Monday, February 04, 2008

Blood Ritual and TV Cameras

This last Saturday, I was asked to speak on camera about the subject of Salem's Witches for a show on Treasure HD, which is part of VOOM network. They came to Salem to do a show on Witchcraft highlighting Christian Day, Leanne Marrama, Sandra Power, and the rest of the gang.

I was not sure what the show was about, and did not have any talking points. I simply arrived at the shop Christian recently purchased, asked a few questions concerning context, and was placed in front of a camera.

Kevin, the director of the show "Magnificent Obsessions" asked a few questions: Who I was, and some basic info about the our church The Gathering. Our history of being excommunicated from our previous denomination, because they were afraid of Christians who were on friendly terms with Witches came up.

After a few questions Kevin mentioned that they just finished filming a ritual, and it included the use of blood. He wanted to know what "the church" thought of that.

Now I wasn't particularly prepared for that question, but I did a good job of hiding a moment of surprise. My eyebrows were raising on the inside, but on the outside I held a calm collected unsurprised expression.

You see, I was wondering how to respond to this one. I have many friends who are Witches, and many friends who are Christians. Typically they do not get along with one another, and so I figured this was a question which could leave me up a creek without a paddle with one camp or the other.

If I said that blood ritual is satanic I would alienate many of my Pagan friends. If I said it was acceptable to practice blood ritual I would alienate all my Christian friends. Yet most importantly I had to say what I believe is true, and not play some kind of popularity game.

So, what was I to do?

First of all I did condemn the practice of animal and human sacrifice, but quickly added that this was not what my Neo-Pagan friends were practicing.

Christianity, and its mother religion Judaism have their own connection to blood ritual. We are by our own admittance, and with great pride bloody religions. Sacrifices and war fill the scriptures from Genesis to Malachi. The sacrifice of Christ with an emphasis upon His blood becomes the central point of the Gospel in the New Testament. We sing hymns and choruses about the "Power in the Blood,"

Does the pricking of a finger and the drop of blood in chalice, or the more peculiar use of menstrual blood in spell casting post-figuratively speak to the power of the blood of which I have joyously sung in the comparatively tame church services of my Pentecostal tradition?

As I responded to this question from the producer of the show, and since then have pondered it further it causes to me consider the issue of blood in the religion I practice, and causes me to place it in a position which makes sense both of the power aspect, and of the lack of actual blood in today's Christian services.

Yes, blood has power. As Moses reminds us, "the life is in the blood." Christ's blood has the power of forgiveness, cleansing, and healing in it, and even though we celebrate the Lord's Cup regularly, we look back to the sacrifice which was "once and for all."

As Christians we primarily look back to the blood (even though Orthodox and Catholic Communions may beg to differ here). The blood of Christ was shed two millenia ago, and it has become the focal point of our religious experience. We pursue becoming "peacemakers" to evidence our identification with Christ, and reject the idea that the shedding of blood in war has any eternally effective power in the solving the problems of this world. In terms of identifying power in blood we look back.

As the Mosaic laws of sacrifice prefigured the power in Christ's blood, it may be that blood ritual of the Neo-Paganism post-figuratively speaks in the same manner - There is power in the blood.


Bruce said...

Oh yeah! Nothing like being in the cross-hairs. I'd speculate that counterfeits look for the real thing to impersonate. I just printed up some fake money for a kid's cash register toy, but no one's going to be misled into thinking that the fake dollars have any real buying power. So that makes me think the Catholic and Orthodox streams (and the Celtics?) are onto the right idea about the Blood of the Savior. Calvin taught that the body and blood at communion are not the human Christ, but that the Divine Nature of the Son, the Second Person, was present--the same blood that cries out for us at the throne of God, for mercy.
CS Lewis, in Mere Christianity (I believe), wrote regarding "true myths", that both the very proper Englishman and the tribal Animist both know that sin requires the shedding of blood. Or some other mutual insight that Christianity and Animism have about the Blood--Animism looking forward to the Christ and Christians, we believe, having the fulfillment.

It might be impolite to mention that groups who practice blood sacrifice after Christ is known to them are raging against Christ, calling him a tin soldier or some such thing. God sits in Heaven and laughs for the time being.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Bruce,

Could it be that as anthropological missiologists contend that every culture has a witness of Christ throbbing through it?

Bruce said...

That's what I hear too.
Good job, Phil.

Anonymous said...

How on earth did I miss this entry the last time around? Well said!

Of course, I think it's important to note that even some Pagans want to shy away from the whole topic of blood magic even when referring to such the minor uses you describe.

In fact, I was rather concerned about the matter when I was making plans to finish and consecrate the staff a friend gave me for Christmas. As part of the process, I plan to burn various runes into the staff. According to the traditions I follow, the runes need to be blooded (a process that actually only requires a drop or two of blood). As I need to use my friend's tools to make the runes, I had to talk to her about my plans to make sure the blooding process wouldn't bother her.

-- Jarred.

Anonymous said...

I can't help think of all that deliverence ministry stuff where they yell about being "washed in the blood"! Very grusome image when you step back and think about it. Yet these are precisely the types to engage most vigourously in finger pointing. Thanks for being a voice of calm Phil.

Moriah Conquering Wind said...

So what tradition presumably performed this blood rite and what specifically got performed? Most Wiccans this one has met will not use blood in ritual. Some ceremonialists might as well as some theistic Satanists and demonolators. But Wiccans? Nah.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Wind,

I was not there for the specific rite I was asked about. Knowing the group, I am sure it was not much more than the drop in the chalice kind of thing.

You'll notice I do not refer to them as Wiccans - they are not Wiccan, but they are Witches from the "Salem Tradition." Might be more like a FamTrad group, although they are not truly a Family Tradition.