divinity or royal heritage

The association between blue blood and aristocracy derives from the medieval use of “bleu” as a euphemism for Dieu in the oath “by the blood of God” frequently sworn by French nobles, which in time led to the slang term “un sang-bleu” (“a blue-blood”).

Blood as food for the gods

Blood had such a deep draw as a symbol of life force, that many cultures believed blood must be food for gods as well as spiritual nourishment for humans.

Thus the act of sacrifice was demanded by the Heavenly Father, who also consumed the victim’s blood and was thus satisfied.

The Arabic saying, “Blood has flowed, the danger is past”, expresses succinctly the central idea of all sacrifice: that the offering appeases the gods and wards of all the most severe divine punishments which might otherwise befall.

The biblical God demanded all blood shed by animal butchery, which explains the concept of “kosher killing” that completely drains the carcass of animal of it’s blood, which was taboo to consume by humans and must be set aside for God’s consumption.

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).

The ritual gesture of feeding the god his portion of sacrificial blood was raising the blood-filled toward heaven, the gesture still practiced at Christian altars as “elevating the host.”

Eventually the god’s cup of blood became a cup of wine because human sacrifice became distasteful and animal sacrifice expensive.

Wine was chosen because it was seen as the blood of the earth, and it became customary to first raise the cup holding wine to the heavens, as a way of giving the gods their first sip lest they be angry.

This idea of wine as a food for the gods later created subsequent traditions, where in some pagan marriage ceremonies the groom and bride would drink from the same cup so they would become “one blood”.

Aztecs even considered blood to be the life force of the Sun itself, and so they sacrified tens of thousands of victims every year as a way to renew the Sun every day, following it’s slumber the night before.

Blood as symbol of heat and passions

Connected to how the heart is seen as the source of emotions, blood is closely interpreted as the carrier of emotion and internal fire.

This is a slightly different interpretation of blood as a substance of light or a form of spiritual liquid of life.

Blood as a symbol of immortality

The Holy Grail was said to contain the blood of Jesus Christ, and that any person who would drink from it will be granted immortality.

However, this Christian myth of the Holy Grail is much older than Christianity itself and was undoubtedly derived from older, pagan traditions.

Among secret societies, it was common to have blood mixed with wine, which thus became the draught of immortality and a symbol of knowledge. If two people drank from the same cup simultaneously, it established an unbreakable bond and imparted longevity.

Use of blood in mythology

Aeson, father of Jason, killed himself by drinking bull’s blood when it seemed evident that the Argonauts would not return.

When Ajax died, a purple flower grew from his blood with the letters “ai” on its petals

Asclepius, the god of healing, received from Athena blood that had flowed from the veins of the monster, Gorgo, which had the power to restore life.

Bellona was a Roman goddess of war, and whenever a sacrifice was made to her, priests had to wound their own arms or legs and either offer the blood as sacrifice or drink it themselves, in order to become inspired with war-like enthusiasm.

The Titan Cronus castrated his father Uranus, and out of the blood of Uranus came the avenging divinities called Erinyes. In a similar fashion, giants were also created from the blood of Uranus.


Resources:

  • A dictionary of symbols by Cirlot, Juan Eduardo
  • A dictionary of symbols by Chevalier, Jean
  • Dictionary of symbols by Chetwynd, Tom
  • A dictionary of dream symbols : with an introduction to dream psychology by Ackroyd, Eric
  • Illustrated dictionary of symbols in eastern and western art by Hall, James
  • Dictionary of symbols and imagery by Vries, Ad de
  • Symbolism : a comprehensive dictionary by Olderr, Steven
  • Dictionary of mythology, folklore and symbols by Jobes, Gertrude
  • The complete dictionary of symbols by Tresidder, Jack
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