Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blood Tells...What?

Today I want to talk about something close to my heart. Literally close to my heart.

"Blood. Take it or leave it? Your thoughts?"

*geeky snicker*

Okay, obviously it's take it, or cease to exist. What I wanted to discuss today is the importance of blood as a symbol. Not just in writing (and not just vampires and werewolves and MacBeth). 'Cause, face it, if it wasn't important in life, it wouldn't be in writing.

So, what is it that makes the liquid river of the body so essential to our psyche? I mean, it's mostly water (about 90% or so) with a little bit of proteins, glucose, minerals, hormones, and carbon dioxide. Oh, and don't forget those little blood cells themselves, two kinds: red and white. In those are micro puffs of oxygen.

It's vital, but so are so many other parts of our body. I mean we're not so sentimental about our lungs and yet if they weren't there we'd cease to exist. What about genes? We have a fondness for genes, yet when referencing heritage and lineage it's always the "blood line" we reference, not the "gene line"...

Ah, now we've hit the spot. Scientific evolution gives us an understanding of the blood's historical importance, and human sentimentality cements it.

Thousands of years ago no one knew about genetics. But they knew blood pumped through our body and allowed us to survive, and thrive. It was quite natural to claim blood was the source of lineage and the source of "being". So, resulto facto, blood became the symbol for life, spirit, and self.

Cannibals are a prime example. (Prime..haha, get it?) They don't eat for the purpose of answering their grumbling bellies. The eating of another is symbolic for them. Those that eat their kin or tribe members are doing so to continue the line of ancestors with them. Those that eat outsiders usually do so as a way to show dominance and seal them as the conqueror. Both acts boost the eater's power source in his/her and their tribe's minds.

Okay, cannibals aside, from this core belief of blood as our source of being, it was easy to develop a communication of feelings, emotions, and actions that tagged to blood. "She's cold-blooded", "he's out for blood vengeance", "blood tells". To show your bond you become "blood brothers/sisters" or sacrifice yourself by the letting of blood.

It was also easy for the world to create blood-focused monsters. Those creatures out to get your soul, and since blood equaled soul it got it by taking your blood. As a bonus, this helped society keep the masses in line and safe in those old days where beyond the village limits were dangerous and foreboding.

Vampires, zombies and werewolves, oh my!

Vampires use blood to more than feed and survive. By just sampling it, they manipulated and controlled that person. Signifying that blood somehow links to that person's soul and vitality. Zombies, once their bite hits your blood stream, you are no longer human. Your soul and humanity are stripped and you become nothing but a mindless cannibal. (Ahhh...see how I tied the earlier comment?) Once you were bitten by a werewolf you had to sacrifice your humanity on a monthly basis-- I'll take my monthly menstrual, thank you very much. By breaking that cardinal rule and venturing where you "weren't supposed to" you had to suffer the rest of your life with the consequences.

As society created these monsters to keep the moral compass of people and their soul intact, it was up to the writers and storytellers to keep the monsters alive, and to portray them and evolve them as the world evolved.

Now, at this point my SF roots are bubbling to the surface. How will the growing importance of genetics as the core of heredity and lineage impact that symbolism? You also have the industrial age and the expansion of electrical lighting, which have been slowly abating fears of the night. Not to mention, both the sexual revolution and equality movements have all but vanquished the purity angle.

Where does that leave the symbol of blood? Will that strong human sentimentality keep hold of it, or will it become obsolete as other, new symbols emerge? I just don't know. I'm not sentimental -- just ask my Hubby -- but there's something cool about blood as the main life force/energy.

What do you think?

Oh! Also, what is your favorite blood quote from a story? Mine is, and probably always will be, "Blood is life!" from Bram Stoker's Dracula.

(NOTE: Totally summarizing years of research and time lines from the pros here in this post...but unless we want this post to be thousands of words longs, it'll have to do.)


  1. Interesting stuff. I never knew that about cannibals. I always figured they were just in the mood for barbeque. * snirk *

  2. LOL! That is hilarious, Gail. When I read your comment I thought of Hannibal Lector and his tongue flick in Silence of the Lambs.

  3. Very interesting. I can remember as a child watching blood form a cut from a scab and then what happened beneath when the scab came off. This was before I ever heard of blood monsters such as vampires. As a child I thought it was a magical fascinating thing. I don't think it will become obsolete as a symbol because physically we are so attached to it. Even a young child knows it's a part of them.

  4. Very interesting. It was like reading the History Channel, only more interesting. So, I can still be a zombie right?

  5. No, I like JMO too much. You can be a pretend Bill Murray on Zombieland.

    (Is it sad that I DON'T find the History Channel boring?)

  6. I don't either, but your blog was even better than Bouncy Hair Man on Ancient Aliens.

  7. OMG! I love, love, love Bouncy Hair Man! Him and Professor Nasal Nose.

  8. I find the History Channel fascinating! I love the shows on mysteries of the world. Missing civilizations, unexplainable feats, the possibility of aliens... it's great!

  9. Interesting post, AR. I find the comments also intriguing. Now we get to the history and bouncy hair man-- love him too and Ancient Aliens. I've based ideas for stories on this series!

    Blood is our life force for sure. And I really enjoyed this post.

  10. @ Debra - I think you're right Debra (at least I hope you are). Blood is essential. I don't think the symbol will stay quite the same, but it will always have some meaning for humans.

    @Gail - They have all kinds of History Channel shows up on Netflix right's like a nerd fest at my house every weekend.

    @Kaye - Ancient Aliens is a great jumping off point for resources, sites, and "SF" assumptions. It really gets the creative juices going.

    Thank you all for stopping by!!