“The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground!”
Whilst at uni I took as a project a study of King Saul and the Witch of Endor. This is the vague, shamanic gypsy of the Levant as found in ‘1 Samuel 28: 3-25′ not the hyperactive, shamanic Ewok of a certain galaxy far, far away in ‘Return of the Jedi’. Easily confused and highly amusing as one of only three jokes in Theological circles. The scene involves a ritual between the unstable King and a necromantic witch of the ilk whom Saul had been persecuting during his reign. In a dire situation, facing greater forces than his own, he petitions the witch to summon the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel to give him counsel. Now the finer points of the political scene of Israel and the character of Saul, though greatly interesting, isn’t worth going into here. What has intrigued me is that this offers the only insight into Judaic necromantic ritual in scripture. The central elements being, the witch, darkness, the spirits of the dead, a prophecy or foretelling from the dead and lastly a ritualistic meal featuring, blood.
You may ask, ‘What blood?’ Well consider the fatted calf in the house. In the time it takes her to make some flatbreads, she has also killed the calf and prepared a meal. It implies there was little to no draining of the blood or cooking of the beef as is usual in the ritual preparation of burnt offerings for religious use. However, we know that at the time the ‘pagan’ peoples of the region consumed blood, hence the strict laws in Judaism against it and the correct cooking of meats.
Bear with me while I elaborate further on blood in Hebraic scripture before I circle back to the point of this article. Consider the tainting of the earth by Cain’s slaughtering of his brother Abel in Genesis, quoted at the top of the article. The ground becomes cursed by the first murder. It breaks the land in the same way that Adam and Eve broke Eden, and sets in motion the series of events that lead to the flood. Now contemplate on Leviticus 17 which discussed at length:
” For it is the life of all flesh: the blood of it is for the life thereof. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, “Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh, for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof. Whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.”
My point is this, among the rich history of Ancient Hebraism there was a central belief that the spiritual ‘soul’ and the physical ‘blood’ were intrinsically connected. Now, see these beliefs belonging to a culture of people who existed next to the Ancient Mesopotamians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, etc. We know that there was a cultural sharing of beliefs and customs, because they are documented in the scripture itself, as being the customs which the Hebraic faith was vying against (see Josiah in 2 Kings 23) but also belief structures were incorporated as in the Atrahasis Epic and the Noah cycle. These neighbouring societies held similar ritualistic customs regarding sacrifice and flesh offerings. It is worth remembering at this point that each society had a pantheon of deities, all of which had different belief systems which, though they frequently overlapped, were very distinct.
I have spoken more than I intended on religious scripture. Though to justify my statements I feel I have barely spoken enough. This is a writers process:
- Point of interest (Passage in scripture)
- Deeper examination of P.O.I (study into the scripture and references to other scripture)
- Diverging elements (study of blood as vessel for spirit)
- Deeper examination of diverging elements ( cross checking with other cultures and ritualistic practices)
- Utilise information into key notes ( main themes of blood, spiritualism and magic)
- Portray in novel
In this process there is also the background checking to make sure no information is erroneous, and if it is then is it still of any use? Also points 3 and 4 can occur and reoccur and lead the author down an infinite path of background research.
These themes are centrally important to all my work. Blood. Soul. Magic.
In part two I shall explore how you get from Ancient Hebraism to folklore and fantasy fiction.