Chapter XII

Of the Bloody Sacrifice: and Matters Cognate.

It is necessary for us to consider carefully the problems connected with the bloody sacrifice, for this question is indeed traditionally important in Magick. Nigh all ancient Magick revolves around this matter. In particular all the Osirian religions — the rites of the Dying God — refer to this. The slaying of Osiris and Adonis; the mutilation of Attis; the cults of Mexico and Peru; the story of Hercules or Melcarth; the legends of Dionysus and of Mithra, are all connected with this one idea. In the Hebrew religion we find the same thing inculcated. The first ethical lesson in the Bible is that the only sacrifice pleasing to the Lord is the sacrifice of blood; Abel, who made this, finding favour with the Lord, while Cain, who offered cabbages, was rather naturally considered a cheap sport. The idea recurs again and again. We have the sacrifice of the Passover, following on the story of Abraham's being commanded to sacrifice his firstborn son, with the idea of the substitution of animal for human life. The annual ceremony of the two goats carries out this in perpetuity. And we see again the domination of this idea in the romance of Esther, where Haman and Mordecai are the two goats or gods; and ultimately in the presentation of the rite of Purim in Palestine, where Jesus and Barabbas happened to be the Goats in that particular year of which we hear so much, without agreement on the date.

This subject must be studied in the Golden Bough, where it is most learnedly set forth by Dr. J. G. Frazer.

Enough has now been said to show that the bloody sacrifice has from time immemorial been the most considered part of Magick. The ethics of the thing appear to have concerned no one; nor, to tell the truth, need they do so. As St. Paul says, "Without shedding of blood there is no remission"; and who are we to argue with St. Paul? But, after all that, it is open to any one to have any opinion that he likes upon the subject, or any other subject, thank God! At the same time, it is most necessary to study the business, whatever we may be going to do about it; for our ethics themselves will naturally depend upon our theory of the universe. If we were quite certain, for example, that everybody went to heaven when he died, there could be no serious objection to murder or suicide, as it is generally conceded — by those who know neither — that earth is not such a pleasant place as heaven.

However, there is a mystery concealed in this theory of the bloody sacrifice which is of great importance to the student, and we therefore make no further apology, We should not have made even this apology for an apology, had it not been for the solicitude of a pious young friend of great austerity of character who insisted that the part of this chapter which now follows — the part which was originally written — might cause us to be misunderstood. This must not be.

The blood is the life. This simple statement is explained by the Hindus[1] by saying that the blood is the principal vehicle of vital Prana.[2] There is some ground for the belief that there is a definite substance,[3] not isolated as yet, whose presence makes all the difference between live and dead matter. We pass by with deserved contempt the pseudo-scientific experiments of American charlatans who claim to have established that weight is lost at the moment of death, and the unsupported statements of alleged clairvoyants that they have seen the soul issuing like a vapour from the mouth of persons in articulo mortis; but his experiences as an explorer have convinced the Master Therion that meat loses a notable portion of its nutritive value within a very few minutes after the death of the animal, and that this loss proceeds with ever-diminishing rapidity as time goes on. It is further generally conceded that live food, such as oysters, is the most rapidly assimilable and most concentrated form of energy.[4] Laboratory experiments in food-values seem to be almost worthless, for reasons which we cannot here enter into; the general testimony of mankind appears a safer guide.

It would be unwise to condemn as irrational the practice of those savages who tear the heart and liver from an adversary, and devour them while yet warm. In any case it was the theory of the ancient Magicians, that any living being is a storehouse of energy varying in quantity according to the size and health of the animal, and in quality according to its mental and moral character. At the death of the animal this energy is liberated suddenly.

The animal should therefore be killed[5] within the Circle, or the Triangle, as the case may be, so that its energy cannot escape. An animal should be selected whose nature accords with that of the ceremony — thus, by sacrificing a female lamb one would not obtain any appreciate quantity of the fierce energy useful to a Magician who was invoking Mars. In such a case a ram[6] would be more suitable. And this ram should be virgin — the whole potential of its original total energy should not have been diminished in any way.[7] For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence[8] is the most satisfactory and suitable victim.

For evocations it would be more convenient to place the blood of the victim in the Triangle — the idea being that the spirit might obtain from the blood this subtle but physical substance which was the quintessence of its life in such a manner as to enable it to take on a visible and tangible shape.[9]

Those magicians who object to the use of blood have endeavored to replace it with incense. For such a purpose the incense of Abramelin may be burnt in large quantities. Dittany of Crete is also a valuable medium. Both these incenses are very catholic in their nature, and suitable for almost any materialization.

But the bloody sacrifice, though more dangerous, is more efficacious; and for nearly all purposes human sacrifice is the best. The truly great Magician will be able to use his own blood, or possibly that of a disciple, and that without sacrificing the physical life irrevocably.[10] An example of this sacrifice is given in Chapter 44[11] of Liber 333. This Mass may be recommended generally for daily practice.

One last word on this subject. There is a Magical operation of maximum importance: the Initiation of a New Aeon. When it becomes necessary to utter a Word, the whole Planet must be bathed in blood. Before man is ready to accept the Law of Thelema, the Great War must be fought. This Bloody Sacrifice is the critical point of the World-Ceremony of the Proclamation of Horus, the Crowned and conquering Child, as Lord of the Aeon.[12]

This whole matter is prophesied in The Book of the Law itself; let the student take note, and enter the ranks of the Host of the Sun.


There is another sacrifice with regard to which the Adepts have always maintained the most profound secrecy. It is the supreme mystery of practical Magick. Its name is the Formula of the Rosy Cross. In this case the victim is always — in a certain sense — the Magician himself, and the sacrifice must coincide with the utterance of the most sublime and secret name of the God whom he wishes to invoke.

Properly performed, it never fails of its effect. But it is difficult for the beginner to do it satisfactorily, because it is a great effort for the mind to remain concentrated upon the purpose of the ceremony. The overcoming of this difficulty lends most powerful aid to the Magician.

It is unwise for him to attempt it until he has received regular initiation in the true[13] Order of the Rosy Cross, and he must have taken the vows with the fullest comprehension and experience of their meaning. It is also extremely desirable that he should have attained an absolute degree of moral emancipation,[14] and that purity of spirit which results from a perfect understanding both of the differences and harmonies of the planes upon the Tree of Life.

For this reason Frater Perdurabo has never dared to use this formula in a fully ceremonial manner, save once only, on an occasion of tremendous import, when, indeed, it was not He that made the offering, but ONE in Him. For he perceived a grave defect in his moral character which he has been able to overcome on the intellectual plane, but not hitherto upon higher planes. Before the conclusion of writing this book he will have done so.[15]

The practical details of the Bloody Sacrifice may be studied in various ethnological manuals, but the general conclusions are summed up in Frazer's The Golden Bough, which is strongly recommended to the reader.

Actual ceremonial details likewise may be left to experiment. The method of killing is practically uniform. The animal should be stabbed to the heart, or its throat severed, in either case by the knife. All other methods of killing are less efficacious; even in the case of Crucifixion death is given by stabbing.[16]

One may remark that warm-blooded animals only are used as victims: with two principal exceptions. The first is the serpent, which is only used in a very special Ritual;[17] the second the magical beetles of Liber Legis. (See Part IV.)

One word of warning is perhaps necessary for the beginner. The victim must be in perfect health — or its energy may be as it were poisoned. It must also not be too large:[18] the amount of energy disengaged is almost unimaginably great, and out of all anticipated proportion to the strength of the animal. Consequently, the Magician may easily be overwhelmed and obsessed by the force which he has let loose; it will then probably manifest itself in its lowest and most objectionable form. The most intense spirituality of purpose[19] is absolutely essential to safety.

In evocations the danger is not so great, as the Circle forms a protection; but the circle in such a case must be protected, not only by the names of God and the Invocations used at the same time, but by a long habit of successful defence.[20] If you are easily disturbed or alarmed, or if you have not yet overcome the tendency of the mind to wander, it is not advisable for you to perform the Bloody Sacrifice.[21] Yet it should not be forgotten that this, and that other art at which we have dared darkly to hint, are the supreme formulae of Practical Magick.

You are also likely to get into trouble over this chapter unless you truly comprehend its meaning.[22]

1Air is the principal vehicle of vital Prana in the Hindu system, blood in the Cabbalist. See Deuteronomy, ch. XII, v. 23: "Only be sure that thou eat not the blood; for the blood is the life."

2Prana or "force" is often used as a generic term for all kinds of subtle energy. The prana of the body is only one of its "vayus". Vayu means air or spirit. The idea is that all bodily forces are manifestations of the finer forces of the more real body, this real body being a subtle and invisible thing.

3This substance need not be conceived as "material" in the crude sense of Victorian science; we now know that such phenomena as the rays and emanations of radioactive substances occupy an intermediate position. For instance, mass is not, as once supposed, necessarily impermeable to mass, and matter itself can be only interpreted in terms of motion. So, as to "prana", one might hypothesize a phenomenon in the ether analogous to isomerism. We already know of bodies chemically identical whose molecular structure makes one active, another inactive, to certain reagents. Metals can be "tired" or even "killed" as to some of their properties, without discoverable chemical change. One can "kill" steel, and "raise it from the dead"; and flies drowned in icewater can be resuscitated. That it should be impossible to create high organic life is scientifically unthinkable, and the Master Therion believes it to be a matter of few years indeed before this is done in the laboratory. Already we restore the apparently drowned. Why not those dead from such causes as syncope? If we understood the ultimate physics and chemistry of the brief moment of death we would get hold of the force in some say, supply the missing element, reverse the electrical conditions or what not. Already we prevent certain kinds of death by supplying wants, as in the case of Thyroid.

4One can become actually drunk on oysters, by chewing them completely. Rigor seems to be a symptom of the loss of what I may call the Alpha-energy and makes a sharp break in the curve. The Beta and other energies dissipate more slowly. Physiologists should make it their first duty to measure these phenomena; for their study is evidently a direct line of research into the nature of Life. The analogy between the living and complex molecules of the Uranium group of inorganic and the Protoplasm group of organic elements is extremely suggestive. The faculties of growth, action, self- recuperation, etc., must be ascribed to similar properties in both cases; and as we have detected, measured and partially explained radioactivity, it must be possible to contrive means of doing the same for Life.

5It is a mistake to suppose that the victim is injured. On the contrary, this is the most blessed and merciful of all deaths, for the elemental spirit is directly built up into Godhead — the exact goal of its efforts through countless incarnations. On the other hand, the practice of torturing animals to death in order to obtain the elemental as a slave is indefensible, utterly black magic of the very worst kind, involving as it does a metaphysical basis of dualism. There is, however, no objection to dualism or black magic when they are properly understood. See the account of the Master Therion's Great Magical Retirement by Lake Pasquaney, where he "crucified a toad in the Basilisk abode". [N.b. This ritual is printed in full in The Great Beast, 1971, by John Symonds.]

6A wolf would be still better in the case of Mars. See 777 for the correspondences between various animals and the "32 Paths" of Nature.

7There is also the question of its magical freedom. Sexual intercourse creates a link between its exponents, and therefore a responsibility.

8It appears from the Magical Records of Frater Perdurabo that He made this particular sacrifice on an average about 150 times every year between 1912 e.v. and 1928 e.v. Contrast J.K. Huyman's Lá-Bas, where a perverted form of Magic of an analogous order is described.

"It is the sacrifice of oneself spiritually. And the intelligence and innocence of that male child are the perfect understanding of the Magician, his one aim, without lust of result. And male he must be, because what he sacrifices is not the material blood, but his creative power." This initiated interpretation of the texts was sent spontaneously by Soror I.W.E. [N.b. The initials of the motto of Martha Küntzel, a member of the A∴A∴], for the sake of the younger Brethren.

9See The Equinox (I, V. Supplement: Tenth Aethyr) for an Account of an Operation where this was done. Magical phenomena of the creative order are conceived and germinate in a peculiar thick velvet darkness, crimson, purple, or deep blue, approximating black: as if it were said, In the body of Our Lady of the Stars.

See 777 for the correspondences of the various forces of Nature with drugs, perfumes, etc.

10Such details, however, may safely be left to the good sense of the Student. Experience here as elsewhere is the best teacher. In the Sacrifice during Invocation, however, it may be said without fear of contradiction that the death of the victim should coincide with the supreme invocation.

11Liber 333 is The Book of Lies; 44 is the number of the Hebrew word DM, "blood".

12Note: This paragraph was written in the summer of 1911 e.v., just three years before its fulfilment.

13It is here desirable to warn the reader against the numerous false orders which have impudently assumed the name of Rosicrucian. The Masonic Societas Rosicruciana is honest and harmless; and makes no false pretences; if its members happen as a rule to be pompous busy-bodies, enlarging the borders of their phylacteries, and scrupulous about cleansing the outside of the cup and the platter; if the masks of the Officers in their Mysteries suggest the Owl, the Cat, the Parrot, and the Cuckoo, while the Robe of their Chief Magus is a Lion's Skin, that is their affair. But those orders run by persons claiming to represent the True Ancient Fraternity are common swindles. The representatives of the late S. L. Mathers (Count McGregor) are the phosphorescence of the rotten wood of a branch which was lopped off the tree at the end of the 19th century. [N.b. A typical Crowley exaggeration; he is referring to the Golden Dawn.] Those of Papus (Dr. Encausse), Stanislas de Guaita and Péladan, merit respect as serious, but lack full knowledge and authority. The "Ordo Rosae Crucis" is a mass of ignorance and falsehood, but this may be a deliberate device for masking itself. The test of any Order is its attitude towards the Law of Thelema. The True Order presents the True Symbols, but avoids attaching the True Name thereto; it is only when the Postulant has taken irrevocable Oaths and been received formally, that he discovers what Fraternity he has joined. If he have taken false symbols for true, and find himself magically pledged to a gang of rascals, so much the worse for him!

14This results from the full acceptance of the Law of THELEMA, persistently put into practice.

15P.S. With the happiest results. P.

16Yet one might devise methods of execution appropriate to the Weapons: Stabbing or clubbing for the Lance or Wand, drowning or poisoning for the Cup, Beheading for the Sword, Crushing for the Disk, Burning for the Lamp, and so forth.

17The Serpent is not really killed; it is seethed in an appropriate vessel; and it issues in due season refreshed and modified, but still essentially itself. The idea is the transmission of life and wisdom from a vehicle which has fulfilled its formula to one capable of further extension. The development of a wild fruit by repeated plantings in suitable soil is an analogous operation.

18The sacrifice (e.g.) of a bull is sufficient for a large number of people; hence it is commonly made in public ceremonies, and in some initiations, e.g. that of a King, who needs force for his whole kingdom. Or again, in the Consecration of a Temple.

See Lord Dunsany, The Blessing of Pan — a noble and most notable prophecy of Life's fair future.

19This is a matter of concentration, with no ethical implication. The danger is that one may get something which one does not want. This is "bad" by definition. Nothing is in itself good or evil. The shields of the Sabines which crushed Tarpeia were not murderous to them, but the contrary. Her criticism of them was simply that they were what she did not want in her Operation.

20The habitual use of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (say, thrice daily) for months and years and constant assumption of the God-form of Harpocrates (See The Equinox, I, II and Liber 333, cap. XXV for both of these) should make the "real circle", i.e. the Aura of the Magus, impregnable.

This Aura should be clean-cut, resilient, radiant, iridescent, brilliant, glittering. "A soap-bubble of razor-steel, streaming with light from within" is my first attempt at description; and is not bad, despite its incongruities: P.

"Frater Perdurabo, on the one occasion on which I was able to see Him as He really appears, was brighter than the Sun at noon. I fell instantly to the floor in swoon which lasted several hours, during which I was initiated." Soror A∴. Cf. Rev. I, 12-17. [N.b. Soror A∴ was probably Soror Achitha or Roddie Minor, "the Camel", with whom Crowley worked during his American period. She was, in fact, the Scarlet Woman of that time. See The Confessions.]

21The whole idea of the word Sacrifice, as commonly understood, rests upon an error and superstition, and is unscientific, besides being metaphysically false. The Law of Thelema has totally changed the Point of View as to this matter. Unless you have thoroughly assimilated the Formula of Horus, it is absolutely unsafe to meddle with this type of Magick. Let the young Magician reflect upon the Conservation of Matter and of Energy.

22There is a traditional saying that whenever an Adept seems to have made a straightforward, comprehensible statement, then is it most certain that He means something entirely different. The Truth is nevertheless clearly set forth in His Words: it is His simplicity that baffles the unworthy. I have chosen the expressions in this Chapter in such a way that it is likely to mislead those magicians who allow selfish interests to cloud their intelligence, but to give useful hints to such as are bound by the proper Oaths to devote their powers to legitimate ends. "...thou hast no right but to do thy will." "It is a lie, this folly against self." The radical error of all uninitiates is that they define "self" as irreconcilably opposed to "not-self." Each element of oneself is, on the contrary, sterile and without meaning, until it fulfils itself, by "love under will", in its counterpart in the Macrocosm. To separate oneself from others is to destroy oneself; the way to realize and to extend oneself is to lose that self — its sense of separateness — in the other. Thus: Child plus food: this does not preserve one at the expense of the other; it "destroys" or rather changes both in order to fulfil both in the result of the operation — a grown man. It is in fact impossible to preserve anything as it is by positive action upon it. Its integrity demands inaction; and inaction, resistance to change, is stagnation, death and dissolution due to the internal putrefaction of the starved elements.

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