Thursday, August 6, 2009

Before Rod Ferrell...

CRwM of And Now the Screaming Starts, has uncovered an article from the January 27, 1890 edition of the Brooklyn Eagle that reports on an obscure religious sect that believed in the curative properties of consuming human blood.

Here's an extract from the reproduced article:
About a year ago there appeared among the people of that neighborhood a man named Silas Wilcox, who went about the country preaching the doctrine of doing good for the sick. It was not long until he had a sufficient number of converts to his theories to warrant him in founding a sect, which he called the Samaritans. Gradually he widened his teachings to his little band until he openly advocated the drinking of blood for all diseases, giving as authority for such action the fact that the Bible taught that the blood was the life.
This notion was clearly based on a highly distorted reading of Biblical admonitions against consuming blood. Take Deuteronomy 12:23:
Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood [is] the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.
And Leviticus 17:10-14:
And whatsoever man [there be] of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.
Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.
And whatsoever man [there be] of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.
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.
Vampire enthusiasts may recognise "The blood is the life" from its appearance in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). It is uttered by Renfield:
Before he could strike again, however, I got in my right hand and he was sprawling on his back on the floor. My wrist bled freely, and quite a little pool trickled on to the carpet. I saw that my friend was not intent on further effort, and occupied myself binding up my wrist, keeping a wary eye on the prostrate figure all the time. When the attendants rushed in, and we turned our attention to him, his employment positively sickened me. He was lying on his belly on the floor licking up, like a dog, the blood which had fallen from my wounded wrist. He was easily secured, and to my surprise, went with the attendants quite placidly, simply repeating over and over again, "The blood is the life! The blood is the life!"
F. Marion Crawford also borrowed the title for his 1911 short story, "For the Blood Is the Life" and it also manifests in Leonard G. Heldreth and Mary Pharr's non-fiction anthology, The Blood Is the Life: Vampires in Literature (1999).

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