From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid (technically a tissue) that is composed of a liquid called blood plasma and blood cells suspended within the plasma.
- A vital liquid flowing in the bodies of many types of animals that usually conveys nutrients and oxygen. In vertebrates, it is colored red by hemoglobin, is conveyed by arteries and veins, is pumped by the heart and is usually generated in bone marrow.
- A family relationship due to birth, such as that between siblings; contrasted with relationships due to marriage or adoption. (See blood relative, blood relation, by blood.)
Blood is one of the body fluids that has been used in art. In particular, the performances of Viennese Actionist Hermann Nitsch, Franko B, Lennie Lee, Ron Athey, Yang Zhichao and Kira O' Reilly along with the photography of Andres Serrano, have incorporated blood as a prominent visual element. Marc Quinn has made sculptures using frozen blood, including a cast of his own head made using his own blood. Blood is also the main leitmotiv in Maligno Art.
Blood is commonly associated with gore in motion pictures. Films with bloody scenes tend to receive a high rating by film licensing bodies, ranging from PG-13 to NC-17, depending on its depiction and its prominence. Blood in video games has led to video game censorship.
Cultural and religious beliefs
Due to its importance to life, blood is associated with a large number of beliefs. One of the most basic is the use of blood as a symbol for family relationships through birth/parentage; to be "related by blood" is to be related by ancestry or descendance, rather than marriage. This bears closely to bloodlines, and sayings such as "blood is thicker than water" and "bad blood", as well as "Blood brother". Blood is given particular emphasis in the Jewish and Christian religions because Leviticus 17:11 says "the life of a creature is in the blood." This phrase is part of the Levitical law forbidding the drinking of blood or eating meat with the blood still intact instead of being poured off.
Mythic references to blood can sometimes be connected to the life-giving nature of blood, seen in such events as childbirth, as contrasted with the blood of injury or death.
Indigenous AustraliansIn many indigenous Australian Aboriginal peoples' traditions, ochre (particularly red) and blood, both high in iron content and considered Maban, are applied to the bodies of dancers for ritual. As Lawlor states:
In many Aboriginal rituals and ceremonies, red ochre is rubbed all over the naked bodies of the dancers. In secret, sacred male ceremonies, blood extracted from the veins of the participant's arms is exchanged and rubbed on their bodies. Red ochre is used in similar ways in less-secret ceremonies. Blood is also used to fasten the feathers of birds onto people's bodies. Bird feathers contain a protein that is highly magnetically sensitive.
Lawlor comments that blood employed in this fashion is held by these peoples to attune the dancers to the invisible energetic realm of the Dreamtime. Lawlor then connects these invisible energetic realms and magnetic fields, because iron is magnetic.
Among the Germanic tribes (such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norsemen), blood was used during their sacrifices; the Blóts. The blood was considered to have the power of its originator, and, after the butchering, the blood was sprinkled on the walls, on the statues of the gods, and on the participants themselves. This act of sprinkling blood was called bleodsian in Old English, and the terminology was borrowed by the Roman Catholic Church becoming to bless and blessing. The Hittite word for blood, ishar was a cognate to words for "oath" and "bond", see Ishara. The Ancient Greeks believed that the blood of the gods, ichor, was a mineral that was poisonous to mortals.
In Judaism, blood cannot be consumed even in the smallest quantity (Leviticus 3:17 and elsewhere); this is reflected in Jewish dietary laws (Kashrut). Blood is purged from meat by salting and soaking in water.
Another ritual involving blood involves the covering of the blood of fowl and game after slaughtering (Leviticus 17:13); the reason given by the Torah is: "Because the life of the animal is [in] its blood" (ibid 17:14).
Also if a person of the orthodox Jewish faith suffers a violent death, religious laws order the collection of their blood for burial with them.
Some Christian churches, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Assyrian Church of the East teach that, when consecrated, the Eucharistic wine actually becomes the blood of Jesus. Thus in the consecrated wine, Jesus becomes spiritually and physically present. This teaching is rooted in the Last Supper, as written in the four gospels of the Bible, in which Jesus stated to his disciples that the bread that they ate was his body, and the wine was his blood. "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."
Various forms of Protestantism, especially those of a Wesleyan or Presbyterian lineage, teach that the wine is no more than a symbol of the blood of Christ, who is spiritually but not physically present. Lutheran theology teaches that the body and blood is present together "in, with, and under" the bread and wine of the Eucharistic feast.
Christ's blood is also seen as the means for atonement for sins for Christians.
At the Council of Jerusalem, the apostles prohibited Christians from consuming blood, probably because this was a command given to Noah (Genesis 9:4, see Noahide Law). This command continued to be observed by the Eastern Orthodox.
Consumption of food containing blood is forbidden by Islamic dietary laws. This is derived from the statement in the Qur'an, sura Al-Ma'ida (5:3): "Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah."
Blood is considered as unclean and in Islam cleanliness is part of the faith, hence there are specific methods to obtain physical and ritual status of cleanliness once bleeding has occurred. Specific rules and prohibitions apply to menstruation, postnatal bleeding and irregular vaginal bleeding.
Out of obedience to commands in the Bible, such as: "Keep abstaining...from blood."-Acts 15:28, 29, Jehovah's Witnesses do not partake in the consumption of blood or accept transfusions of whole blood or its four major components namely, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets (thrombocytes), and whole plasma. Members are instructed to personally decide whether or not to accept fractions and medical procedures that involve their own blood.
Chinese and Japanese culture
In Chinese popular culture, it is often said that, if a man's nose produces a small flow of blood, this signifies that he is experiencing sexual desire. This often appears in Chinese-language and Hong Kong films as well as in Japanese culture parodied in anime and manga. Characters, mostly males, will often be shown with a nosebleed if they have just seen someone nude or in little clothing, or if they have had an erotic thought or fantasy; this is based on the idea that a male's blood pressure will spike dramatically when aroused.
Various religious and other groups have been falsely accused of using human blood in rituals; such accusations are known as blood libel. The most common form of this is blood libel against Jews. Although there is no ritual involving human blood in Jewish law or custom, fabrications of this nature (often involving the murder of children) were widely used during the Middle Ages to justify Antisemitic persecution.
Vampires are mythical creatures that drink blood directly for sustenance, usually with a preference for human blood. Cultures all over the world have myths of this kind; for example the 'Nosferatu' legend, a human who achieves damnation and immortality by drinking the blood of others, originates from Eastern European folklore. Ticks, leeches, female mosquitoes, vampire bats, and an assortment of other natural creatures do drink blood, but only bats are associated with vampires. This has no relation to vampire bats, which are new world creatures discovered well after the origins of the European myths.
- Blood of the Beasts
- In Cold Blood
- Blood Simple
- Musk, Hashish and Blood
- Blood and Roses
- Blood of a Poet