red, the blood of angry (wo)men! blood magic in #pettitoes
Of libations and bindings, blood is the source of nearly all magic in the world of #pettitoes. Mammalian blood, quite specifically. Indeed, the power of blood was how the [earthlings] first discovered that there were classes of animals. That no bird’s nor lizard’s blood had magic was the first step to such progress. But I digress. Blood is both magic and soul, in essence. Blood is life, which is what the majority of its magic consists of. Life, and death by proxy. We’ll get to that eventually.
First off, we have the classic blood contract. It is largely a formality, the actual signing of your name, and indeed it was not done in [starling] culture as they were largely illiterate for many years. Rather, it is the gift of blood that binds them. Blood given willingly is powerful for all the human races, and though it cannot be confirmed as the same among the various beasts, scientists have observed behaviours that suggest everything from the wolves to the bears of the wild recognize the power of blood, as well. Blood given (or taken) unwillingly can be just as powerful, but it cannot bind a person.
All blood is life for the earth. No matter which beast’s blood, dead or alive, given freely or taken by force, it gives the earth life. It helps plants grow. This is why even midst industrialization and the growing populations of the [earthlings] and [starlings], forests dominate the world. Among the images above, take note of the libations vase and the image in the top left. Giving blood to the earth is a ritual. A funerary ritual for some, a ritual of faith for the [earthlings]. It varies, but it is always significant.
The power of each beast’s blood varies quite a bit, though each relates to life and death. Some prey have poisonous blood, acidic blood. Some predators are immune to poison (the wolves). The foxes - including the flying foxes (a.k.a. bats) - are creatures of fire, which is a symbol of both life and death. Their feet scorch the earth, killing what is there and giving life to what will come. They go through a life-death-rebirth cycle. Fire is seen by the [earthlings] as a sort of metaphor for time, as it is the only thing except time that can truly destroy blood.
Now, humans have a ‘special’ blood trait. There blood has no inherent power but adaptation. While this comes through in various ways, including their very evolution, the most noteworthy power of their blood is that they can become something else, to an extent, through prolonged exposure to its blood. Drink the blood of the wolf and become a half-wolf, in essence. This has its limits, namely that eventually if you begin to take on too much ‘wolf’ (or whatever animal), your blood will shift enough that you can’t adapt any more of the beast’s qualities. You could never go completely from human to wolf, because losing humanity would include losing what lets you become a wolf to begin with.
As such, they never fully adapt the qualities of what they are drinking the blood of. Wolf-humans, for instance, are immune to poisons insofar as it will not kill them, but it can make them violently ill and can scar them, burn them, choke them. It depends on the poison, but they won’t get away unscathed. Just alive.
Now, here’s the tricky part: what happens if you drink another human’s blood? Because the blood does not just give you the blood qualities of the wolf, people grow fur and sometimes tails or ears or wolf-like eyes or wet noses or claws. I keep dancing back and forth with this one, so here’s my current stance… Strictly speaking, this is super forbidden in every culture ever. In practice, it happens all of the time. The [earthlings] and [starlings] exchange blood, leading to strange little toes (the [earthlings] have five toes whereas the [starlings] only have four) and ears that curve too much in the wrong direction and wildly varying skin tones and hair textures and miscellaneous features. But of course, they could theoretically keep drinking and transition completely. There are risks, and the amount of blood one would need would either require multiple donors or killing the ‘donor’ - but don’t think it hasn’t happened before. The results aren’t always pretty, though - you can never be rid of your own blood. Well, there are blood transfusions, but that’s pretty modern and it is currently limited by hospitals to race and the below.
Sex - biological sex, I mean. It is encouraged that one drinks the blood of the same sex beast, since there have been… incidents. When one drinks the blood of another human of the opposite sex, they usually end up intersex. Though again, one could theoretically go the full way through determination and possibly murder. A famous incident of this occurred hundreds of years before on the [starling] continent that left people with hard to shake transphobia, which is part of the reason they maintain transphobic beliefs while the [earthlings] are not as bad (though there are problems there, but that’s a topic for another day).
On the subject of sex, I’ve mentioned recently that the [earthlings] are into the symbolic virgin blood on the sheets thing. Ugh, but it makes sense from a worldbuilding perspective so we’re keeping it (the revolutionary ladies will have words about it, though). We’ve also got everybody’s favourite topic: periods! There are a lot of rituals surrounding menstruation, what to do with things bloodied by that time, letting it run down your legs and onto the earth, the cycles of the moon (which is worshipped by the [starlings]), and all that good stuff. It has led to a lot of odd beliefs about women, some misogynistic and others empowering. And let’s just say that many a gentleman (and a few lovely ladies) have earned their red wings
On a less pleasant note, murder - we’ve touched on this. But in general, murders aren’t clean. Suicides aren’t clean. Life is blood, death is blood. It is very rare for somebody to be drowned, burned, hung, etc. consciously (by their own desire or their murderer’s). The very diseases of the world are built around blood and have effects just as nasty. Coughing up blood, anaemia, it’s all there. And most diseases are transmitted through blood in this world, which has a lot of repercussions (including attitudes towards sex). The air driven ones are the ones that tend to end in the aforementioned coughing up blood, nosebleeds, that sort of thing. For this story, take note of an STD that only affects people with the double X chromosomes - XY are only carriers. That will be a plot point, as the men are kind of ignoring it in favour of researching other diseases.
Various other points: the whole family line-blood thing is super significant, adoption is not common though it isn’t unheard of, accidentally spilling blood (sewing, cooking, whatever) is a bit of an ordeal, some families have tapestries with a drop of all of their ancestor’s blood, many things are made with blood if possible (iron or ash if not), nobody in this world has even heard the words ‘well done’ come on now the culinary arts a theme of this novel like I would let them eat anything but rare steak, and also: golems.