I am honored to share this piece by an anonymous practitioner. This essay touches on many taboo, emotionally charged, and distressing topics – the paranormal, ritual practice, inviting contact with discarnate entities, self harm, the inability to communicate one’s inner state and needs effectively to those around you, and blood offerings. Which sounds like a rough time, but the author’s sensitive observation and level-headed introspection turn this fraught material into a meditation on change and knowledge of the self, in all of it’s sordid glory.
Sang réal, sang sacré;
mon sang, donne-moi la vie.
Sanguis Solis ad alenda esurientem leonem
Blood is holy, blood is vital. There is a unique and personal relationship we have to our own blood. It is hidden, and when it is revealed, we may revolt in disgust, or fear. When it is spilled, we may revel in the defeat of our enemies, or we may feel bitter, or stupid. We may want revenge.
Blood is complex, it provides oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. It is always in motion; mercurial, capricious. Like a river, it is never the same in two moments. It is one, but it is made of many: droplets, platelets, cells… Without it, we cannot live, yet we dare not think of it too much, lest we realize our own mortality and gross existence. We are bone, and flesh, and blood. We are all-singing, all-dancing corpses-to-be, filled with this wonderful illumination and warmth, the fire of our spirit, the beating electricity of heart and mind. Blood is the water which cools the engines, it is the fuel which that fire burns. By giving blood, we may save a life. Yet blood is taboo as well. We are supposed to fear the blood, supposed to turn away and pretend it isn’t there.
When I was young, I would fear hurting myself, even scraping a knee. I associated blood with pain, with injury, with weakness. As I got older, I think I held onto those beliefs. When I was in high school, I would cut myself, for what reason, I’m not entirely sure. A cry for help, perhaps. I wanted to feel something tangible. To focus on the pain, and allow it to bring me back into the moment. I did it because I felt bad for myself. I pitied myself. I felt weak, and injured. I felt pain, but all on the inside. I wanted to experience it on the outside, to take my mind away from that internal suffering. And besides that, I wanted others to pity me as well, to feel my pain from a distance, and understand that all was not well. I cut myself for many reasons, but it was never a good thing.
But there was something about it, something about the blood, gently rising from the surface, something seductive and destructive. Something sexy and wrong about it, that I feel I began to crave, in a way. But whenever I would see those tell-tale silver lines on the arm or leg of someone I knew – someone I loved – it would fill me with the sympathy I think I wished others would have felt toward me. I do not know their inner pain, but I felt like I knew their outer pain.
Once, I tried to talk about it, when I was still young, with someone older who I’d noticed these scars on. She didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t really understand, but I dropped it. She and I never really talked after that.
In college, I stopped hurting myself, because I began to work through the inner pain, and I no longer felt that I needed to cause myself outer pain. For a while, I felt ashamed of what I had done. I’ve never really talked about any of this, let alone sat down to think about it for more than a few seconds. I don’t feel ashamed anymore, and I don’t feel the need to do it out of grief or pity, I don’t feel it as a cry for help anymore; but that craving is still there.
Though I don’t exactly remember when it started, I do remember the first time I cut myself out of reverence. Just a tiny nick on my left index finger. That’s what it’s always been since then. Nothing big, nothing visible, just enough to give of my blood to whatever it is I was doing. It is magical, you see, the vital force of the self, of the body, the water from the rock, the fuel for the fire.
The first time was during the Headless Rite, my first attempt at it. I reached out to a goddess, and introduced myself, I asked to be initiated in her mysteries, and I gave as an offering a strip of paper with the Voces Magicae written upon it, covered in my blood, which was spilled during that ceremony. A mentor at the time showed me how to do it, to pinch the end of your finger, and hit it fast, rather than slicing the palm, because it works all the same, it’s less painful, it’s much easier to cut skin that’s tighter, and it’s significantly less dangerous. I was nervous, and I remember, when it got to the point in the ceremony where I was supposed to do it, I felt scared – perhaps about the pain – and I almost chickened out. I said “Maybe I could just use the words on the paper for an offering,” and that mentor said something like “You’ve already made the commitment, don’t back out now.” Which was something I took to heart. Less about the blood or the pain, but honoring that commitment. Standing true to my words, and being honest, being dependable.
I don’t do it often, but often I want to. After that one time, every time I’ve done it has been in reverence and veneration of my self, of my own spirit, in strengthening my own work, partially because I’ve heard blood is a powerful thing, and can be a tasty treat to entities like gods, who are sustained by powerful energy. They may begin to crave it too. Each time I’ve done it since that rite have all been at least in part to adorn and consecrate my handmade wand, or sigils I’ve constructed. I have some small scars on that finger now, but they’re so tiny they’re hardly noticeable. Nothing like the older ones, many of which have faded away, or are buried under tattoos now. Some of which will probably never heal all the way.
Now, as I’m writing this, sitting on my altar is a pure white candle, used for a full moon and a new moon ritual, which simply has my personal sigil carved into it, which is stained red with my blood.
Now, I don’t do it because I’m upset with myself, or because I want pity. I do it in secret, and because I like it. There is a subtle and invisible difference between pain and pleasure, only quantity can tell them apart, and even that is subjective. That boundary tends to shift and wiggle through time, changing based on how I feel, or what I’ve been doing, or how badly I want it.
Now, when I do it, I feel this particular way afterward, like I’m fragile, and like I don’t care what others think about it. That’s largely why I don’t tell people – most of the time I’ve brought it up, people don’t react well. But It feels good, in some strange way. It feels wrong, but it makes me feel… cozy. It’s a hard feeling to express in words, but it’s a good feeling. That feeling lasts a while, much longer than the apprehension of doing the cutting. It lasts for days, usually until the wound starts to heal up.
I want to make a distinction between self-harm, and self-injury. When I was hurting myself in high school, it was referred to as self-harm; by my counselor, my parents, my doctors, friends, whoever. And I think that word, “harm” carries very specific connotations. It’s harmful, it’s malefic, it’s bad. Self-Injury, however, does not carry those connotations. “Injury” is neutral. It doesn’t have the intention of harm or malice baked into it. It isn’t malefic. Maybe some people would disagree, but that’s how I see it.
I hesitate to say that this self-injury a good thing, because as I say, it still feels wrong in some way; taboo. And I think a lot of that is my own hangups from cultural indoctrination and social expectation – of being normal, or being healthy, or happy – but in the back of my head I also worry if I would take it too far. The pleasure of it is great, awe-inspiring, and intoxicating, but it’s also clearly a very serious action, and not one to be taken lightly. But, often, I still feel that want, and not even for any particularly magical reason, just a want. A selfish desire. A secret indulgence.
There is a paralysis that I sometimes experience with it. It throws me into this deep place of contradiction, of paradox. Simultaneously, I feel empowered, but I also feel small and fragile. I feel in control, and I also feel at the whim of something much bigger and much deeper than my mind. I feel lust, and fear. I feel the care and compassion of addressing a wound, but I also feel the Martial desire to cause that wound. It’s so strange, and I just kind of stagger backwards, and revel in amazement at the intricacy of these feelings.
One thing I’ve tried grappling with, and which I feel I should continue to work on, is developing a healthy relationship with my body, and with my vices. Some of them have gone too far, and need to be extricated from my life altogether: I don’t smoke tobacco anymore, and I’m proud of that, though I still occasionally crave it. I don’t smoke weed anymore, and I’m proud of that too, though I would be lying if I said I didn’t still wish I could have a healthy, balanced relationship with that sacred herb. Tobacco is sacred too, and perhaps one day when things are more under control, I could reintroduce one or both of those pleasures into my life, in a healthy, balanced way.
I don’t feel bad about cutting, though the word itself seems dirty to me sometimes. I talked with my sister about it today, about this, my feelings, and she sympathized. She’s been where I was too, back in high school, but she’s been there much more recently. I wish I could do something to help her, something more than I have the power to do: all I can do is give her a tarot reading, or some advice. But she means a lot to me, and I respect her opinions, and I also respect her wishes, I just hope she makes healthy choices.
I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a darkness about it. Not just the cutting, but the urge, the craving. Not so much about the act of it, but a darkness that hangs over me when I get like that – when I feel that want. It’s not a sadness, necessarily, but it is an emotionally in-tune-ness. It’s interesting, and I used to fear it, because it used to bring me down into depression and anxiety, it used to be paralyzing. Now, I feel like it’s inspiring, I feel like I can learn from it, and love it, because I also love its absence, the majority of the time when I feel happy or neutral, and I feel like I can do anything. The darkness is there because the world I live in is not an easy one, it’s there so I can appreciate the good in sight of the bad. Darkness exists to balance the light.
Blood is sacred in so many ways, and humans have known that for all of history. I hope I can do justice to these traditions of cultures I am not a part of, in bringing about my own sacred traditions, my own secret world of respect, of feeling the thin border between life and death, between the warmth and the cold. It’s complicated, but deep down it makes sense to me. I’m glad that I am where I am now with it.