Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blood taboo, the Serpent and the Shroud: Folklore of revulsion

One of the most popular motifs of occult folklore is blood. Traditionally, blood is a symbol of purity and fertility. In some ceremonies, water is substituted for blood but the idea of blood and the chalice is a paramount occult teaching. Anybody who has read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ recognizes the importance of blood in esotericism. Although a pop culture phenomenon, which, incidentally makes most occultists howl in disgust, the idea of Sang Real or ‘Holy Grail’ as the womb of Mary Magdalene is a much older initiatory teaching. The holy bloodline of Christ is an oral narrative has been passed down in the recesses of secret society membership for hundreds of years. Tarot symbolism also preserves this secret and anybody who has studied the cards knows of the importance of the suit of cups and its relation to blood.

Moreover, the etymology of blood is ripe with esoteric connotations. According to Judy Brahn, “Old English forms related to blod, ‘blood’ are blowan, blew and blown, meaning ‘to bloom, to blossom.’  In French, fleur means ‘flow’, and fleurs, ‘flowers’.” (Judy Brahn. Blood, Bread, and Roses: How menstruation Created The World. Boston. Beacon Press. 1993)  And therein lays one of the mysteries of the original Rosicrucians. The red rose is much more than a flower. It is the flowing of sacred blood. It is blooming and the vessel that  carries the godhead into this world.

Red hair was also a symbol of blood. The Malleus Malifacarum asserted that red hair was a sign of a witch. Again, this superstition dates back to the taboo associated with menstruation. Menstrual blood is considered polluting or toxic. As Ambrose Pare remarked, “a child conceived during the menstrual flow takes his nourishment and growth…from blood that is contaminated, dirty, and corrupt”. (On Monsters and Marvels- Translated by Janis L. Pallister. Chicago. University of Chicago. 1983)

Poisonous blood also leads to the metaphor of snakes or ‘serpent’. We all know the theological importance of the serpent in the Bible. And we’ve all seen the auroboros image and are familiar with Medusa in Greek myth. But how often do we ask ourselves what these symbols mean? It’s strange to relate snakes and blood with Time but it’s probably the most appropriate meaning of the representation.  Janis L. Pallister reiterated the idea when she stated, “Indeed, we have seen that association between feminine blood and snakes implies cyclic renovation on the model of moon revolutions.” (Archaeology of Intangible Heritage. Chicago. Univ. of Chicago Press. 198

Perception of the occult is one of filth and revulsion. The reason why is because many of its tenets are misconstrued as perversions of traditional Christian ethos. For example, the mirroring of sacrificial and menstrual blood is something the occult has been teaching for centuries. Modern Christianity- especially Evangelical denominations- consider this concept absolutely horrifying. It is more than repugnant; it is blasphemous.  But the folklore behind such thought is very spiritual. When Even partook of the red fruit, the apple of folklore, menstrual blood and thus Original Sin was introduced into creation.  Christ’s redemption of this curse is with the spilling of sacrificial blood. When Jesus chooses to sacrifice his holy blood he chooses menstrual blood as a vehicle for redemption. As Colledge and Walsh remark, “the incarnate godhead redeems humankind by opposing the blood of Mary to that of Eve, and sacrificial bloodshed to menstrual bleeding” (200- Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, ed. Julian of Norwich: Showings. New York 1978. Paulist Press. ). For somebody who doesn’t understand that Eve’s folly and Mary’s purity are mirror-image archetypes, the idea that Christ chose Eve’s polluting blood is at best contradictory, and at worst heretical. Occultists don’t shy away from this idea. Those that use menstrual blood in their Eucharist cakes or in other forms of ritualization know that ingesting menstrual blood has bewitching properties. Groups like Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian Order consider menstrual blood as essential aspect of the ritual because they know that in its pollution is purity

The serpent is also a symbol for renewal. It seems counterintuitive due to the nature of the serpent and its role in Biblical narratives. Nevertheless, the serpent shares themes of re-vitalization as well. In its propensity for cyclic renovation, it is the perfect candidate for renewal. The serpent’s position as something Trickster or evil is also part of what Occultists call the veil. It is the veil that separates Man from his spiritual evolution. It is like a cataract that covers the inner eye and keeps us blind to the daimonic world around us. The veil must be sloughed like snake skin. Often times, this shedding of the past is celebrated ceremonially. For example, Francisco Vaz Da Silva has studied the House of Shrouds in Iberian folklore. He found that when somebody who was deathly ill made a miraculous recovery, they would embark on a pilgrimage to the “Casa des Montalhas”.  He states that “over centuries, those past hope who were healed would make a point of travelling to the healing sanctuary wearing a shroud or carried in a coffin. The main idea underlying this custom is that people given up as dead had come back to life and so would take off the death garb at the sanctuary in token of resurrection” (152- Francisco Vaz Da Silva. Archaeology of Intangible Heritage. New York. Peter Lang Publishing. 2008). This sloughing of the shroud is the equivalent of the shedding of serpent’s skin and symbolic of  renewal as personified in Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, the “Shroud of Turin”-long famous as a holy relic and artifact of resurrection, can be considered a form of snakeskin. For many, equating Jesus Christ with the serpent is the vilest heresy but if we ignore traditional orthodoxy in favor of esoteric ism and folklore of renewal, we have a very profound message. If we but open our minds to the possibility, then that solemn image embedded in the fabric of the cloth really is proof that Jesus slipped the veil and became re-embodied in the spirit. In this sense, the shroud is not proof of death but of life. And when we look upon the image, we bear witness to the Dying God mythology. As Jesus undergoes the trials and tribulations of the sloughing of his former existence, he is in a liminal state betwixt and between ontological statuses. His being is moving from potentiality to actuality and in doing so, becoming something new. 

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