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ommonly known as the ultimate ritual of friendship, the blood brotherhood pact has been known as one of the oldest traditions in humanity, symbolizing the positive relationships you have with another human. To remove any confusion for those who may not have heard of this term before, this has nothing to do with actual brothers or sisters. Instead, it is a pact between good friends that seeks to make their friendship ascend to the next level of brotherhood by combining their blood.

This was usually done by having both participants make a cut into the palm of their hand and then shake hands, which would combine the blood, hypothetically sealing their friendship. This pact or ritual was followed very religiously throughout history and even brought to modern history as a trend that thankfully died before the creation of the World Wide Web.

The history behind this tradition

It is said that this tradition comes from Viking culture and that it was the bikers that brought it into the Western world. For the Vikings, the blood brother pact was something even more sacred than marriage. The blood oath would be done with a person that you considered to be the closest to you and one that would give their life in exchange for yours any time of the day.

The same tradition was also practiced by the Mongols with the difference of them having their own ritual where they did not take a blood oath (a small cut in the palm of the hand) but, instead, made a small incision in the forearm and dripped some blood into a glass so that the “blood brother” would drink it and vice versa.

The same tradition also originated from African tribes, although they might have different meanings as many African traditions from indigenous tribes involve the sacrifice of blood or simply bloodletting. In the early centuries, the same tradition was brought to life by many barbaric tribes that would either go through with the blood oath ceremony or simply drink the blood of a friend in order to create new alliances that would be sealed forever or even combine countries together to form a nation.

Blood transmitted diseases

This popular tradition throughout history presumably killed hundreds of thousands of people without them actually knowing the cause. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the world actually learned about bloodborne diseases. Neither did they know that these bloodborne diseases, as well as many others, can be transmitted through the exchange of blood, in other words having someone else’s blood assimilated by your body.

Children performing the blood oath ritual (Source: Amino / Photographer: Marie Hargreaves)

What is even more surprising is that even when humanity held this knowledge they decided to turn blood oaths into a sort of trend. In the Western world around the 1950s to 1960s the blood oath came back as a popular social tradition, manifested by people in order to portray peace in a world where tensions were at an all-time high due to the Cold War.

This trend was especially visible among younger generations that saw it as a great way to represent the strength of their friendship. They would not actually make a cut in the palm of the hand but a small cut on the tip of a finger and touch fingers. However, this does not make a difference as if one of those children were born with a blood disease it would be transmitted straight away. This movement really tried to push the boundaries of friendships to brotherhoods, showing the world that peace is the way and that we are all interconnected by our blood as we all share our ancestry.

From 1970, this trend started to slowly die as people (especially children) were made aware by educational campaigns of the health hazards that could occur if they were to make a blood oath. With the HIV pandemic of 1981, the World Health Organisation really tried to make the world understand the various diseases that exist and the way they can be spread/caught, making it very clear that the transmission of blood is the easiest way to get bloodborne diseases.

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