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Blood & Symbolism
Early cultures considered blood to carry our vital energy. To realize how people and animals slowly lost their life while haemorrhaging made ancient folk believe blood to be the primary substance. Looking at old Greek or Germanic mythology, man is supposed to have been created from the blood of gods. Even the Old Testament says that man is made of flesh and blood. It is a special matter, obviously.
Blood stands for passion, war, life force, secret to the genesis of life in general, sexuality, fertility, emotions of various kinds, death, bonds of a family (â€œblood is thicker than waterâ€)â€¦
In ancient times, blood was used in rites of sacrifice â€“ as part of a religion, e.g. animal sacrifices were practised to appease the gods or to influence the course of nature. Human sacrifices also took place, for instance in the old civilizations in Mesoamerica, like the Aztec culture, mostly within religious rituals.
According to Christian belief, the idea of atonement and union via blood is of central importance. It is the blood of Jesus who shed it to deliver all mankind from their sins. During Holy Communion â€“ symbolically â€“ Jesusâ€™ blood is drunk as a sign of renewal of the bond between God and humankind, the (quite bloody) sacrifice of Jesus made this possible. The Eucharistic wine actually becomes the blood of Jesus, making him present during mass physically and spiritually, based on the rites of the last supper â€œThis cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for youâ€.
In contrast to that â€“ within Judaism, even consuming the smallest measure of blood is forbidden, as blood is regarded to be a sacred element, a divine element, and has to be returned to God, not consumed. Its importance can also be found in Exodus, as it repels â€“ being smeared on doorposts â€“ the angels of death.
Itâ€™s dark red colour has also become a symbol of its own, also for lust, beauty, anger, sin, bloodshed, pain, guilt, and more. But also for courage and sacrifice. Red is a colour to be found in many flags today, often symbolising the blood, courage and blood of those who defended their country, and marking the Communist ideology. In Nathaniel Hawthorneâ€™s Scarlet Letter, it symbolises the sin of adultery, in Stephen Craneâ€™s Red Badge of Courage a Civil War soldier learns the significance of courage.
In Supernatural â€“ should we say it? â€“ blood has been of major importance. And somehow, I thought, perhaps the writers might not have been entirely sure where to go with it. We were informed by Ruby that Sam â€œdidnâ€™t need the feather to flyâ€, but later he had to ingest a huge amount of demon blood to be able to contain Lucifer (and Dean, standing by his brother, helped him get it â€“ thus the blood, also, became some kind of perhaps twisted tool for the brothers for having each othersâ€™ backs again).
We have seen him use his powers in Nightmare like a punch, in a moment of despair when he experienced the vision of Max shooting Dean. The phenomenon of psychokinesis or telekinesis has been reported to appear during moments of high emotional stress, according to parapsychological research, the so-called â€œspontaneous psychokinesisâ€, denoting the sudden movement of objects without deliberate intention. Scientists believe those to be effects of a process in the subconscious. For Sam, clearly, it was the fear of losing his brother. His visions, surely preparing in his subconscious mind, striking out to his conscious thoughts and manifesting fully with emotions.
At that stage, Sam had already experienced an evolution of his abilities â€“ from dreams to nightmares to visions while he was awake. But he had also seen what someone like Maxâ€™ brother could do with it, honing his powers to manipulate others. For Sam that was not an option. It might well be that he was afraid that he could actually become evil like Maxâ€™ brother (and for that reason, among others, didnâ€™t even think of training), as he was certain that every person, everyone, was capable of murder.
After Azazelâ€™s demise these powers were gone. So Sam thought until Ruby informed him they were only dormant, waiting to be explored. At that point, Sam was not ready to listen to Ruby, she had to wait until he was desperate enough. That Sam had waited too long with that (and thus was not able to save Dean) must have spurred his guilt and drove him right into the arms of Ruby, once she had proved to him that she could be trusted (and she could â€“ she saved his life, taught him with patience and skill, gave him support in a way Dean would have and a twisted sort of love, even. She could be trusted because she wanted to reach her goal and would have never done anything to jeopardise that. Her goal, though, was not of the trustworthy kind.)
Perhaps it had not taken much to convince him of the need for blood â€“ knowing that he had once had abilities, he was led to believe that demon blood would help him get stronger (and fast). After getting it right for the first time, he was easily hooked â€“ because, letâ€™s not forget, he was in a state of mind he would have done anything to get revenge.
Perhaps, had Sam began to train on his own, he might have discovered of what he was capable. But the thought had not even occurred to him.
He became some kind of vampire, depending on the blood Ruby offered him, drinking it â€“ mostly â€“ directly from her veins (surely with a sexual connotation), sometimes from a bottle (that probably used to contain holy water). When we look at the myth of vampires we see outsiders (and they have been considered metaphors for people living outside of society), monstrosities. The greatest â€œmonsterâ€, though, is the one you can sympathise with. You know why they are what they are and you understand them, although they do horrific things.
As most of you may know, vampires are those creatures of myth and folklore that survive by feeding on the life force of the living, mostly on blood. It seems that people of all ages believed in creatures of this kind, but the idea of the vampire, as it has been popularized by Bram Stoker and his successors is rooted in the legends of the Balkans. However, in ancient times, the term or the idea of the vampire, as we know it today, was a different one. Drinking of blood was attributed to demons, sometimes the devil. For instance the Hebrew Lilith, ancient Greek Lamia, in any case a creature of power who was gaining more of it by drinking blood, the life essence itself. According to the Kabbalah, the angel Samael merged with Lilith (who was considered to be one of four demonic queens). Apart from her, Samael is believed to have mated with various female demons, known as succubi.
We find several of these elements embedded in Samâ€™s story and his â€˜vampiricâ€™ self, well, the one depending on blood â€“ or believing to depend on blood. Demon blood. He was ready to take Rubyâ€™s bait and succumbed to it. Although he had decided to never go there again, he learned that he had to drink quite the amount of demon blood to be able to contain Lucifer. To be able to fight him, eventually.
Many have been irritated by this fact and Samâ€™s choice, and â€“ in defence of the younger Winchester â€“ Iâ€™d like to offer one of many thoughts (though I have done so various times before in other articles) and link this to the idea of purity and its connection to blood as depicted in the Bible, particularly in Revelation and Leviticus. Clean and unclean are important factors there â€“ God/clean, Satan The Deceiver/unclean. Apostles, false apostles. Angels. Demons.
Blood is a powerful symbol in Revelations. Among other metaphors, it also serves as a symbol of Christâ€™s death, as â€œthe blood of the lambâ€. Christâ€™s blood is efficacious for redemption and freedom from sin, thereby being a metaphor for gaining purity. Purity derives from what the Lamb has done â€“ His sacrifice. Washing their clothes in blood people become clean, purified.
In ancient Christian or Jewish tradition blood itself is neither positive or negative, its meaning depends on who touches it and how it is utilized. In Leviticus it is said â€œthe life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have assigned it for you upon the altar to effect purgation for your lives, for it is the blood that effects purgationâ€. Blood being the only element powerful enough to effect purification, as interpreted by theologists.
Lifting the curse
In the wake of this thought â€“ Sam drank the blood to conquer Satan, thus perform a purifying act. He was ready to sacrifice himself in the process (and did), to even risk becoming evil (since he didnâ€™t know what that amount of blood would do to him).
The curse of the demon blood in his body, the one Sam could take out of his system, the one linked to the destiny intended for him became Samâ€™s sword to fight Lucifer. Sam, believing in destiny (or, well, believing) at first and for a long time, then rising up against the prospect, made one important decision in the end â€“ he would lift the curse holding him prisoner by embracing it and using it for the greater good. Again. For months he had done nothing but.
Samâ€™s thoughts changed in the end. From the notion to be the â€œleast of each of youâ€ to the security of knowing that he would do anything to save his brother and the planet for that matter. The power of situation is capable of transforming people and make them do seemingly bad deeds, even if they are essentially good. I think, because Sam at his core is a good, honourable soul, he didnâ€™t become a victim of evil in the sense of becoming evil himself.
It was his decision. He could have blamed it on the blood alone, thus detaching himself from his deeds, but he didnâ€™t do that. Sam took full responsibility. He made the decisions. He paid for them. I canâ€™t imagine the amount of courage that takes. The blood had been a tool to achieve what he hoped to be right, but essentially â€“ apart from all the other symbolic contents blood owns â€“ the demon blood represented Samâ€™s doubts, anger and downfall and his redemption, his decision to sacrifice himself. The unclean purified. The family bond strengthened again (even in death). What more could we ask?