Sunday, September 29, 2019

Jewish Ritual Murder Was Seen as Ancient Hebrew Sorcery


Renegade Editor’s Note: This was written by someone who did not see any validity to the accusations.
By Joshua Trachtenberg
From Jewish Magic and Superstition [1939]
Of all the charges against the Jewish people the one that has enjoyed the hardiest tenacity and the utmost notoriety, and has produced the direst consequences, is the ritual murder accusation. In its popular version it foists upon Jewish ritual the requirement of Christian blood at the Passover service. The subject of much study and infinitely more polemics, its absurdity has been conclusively established, but the true nature of the accusation has never been made sufficiently clear. The legend as we know it has experienced several redactions. In its pristine form it was the product of ancient superstition—and of the idea of the Jew as sorcerer.
One of the most pervasive beliefs was in the great utility for medicinal and magical purposes of the elements of the human body. Medieval magic is full of recipes for putting to occult use human fat, human blood, entrails, hands, fingers; medieval medicine utilized as one of its chief medicaments the blood of man, preferably blood that had been freshly drawn, or menstrual blood. The ritual murder accusation was the result of these beliefs.
There is on record at least one accusation against a Jew, dating from the thirteenth century, of despoiling a servant girl, whom he was said to have drugged, of some flesh which he intended to put to a magical or medicinal use. This was the motive which was believed to have prompted many assumed ritual murders. One of the first medieval references to this accusation, made by Thomas of Cantimpré early in that century, attributed the need for Christian blood to the widespread Jewish affliction of hemorrhages (some later accounts changed the malady to hemorrhoids), which could be cured only by the application of this blood. The Jews of Fulda (Hesse-Nassau), accused in 1235 of murdering five children, are said to have confessed that they did so in order to procure their blood for purposes of healing. Matthew Paris’s contemporary account of the alleged crucifixion of Hugh of Lincoln by Jews in 1255 ascribed to them the intention of using the boy’s bowels for divination. To skip a century and a half, in May, 1401, the city council of Freiburg (in Breisgau) wrote to Duke Leopold requesting the total expulsion of the Jews from their city, the foremost count against them being that they periodically slaughtered a Christian child, for “all Jews require Christian blood for the prolongation of their lives.” The only Christian statement on the ritual murder charge against the Jews of Tyrnau in 1494 explains their need of this blood on several grounds: “Firstly: they [the Jews] were convinced by the judgment of their ancestors that the blood of a Christian was a good remedy for the alleviation of the wound of circumcision. Secondly: they were of the opinion that this blood, put into food, is very efficacious for the awakening of mutual love. Thirdly: they had discovered, as men and women among them suffered equally from menstruation, that the blood of a Christian is a specific medicine for it, when drunk. Fourthly: that they had an ancient but secret ordinance by which they are under obligation to shed Christian blood in honor of God in daily sacrifices in some spot or other.” As late as the beginning of the eighteenth century it is reported that in Poland and Germany tales were told and songs sung in the streets “how the Jews have murdered a child, and sent the blood to one another in quills for the use of their women in childbirth.”
It is evident from these instances that the suspicion of magic was behind the accusation of child murder. There is no mention of the Passover, of kneading the blood into the unleavened cakes, or drinking it at the Seder service, all of which are late refinements. The records of the early accusations are meaningless unless viewed against the background of medieval superstition. A modern writer who has made a careful study of Christian magic and witchcraft, and who proves himself as credulous and superstition-ridden as the period he examines, expresses exactly the medieval view, which is his as well: Jews were persecuted “not so much for the observance of Hebrew ceremonies, as is often suggested and supposed, but for the practice of the dark and hideous traditions of Hebrew magic. Closely connected with these ancient sorceries are those ritual murders. . . . In many cases the evidence is quite conclusive that the body, and especially the blood of the victim, was used for magical purposes.”

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