Blood Sacrifice

Althea Whitebirch

We have all moved through periods of crisis in our lives; things ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the death of someone close to us to final exams. Events which are extremely stressful-which threaten our lives, home, future or security-would seem t call for strong measures of assistance. There have been many times that I have felt that the course of events required swift and strong intervention of a deity. Blood sacrifice is, to my mind, one of the more powerful magics one could perform, and so seemed particularly suitable for this. But it's rather ethically sticky.

I may feel that the kind of energy contained in the outpouring of blood would be most efficacious in a serious situation, but I'm dead-set against the use of an unwilling victim for the purpose. So, in the past I've spilled my own blood with an athame, at the same time offering up prayers; it just didn't seem to work as well as I thought it would. Perhaps, I thought, one needs lots of blood to generate any appreciable amount of energy.

Then a friend suggested what seemed the perfect solution-blood donation! I'd been giving blood for several years and the thought just never had occurred to me before. So the next time I went in to donate, I approached it as ritual sacrifice for a particular purpose, and both the process and results seemed to be much improved. Since then I've gone to donate blood many times, each time with a prayer for healing for the recipient of my blood, and a request for aid from the deity that seemed most appropriate.

For those of you who've never donated blood before, I can provide a few details of the process. It's not very frightening, and it can be a very spiritually moving experience, I'll tell you! As well, remember that you don't sell blood (at least not in Puget Sound), you donates it. You can sell plasma-the straw-colored fluid that makes up the bulk of your blood-but not blood itself.

The first time you go in you'll fill out a medical questionnaire: the Puget Sound Blood Bank doesn't want your blood if you're ill right then (or just getting over something), taking certain medications, ever had hepatitis or malaria, or are in a high-risk category for contracting AIDS (Haitian, homosexual, needle-using drug user or prostitute). If you have any questions, they'll be happy to answer them.

After you fill out the questionnaire, they'll take your blood pressure and a blood sample (like sticking your finger with a pin) to test your hemocrit (% of hemoglobin) as well as determining what type your blood is. If your hemocrit count isn't high enough they'll send you home. Nowadays, all blood is sent to a lab to be tested for presence of AIDS anti-bodies as well; if you test positive they'll notify you by mail. You'll be asked if you've eaten in the last four hours, and if not, sent to the canteen for cookies and juice.

Then comes the fun part-you go lie down on a table where a phlebotomist (who draws the blood) asks you some questions, verifies your name, and then sets you up to donate. They tie a rubber hose around your arm, so the vein will stand out and be easy to find. They use cold liquid ethyl chloride on your arm, to numb it where the needle goes in. I won't say that it doesn't hurt when the needle is inserted-it does but it's tolerable-when it's in place though, you'll hardly know it's there. (You may get the idea from all this that I'm a stoic-hardly! I'm a wimp when it comes to pain, but this I can handle.) At this time they'll leave you there for up to five minutes while you clench and relax your hand (to keep the blood from clotting) and the blood flows into a little plastic bag. It's warm and red, and rather reassuring, really. At this time you can get into some really serious prayer, or hum a little healing chant for the person your blood's going to. (I once was doing this and got a flash image of a little boy, a burn victim. I always wondered who got my blood that day.) I wouldn't recommend getting too spaced-out though; remember you've got to be able to return to yourself when you want to, and the physical effects of giving blood can make some people light-headed or slightly woozy. When they ask you how you're feeling, be honest, not macho. You don't want to embarrass yourself by fainting.

Afterwards they'll ask you to have some juice and cookies. By all means, do! For one thing, you've earned them; for another it's important to replace the fluid and blood sugar you just gave up. Working magic really takes it out of you, too (at least it does me).

In my experience, there are several good reasons to use this particular method of blood sacrifice: a) It doesn't require the death of one of the Gods' children. b) It is giving of yourself-for the good of others as well as your own. c) It is safe-the Blood Bank uses sterile instruments and never re-uses needles, so you can't catch anything. d) You have the added benefit of being able to see the blood as it's being given (somehow that adds to my experience), and a pint is a lot more than I've ever been able to get with a knife! Next time you want to get the Gods' attention, try it!

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