Written by Dyami Millarson
The paleopagans from Eurasia, such as the Mari, the Ostyaks and the Germanic peoples to name a few, have traditionally in common that they bring blood sacrifices to the Gods. Why do they do so? Why is blood traditionally considered such an all-important gift to the Gods? What are the implications of the fact that the paleopagans of Eurasia offer blood sacrifices to the Gods? What ultimately motivates pagan traditionalists, across time and space, to consider blood sacrifice an appropriate gift to the Gods? I will attempt to provide an answer to these questions in this article; I believe the answer which I will provide is going to be relatively simple and straightforward as an analytic reference to modern lore helps us understand the Gods, and the timeless motivation for the traditional practice of blood sacrifice, which is called blót in Old Norse and blōt in Anglo-Saxon.
We may look for an explanation by analysing the Gods as vampires; for we know from the lore about vampires that they need blood. The term vampire may be new, but the concept itself is as old as time; while the words we use may change over the centuries and may vary accross cultures, the concept of a being that drinks blood is really nothing new under the sun. So vampire is already a very old concept. Since we are focused on Eurasian paleopaganism in this article, it ought to be mentioned that blood-drinking creatures feature not only in European lore, but also Asian lore. Therefore, I would argue that the term vampire represents a concept that transcends time and space, and I propose that the concepts of vampire and Deity may be of equal antiquity; given that the Gods are vampires since ancient times, the ancient word for vampire is basically God.
The Gods, whom the paleopagans of Eurasia traditionally worship, become reinvigorated with blood chiefly, and therefore blood sacrifice is necessary according to the various pagan traditions of Eurasia. While vampires are closely associated with blood-drinking, they are also closely associated with the undead and longevity. Vampires live unnaturally long lives. The Gods likewise exhibit traits which we typically associate with vampires, such as being connected with the undead, living very long lives, and the fact that the Gods apparently drink blood as that is what sacrificers give them to consume. The motif of the blood-drinking Gods is, according to my analysis, an inescapable fact of paleopagan blood sacrifice. Man’s fascination with blood is ancient, and likewise is his habit of eating meat ancient; blood sacrifice suggests that both this old fascination and this old habit bring him closer to the Divine. The sacrificial relationship between men who eat meat and Gods who drink blood is neither a match made in Heaven nor on Earth nor in Hell; for the relationship between the human carnivores and the Divine Vampires is a match from the beginning of time. Blood sacrifice, which magically binds men and Gods, is consequently the primordial link between Earth, Heaven and the Underworld, which are called Jörð, Himinn and Hel in Old Norse.
We may say in Dutch: “De levenskracht van een wezen zit in het bloed.” (The life force of an organism resides in the blood.) Therefore, when one consumes blood, one consumes the life force or spiritual essence of another being; by drinking the blood of a being, the soul-energy of one being is transferred to another. We have a saying in Dutch: “Ik kan je bloed wel drinken.” (I can drink your blood.) This is a way of saying you really feel wronged by someone, and therefore you wish to exact revenge by consuming their life energy. One who sucks blood is called bloedzuiger bloodsucker in Dutch, of which the Shire Frisian equivalent is bloedsûger, the German equivalent is Blutsauger and the Latin equivalent is sanguisūga. This is usually understood as a leech, an insect that drinks blood, but it may also be applied to persons: “Hij is een bloedzuiger.” (He is a bloodsucker.) This is said of a person who drains your energy or takes something valuable from you. Bloedzuiger, bloedsûger, Blutsauger and sanguisūga are concepts that may be used to describe a vampire. Synonyms in Latin are strīx and strīga.
Giving a scientific Latin name to the phenomenon of the Gods having vampiric traits, one may say the Old Gods are Vampȳrī Diī Vampire-Deities or Vampȳricī Diī Vampiric Deities — the plural of Deus God, by the way, may be Deī, Dīī or Dī in Latin, so feel free to exchange Diī with any of the other plural forms. Regarding the term Vampȳrī Diī, please note that I used two nouns in the same grammatical case just like one may do for rendering philosopher-king and mother Earth in Latin: philosophus rēx and Terra māter. Another appropriate Latin term for the phenomenon of blood-drinking Gods may be Sanguisūgae Diī Vampire-Gods or if one wishes to coin a verb based on sanguisūga, one may say Sanguisūgantēs Diī Blood-Drinking Gods. The latter may be compared with homo necans killing man, which is a concept put forth in an eponymous book by Walter Burkert. After all, the Sanguisūgantēs Diī are just the other side of a two-sided relationship which homo necans has: man is the killer who eats meat and feeds blood to the Divine Powers and expects a favour in return for doing such a favour to the Divine Powers, which he knows are vampiric. The Gods thus play an essential role in man’s thirst for blood and hunger for meat; the Gods expect blood because They want to drink, humans likewise expect favours and also want to eat. Man, while he kills animals for food, therefore understands that the Gods want Their share; he gives to the Gods what belongs to the Gods — for the record, giving everybody their fair share is authentically pagan — and thereby he creates a strong social bond with the Gods.
The paleopagan relationship between mankind and Godkind is based around the social contract that man will give blood and Gods will give favours in return. Based on the existence of such a contract between hominēs necantēs men who kill and Diī Sanguisūgantēs Gods who drink blood, we have to assume that men and Gods are interdependent and complementary, i.e. men and Gods have a symbiotic relationship. After all, like men crave meat, Gods crave blood; men and the Gods are a match made in nature, while both components they need are conveniently derived from the same source, namely living organisms, which they can, then, divide fairly. The Gods fulfill hopes and wishes for mankind, which mankind can otherwise not achieve; men for their part give the life force of creatures to the Gods so that their power and longevity increases. Mankind plays an active role in the increasing power and longevity of the Gods; a similar theme may be seen in stories where humans befriend vampires, become accomplices in the lifestyle of the vampires, and thus help the vampires on their heroic — though morally ambivalent — journey, increasing their power and pethaps even positively influencing their longevity.
Vampires are considered magical beings; for they are capable of supernatural things. The close association between vampire and magician may, for instance, be observed in the Latin concept of strīx, which may mean witch or vampire. In the traditional pagan worldview, the Gods are capable of granting the wishes of their worshippers precisely because They are Sorcerer-Vampires, i.e. blood-drinking beings endowed with magical or supernatural powers. Vanpires are not only beings of otherworldly magic, but also of wrath and revenge and all that these powerful human qualities entail. Not unlike what the Dutch saying “ik kan je bloed wel drinken” implies, there is an element of wrath and revenge in blood sacrifice; it is a way of bringing about justice and order.
While the vampire is the symbol of wrath, revenge, death, and the resulting sense of justice and order, Othin derives His power from His fury as He is the very embodiment of wrath, He is connected with the undead called the Einhęrjar and in this role, He is known as the Father of the Slain, and we must also not forget He is the father of revenge, namely in the form of His sons called Váli and Víðarr who shall avenge Baldr, Othin’s son, and Othin Himself respectively at the end of time; Othin may consequently be analysed as the Vampire-God par excellence, whilst He embodies very typical symbolic traits of vampires, and having gained this insight, we may analyse the All-Father, the Rēx Deōrum King of the Gods, as the Lord of Vampire-Gods. Wrath, revenge, death, which are traditionally expected to result in justice and order, are ritualised in the form of blood sacrifice, which is called blót in Old Norse and blōt in Anglo-Saxon. The blót/blōt-accepting Gods are therefore associated with wrath, revenge, death, justice and order. The blood-sacrificing relationship with the Gods is thus about maintaining the order of the universe, and thereby maintaining order in human society, lest it descend into total chaos and depravity.
In conclusion, the Eurasians, including the Germanic peoples, traditionally worship Divine Sorcerer-Vampires or Sorcerer-Vampire-Gods, and therefore they naturally turn to offering blood to the Divine. During sacrificial rites, they are transferring to the Gods what we call libbenskrêft in Shire Frisian, levenskracht in Dutch and Lebenskraft in German and in return for this magnificent favour, they expect the fulfillment of their wishes. The Germanic blót/blōt is, not unlike its other Eurasian counterparts, a traditionally bloody affair; it is a natural exchange between Vampire-Gods and men. Gift-giving is a Germanic tradition for building friendship, as suggested by Othin in stanza 42 of Havamal in the Elder Edda, and what more appropriate gift is there than to give blood to a Divine Being that drinks blood? Will man not wish to give blood to a Divine Being when he knows that the Divine Being with superhuman and magical powers is a vampire and that the aforementioned Being can fulfill man’s most intimate desires? Since paleopagans know the Gods intimately, they give gifts which are appropriate for the Gods; it is implicitly assumed that the Gods consume blood, and the paleopagans do not need to call their Gods vampires in order to know this, but we may use that concept in order to analyse what is going on and understand why blood is required for the proper worship of the Forn Goð Ancient Gods.