Blood Libel

Blood Libel

The witch of stories told to taunt sweet-cheeked children is that of a crone; haggard and hooked-nosed, a crone who will drink of their blood, turn their bodies to a decadent feast, and satisfy her demonic hunger upon the bodies of those whose hearts and souls are pure.

Much of this mythos is shared by the sorcerer of old: a satanic man who convenes with the devil before licking his lips and drinking from the veins of children to gather power, renew his youth, and vanquish his righteous enemies.

What do these mythos have in common? The ideology of blood libel.

This article contains discussion of human sacrifice, genocide, pogroms, racism, antisemitism, child abuse, and murder. Please take the proper cation when reading; understand that this is of the utmost importance and weigh how you choose to read this. You may need to take breaks and come back later.

Legend of the Jew calling the Devil from a Vessel of Blood, Public Domain


While most sources will say that blood libel originated in 12th-century Christian Europe, there is a bigger argument to be made that it actually originated in the second-century B.C.E in the writing of the Alexandrian Apion, though it does exclude the tell-tale importance of Christianity.

According to Albert Ehrman, who published an article on the topic of blood libel in the journal “Tradition: a Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought” published by the Rabbinical Council of America in 1976, Apion stated “that the Jews annually kidnap a Greek, fatten him up for a year, and then convey him to a forest where they offer his body as a sacrifice, eat his internal organs, and while immolating the Greek, would swear an oath of eternal hatred toward all Greeks”¹

But, Apion wasn’t the only Greek to accuse Jews of this.

Democritus said, “every seven years the Jews catch a stranger, whom they offer as a sacrifice, killing him by tearing his flesh to shreds”¹

However, Ehrman continues that these were the only two Hellenic accusations of blood libel, but notes that the very early Christians were often accused of this very same thing. However, as Christianity rose to power, these accusations quickly lost steam. Christianity became the state religion of Rome in the year 380 C.E with the Edict of Thessalonica. This decree also gave Christians the power to persecute non-Christians.

Socrates Scholasticus, not to be confused with Socrates of Socratic seminar fame, was a 5th-century Church historian who authored “Historia Ecclesiastica or "Church History”. Socrates claimed that Jews bound a young Christian boy to a cross, killing him in the process.

To quote from Krystyna Stebnicka of Warsaw University’s article entitled, The Incident At Inmestar: Jews And Christians At The Beginning Of The Fifth Century,

Soon afterwards the Jews renewed their malevolent and impious practices against the Christians, and drew down upon themselves deserved punishment. At a place named Inmestar, situated between Chalcis and Antioch in Syria, the Jews were amusing themselves in their usual way with a variety of sports [games, παίγνια]. In this way they indulged in many absurdities, and at length impelled by drunkenness they were guilty of scoffing at Christians and even Christ himself; and in derision of the cross and those who put their trust in the Crucified One, they seized a Christian boy, and having bound him to a cross, began to laugh and sneer at him. But in a little while becoming so transported with fury, they scourged the child until he died under their hands. This conduct occasioned a sharp conflict between them and the Christians; and as soon as the emperors were informed of the circumstance, they issued orders to the governor of the province to find out and punish the delinquents. And thus the Jewish inhabitants of this place paid the penalty for the wickedness they had committed in their impious sport. (From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 2, tr. A.C. Zenos, ed. P. Schaff, H. Wace, Buffalo, 1890)¹

While this event sounds horrible, most scholars agree: it didn’t happen.

This story was connected with the feast of Purim, which Stebnicka writes “had long been regarded as an expression of Jewish aversion against Christians, as indicated by the Jews’ drunkenness and enjoyment, which Socrates stressed”.¹

For those unfamiliar with the story of Purim, it involved a proposed genocide of the Jews, but in the end, a brave Jewish queen named Esther risks her life to save the Jewish people from the evil Haman, who tried to execute a genocide against us but is instead hanged from the very gallows he set up to hang Esther’s uncle Mordechai. In commemoration, some Jews would hang imagery of Haman, and Christians took this as an offense against Jesus Christ and Christianity as a whole, leading to a particularly dangerous time for Jews--despite Jesus and Christianity having nothing to do with any part of the celebration (like with most Jewish celebrations).

Stebnicka includes that in the Theodosian Code, there are specific stipulations forbidding the Jews to sneer at Christianity during the Jewish feast of Purim. This is only one of the holidays in Judaism that Christians have demonized and used as an excuse to harangue Jews.

This antisemitism was ingrained within parts of Hellenic and Christian culture, lying beneath the surface, making its way to Europe, where it reappeared in the 12th century and spread like wildfire, leading to the blood libel we know today.

European Origins

In 1144, a 12-year-old boy named William went missing in the village of Norwich, England. When he was found dead, a monk at the Norwich Benedictine monastery named Thomas of Monmouth claimed that it was the Jews who had taken him and crucified him.

But his accusation went further than that. He claimed that a monk, who was a convert from Judaism, had told him that it was a ritual sacrifice. To quote,

“In the ancient writings of his fathers, it was written that the Jews, without the shedding of human blood, could neither obtain their freedom, nor could they ever return to their fatherland. Hence it was laid down by them in ancient times that every year they must sacrifice a Christian in some part of the world to the Most High G-d in scorn and contempt of Christ, that so they might avenge their sufferings on Him; inasmuch as it was because of Christ's death that they had been shut out from their own country, and were in exile as slaves in a foreign land. Wherefore the chief men and Rabbis of the Jews who dwell in Spain assemble together at Narbonne, where the Royal seed (resides), and where they are held in the highest estimation, and they cast lots for all the countries which the Jews inhabit.”

The proof? Only the word of the accusatory monk who would go on to write fantastically antisemitic texts.

According to Ehrman, no Jews were specifically murdered in retaliation to these accusations, but the remains of 17 bodies were found in a well in Norwich dating between the 12th and 13th centuries, with five believed to be members of a single Jewish family, according to DNA testing . But even if they weren’t murdered due to the blood libel, the word spread quickly. Quickly that there were four other accusations in England alone before jumping to continental Europe.

In France in the May of 1171, it happened again. This time, the 40-person Jewish community of Blois was murdered by being burned alive for the so-called charge of Ritual Murder of a child whose body was never found. A very simple way to understand how trumped up these charges were is to know that 32 of these Jews, including 17 women, specifically were offered clemency by becoming Christians. They martyred themselves rather being burned alive and bowing their heads to Christianity.

Ehrman continues by mentioning that the Rabbenu Tam (1100-1171), Rashi’s grandson, proclaimed the 20th of Sivan a fast day for the Jews of England, France, and Germany, in honor of the martyrs who had their lives stolen in the name of Christianity.

But these instances, roughly 30-odd years apart, do not mention one of the defining factors of modern blood libel: drinking or consuming the blood. The reason is that these accusations did not come about until slightly later.

One memorable and prominent accusation came from Cardinal Odo of Chateau-Roux, who was the Chancellor of the University of Paris. While debating Rabbi Yehiel of Paris, he claimed to quote,

“You (Jews) eat the blood of the uncircumcised (gentiles). For thus did Balaam prophesy: “And drinks the blood of the slain” (Numbers 23:24).”

Ehrman theorizes that Odo was inspired by Dio Cassius, a pagan historian (155-215) who wrote that the Jews of Cyrene, Egypt & Cyprus revolted under the rule of Emperor Trajan (98-117) and killed 500,00 Greeks & Romans. The number appears to vary between sources, but almost none found went as high as 500,000, so take that with a grain of salt. Once done, Dio says the Jews ate their flesh, made clothes from their skin & entrails, and anointed themselves with their blood; but he was the only one who said this, which leads historians to call ‘exaggeration’ on his gory details. Mind you, the reason Cassius cites for the revolt in the first place is the Roman wish never to allow a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem again, but rather to turn the temple mount into a miniature Rome. This libel is aptly named and it is hypothesized that it served a particular political purpose.

It is believed that Odo the Chancellor came across Dio’s fictitious accounts, but another argues that in 1258, Thoma De Cantimpre wrote in Bonum Universale De Apibus that “from the time that Jews shouted “his (meaning Jesus’) blood be on us and on our children” (Mathew 27:25) Jewish men have been afflicted with a secret malady often appearing as a sort of male menstruation”. He continues with the belief that the cure for this was to drink Christian blood.

Jewish “male menstruation” or that Jewish cis men suffered from periods and bloody outbreaks of hemorrhoids. Caesarius of Heisterback (1180-12;40), offered that Jews suffered from a “bloody flux’ on Good Friday as punishment for the crucifixion of Christ…. Thomas of Cantimpre (1201-1272) believed that this was a fulfillment of the chapter of Matthew ¹⁹.

“Both Jewish women and men, like witches, were associated with menstruation, and the benighted, “melancholic” influences of Saturn implied both spiritual pollution and the witting commission of maleficium. Jewish men were supposedly inherently guilty of witchcraft due to their purported contamination by the “pollution” of “passive” feminine reproductive physiology, and were popularly feminized by association with “dark,” “melancholic blood” and menstruation. In De secretis mulierum, the commentator reminds the reader that the term “menses” is understood to refer to: natural menses, such as the menstrual periods of cisgender women; supernatural menses, such as the Jews experience; and the way that is “against nature,”¹⁸

Menstruation was associated with women and thereby any association of men with the experiences of womanhood made that man lesser, evil, or even demonic. To quote, “In a Christian society and warlike culture that placed a premium on military prowess and valor, the idea of periodic bleeding by Jewish men making to women menstruation evidently feminized the Jew, rendering him even more ignoble and worthy of contempt” ¹⁹. This added layer of misogyny being applied to Jewish men meant that while women suffered an especially heinous fate during the witch trials, Jewish men were included in it at times.

“1494, the blood of a Christian was purportedly deemed an effective remedy for male or female Jews suffering from menstruation". Essentially, they believed Christian blood could cure Jews of their demonic menstruation..In Endingen in 1470 the Jew, Mercklin, “confessed” (under torture) that Jews needed Christian blood because of its great healing power).

“The Jews were not normal human beings but monstrous, bloodthirsty creatures, working secretly in tirelessly in league with their Lord the devil and his other minions. Despite their small numbers, these pitiless Jews threatened not only the church but also the life of every single Christian man woman and child. These fantasies stripped Jews of any individual identity and the Jews became a malignant satanic collective residing within Christian society, consumed by hatred of Christians, enacting iconoclastic sacrilege and sometimes ritual murder."¹⁹

In the 13th-century text called Nitzahon Yashan Noshan (The Old Book of Confutation), an anonymous Jew rebuts the claims of blood libel. There are specific instructions for Jews to answer when questioned. To quote:

“The Christians reproach us and say that we murder their children and drink their blood. Answer them: No nation has been as strictly admonished against committing murder as we have. And this applies equally to the murder of non-Jews ... "You shall not murder" (Exo-dus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17) means you may not murder anyone -this includes the non-Jew as well. Why is this so? Because "G-d made man in his own image" (Genesis 9:6). And it is also written: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed" This applies to everyone. Furthermore: We are also more scrupulous than any other nation in regard to blood. For even with meat that has been ritually slaughtered and is fit for consumption, we, nonetheless, salt it and are very careful to remove all the blood. But you libel17 us in order to shed our blood as David prophesied in Psalm 44. For he foresaw that in the future you would blaspheme us in order to shed our blood, and that you would kill us for the sake of our religion. Therefore, did he pray for us: "Thou art my King, O G-d; Command the salvation of Jacob" (Psalm 44:5).18

On Christmas day of 1235, five children of a miller were killed in Fulda, Germany, in what is now the Hesse region. The miller and his wife returned to their home and found it burned to the ground, the burned bodies of their sons within it. They, perhaps prompted by their neighbors, began to accuse the Jews of doing it. For what reason? Well.. There was none. They claim the Jews killed them and took their blood, one person even stating they put the blood into wax bags. Some had no explanation, others stated it was for “medical reasons”.

Three days later, 34 Jews were slaughtered by Crusaders with no proof, no trial, and no evidence.

The townspeople, after allowing for the murder of 34 innocents, loaded the boys bodies into a cart and took them to the emperor as evidence of the evilness of the Jews. They traveled apparently over around 100-150 miles, spreading this story throughout Germany. When they reached him, the holy Roman emperor Frederick II began to investigate. He called together a group of people, including Christians and Jewish converts to Christianity.

[It is] clear that it was not indicated in the Old Testament or in the New that Jews lust for the drinking of human blood. Rather, precisely the opposite, they guard against the intake of all blood, as we and expressly in the biblical book, which is called [Genesis in English], in the laws given by Moses , and in the Jewish decrees, which are called in Hebrew, “Talmud .” We can surely assume that for those to whom even the blood of permitted animals is forbidden, the desire for human blood cannot exist, as a result of the horror of the matter, the prohibition of nature, and the common bond of the human species in which they also join Christians. Moreover, they would not expose to danger their substance and persons for that which they might have freely when taken from animals. By this sentence of the princes, we pronounce the Jews of the aforesaid place and the rest of the Jews of Germany completely absolved of this imputed crime. Therefore, we decree . . . that no one, whether cleric or layman, proud or humble, whether under the pretext of preaching or otherwise, judges, lawyers, citizens, or others shall attack the aforesaid Jews individually or as a group a result of the aforesaid charge. Nor shall anyone cause them notoriety or harm in this regard. Let all know that, since a lord is honored through his servants, whosoever shows himself favorable and helpful to . . . the Jews will surely please us. However, whosoever presumes to contravene the edict of this present condemation and of our absolution bears the offense of his majesty.4”

While this statement is in condemnation, it was a little too late. It would do nothing to quell the tide of blood libel accusations that was rapidly rising.

In fact, In March 1247, two Franciscans (members of a monastic order founded in about 1215) accused the Jews of Valréas, France, of crucifying a Christian child and using his blood for ritual purposes. Jews were tortured and killed. The surviving Jews tried to appeal to Pope Innocent IV for help. He, gratefully, condemned the actions.

The next pope, Gregory X also condemned blood libel, but brought up a fascinating aspect not yet discussed, to quote:

“Since it happens occasionally that some Christians lose their Christian children, the Jews are accused by their enemies of secretly carrying off and killing these same Christian children and of making sacrifices of the heart and blood of these very children. It happens, too, that the parents of these children or some other Christian enemies of these Jews secretly hide these very children in order that they may be able to injure these Jews, and in order that they may be able to extort from them a certain amount of money by redeeming them from their straits. .”

This here suggests, as do some other texts, that Christians used Jews as a scapegoat. If they owed money to a Jew, they could use this to get out of that debt. They could also use it as a way of avoiding repercussions for the death of their child if it was their fault. If a child died from some form of violence or negligence, or even an accident, rather than deal with the repercussions of child abuse and murder, it was far more convenient to simply accuse the local Jewish community of it. Chances are, they would be killed before papal authority stepped in, if they did at all. A perfect example is that of what happened in Fulda. The boys tragically burned to death—but rather than deal with that, the parents and townspeople found solace in the brutal murder of 34 others.

This is a very simplified origins of blood libel: the use of Jews as a scapegoat for murder, claiming that Jews require the blood of Christians for rituals, “medical” necessities (to cure ourselves of our ‘Jewish affliction’), and that Jews routinely murder children to achieve this goal.

Famous Cases

Little Hugh

“Among those tales was that of Hugh of Lincoln, whose death in 1255 occasioned the first anti-Jewish accusation in England to produce an official response and sanction from the royal authorities, and the first to result in the execution of Jews there. The story was told in contemporary chronicles, including by Matthew Paris, and in an Anglo-Norman ballad. These texts, along with a shrine in Lincoln, guaranteed that Hugh’s memory was preserved.” Madga Teter, the author then continues to speculate that one of the only reasons that these accusations stopped in England is that England expelled the Jews in 1290. In case you didn’t know--England officially expelled its Jewish population, so it makes sense that the accusations stopped when there were no more Jews to accuse.

So who was Little Hugh?

On the 27th of August 1255, a young boy named Hugh went missing. In July, his body was found in a well of a Jewish resident of Lincoln, England. At the time, there were a great deal of Jews in Lincoln to celebrate a wedding, so when the Jew (whose name is debated, but generally referred to as Jopin) reported the body, a priest named John of Lexington convinced him to blame it upon the prominent Jews who were in town in exchange for a pardon. Not only blame them for his death, but to say they crucified him. A month later, when Henry III arrived in Lincoln, he not only revoked his pardon, but had him tied to a wild horse and dragged through the city before hanging him. The 92 Jews who were in Lincoln at the time were then taken to London where 18 were executed. King​​ Henry confiscated property from those he executed (remember, these were prominent Jews at this point) and supposedly ransomed the rest. ​​

It is also important you know about the Statute of Jewry issued by Henry III of England in 1253.

  • Article One provided that any Jew could only remain in England only if he or she would "serve Us in some way".

  • Article Two deemed that synagogues could not be constructed, and only those that existed in the time of King John could stand.

  • Article Three demanded that Jews lower their voices in synagogues, so that Christians could not hear them.

  • Article Four placed a duty on Jews to pay to their local Christian church.

  • Article Five banned Christian (wet) nurses and servants working for Jews, and banned all Christians from eating with Jews or "abiding" with them in their houses.

  • Article Six banned Jews from buying and eating meat in Lent.

  • Article Seven banned Jews from disparaging or publicly disputing the Christian faith.

  • Article Eight banned "secret familiarity" between Jewish men and Christian women, and Christian men and Jewish women.

  • Article Nine commanded that "every Jew wear his badge conspicuously on his breast".

  • Article Ten banned Jews from churches, except for 'transit'.

  • Article Eleven barred Jews from hindering another's conversion.

  • Article Twelve required Jews to obtain a license to live in any town other than those with established Jewish communities.

  • Article Thirteen set out that the "justices of the Jews" were to enforce the articles, and that they were to be "rigorously observed on pain of forfeiture of the chattels of the said Jews”.

This hatred of Jews explains Henry’s willingness to condemn Jews with no evidence of guilt.

The church also made a pretty penny off of Little Hugh’s name. They erected a shrine known as Little St. Hugh which drew huge numbers of visitors.

It was so culturally significant that it is mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, particularly in the Prioress’ Tale, which contains a rendition of little Hugh and mentions him by name.

O yonge Hugh of Lincoln, slayn also With cursed Jewes, as it is notable For it nis but a litel whyle ago.

Madga Teter berings us to the modern day. “In May 2015, members of the British Movement, a white supremacist group in the United Kingdom, gathered in the town of Lincoln to “revive a tradition of the English Middle Ages.”² The group proceeded to the Lincoln Cathedral, where they wanted to honor “Little Hugh of Lincoln,”

Despite being turned away by the priests who let them know he isn’t saint, the Neo-Nazis stated, ‘​​We are here today in memory of Little Saint Hugh, who was murdered in the year 1255 by Jews, he was just 9 years old. Medieval historian Mathew Parris recorded the event. A Jew named Jopin confessed to the murder and implicated the wider Jewish community of the time in this crime, Jopin suggested that the killing of Hugh was a ritual religious sacrifice. The modern statement here is an abomination and an insult to the memory of Little Saint Hugh.”

The next famous case is perhaps the most notable of them all.

Simon of Trent

On the evening of Maundy Thursday, March 23, 1475, a toddler named Simon went missing. His family searched, but to no avail. It was the second night of Passover and immediately rumors began to swirl that it was the Jews who had killed him. After reported missing to the Bishop Hinderbach, worried he had fallen into a nearby canal and drowned, a search team was sent out by the Bishop, specifically searching Jewish homes.

Samuel, who was a prominent Jew in the area, specifically had his home searched thoroughly. Brunetta, Samuel’s wife, provided them with the tools they needed during the search and every Jew cooperated fully in the search, and the search party left empty-handed.

But on the 26th, when a Jewish servant in Samuel’s house found the body in the canal that flowed under this house (the very one his father was worried he had drowned in), Samuel and his household reported his body to the authorities immediately, despite the fact that they knew they were under investigation for simply being Jewish.

A preliminary autopsy at Samuel’s home before his body was moved to a hospital for further examination.¹⁰ Eight Jews were immediately arrested, among them the heads of the three Jewish families living in Trent: Samuel, Israel, and Tobias. The day after the autopsy, additional Jews were arrested, including visitors to Trent and servants in the existing Jewish households, along with Samuel’s wife Brunetta, the only woman among the arrested at this point--but far more would come.

The Jews were arrested with nothing more than the fact that they were Jewish and that, quote, “the wounds on the boy’s body emitted blood when Jews were present, a proof, it was believed, of Jews’ culpability in the boy’s death “because experience shows that wounds on the dead emit blood when a murderer stands near the corpse.”

But the Christian community got to work. They printed pamphlets in multiple languages and disseminated their version of events claiming the Jews had murdered him for ritual usage. Tiberino, one man responsible for creating and sending out pamphlets is quoted in saying, “so that Jews “may be eliminated from the whole Christian world” and the memory of them “utterly vanish from the land of the living.” Jews, Tiberino wrote, not only “devour” Christian property through usury but also “feast on the living blood of our sons, afflicting them with terrible punishment in their synagogues, and cruelly slaughtering them in place of Christ.”

Tiberino described horrifying cannibalism, which was literally not possible as the body was found whole, with some minor wounds. The events he described are a pure, fantasy of his own invention, but that didn’t stop people from believing it. He specifically tied it to Passover, juxtaposing his disgusting events with the “holy Christian easter”. This association would never fully go away. Not only that, but he wrote this before the trial for the Jewish families of Trent even began. His letters reached those who had the power in the trail, particularly the aforementioned Bishop, setting everything against the Jewish community who had done nothing but report the body of a child knowing full well it would result in their demise.

But it wasn’t over for the Jews of Trent yet. They were routinely tortured after being imprisoned until they confessed. One Jew is quoted to have said, ‘“Tell me what you want me to say and I will say it.” To quote Magda Teter once more, “From early on, the interrogators seemed to have had a specific “truth” in mind when questioning the Jews, and wishing to hear it, turning to torture to elicit it. When first interrogated, under only the threat of torture, the Jews offered what would become the first version of events—for days, this version remained quite consistent, containing details about the finding of the body and affirming Jewish innocence. This remained the case even when torture was first implemented.”

When a number of men had been executed, and the rest of the Jewish community (men, women, and children) still in custody, word got to Rome and the Pope stepped in. He demanded court documents which magically went missing and had a shocking number of holes in them--including missing testimonies prior to torture missing witness statements that went in the Jews favor, and excluding the very important point that the Jewish community reported his body the moment they found it.

The Bishop was a dog with a bone, disobeying direct orders from the pope, causing issues with the emissary, and lashing out against the Jewish community, even when the pope chose to go the other way.

One woman died as result of torture, while three others were forced to convert to Christianity under threat of death, including being washed in the urine of a virginal boy. However, I had some difficulty ascertaining an official death toll, which does not account for all methodologies of deaths, as different sources cited different facts.

According to Jewish Virtual Library,7 Jews were tortured for 15 consecutive daysuntil they confessed. One died in prison, six were burnt at the stake, two were strangled (even after converting to Christianity). Five more were executed after the papal intervention, and then JVL cites that four women accepted Christianity, but according to Teter, one never actually did, she merely died and the Bishop claimed she accepted Jesus, which coincides with the previous paragraphs assertion.

However, one key aspect that I can’t cover in full, but Teter stated perfectly:

“At the heart of the trial in Trent were not only anti-Jewish sentiments but also a clash between Rome and Trent: this clash went far beyond questions of the authenticity of miracles and the authorization of the cult of Simon, of authority and power, and of traditional practices and religious control. At its center were cultural and political differences between the Italian Rome and the Germanic Trent, differences that signaled subsequent trajectories in the history and memory of blood libels against Jews in Europe, soon to be divided by the Reformation.”

But their deaths would not be the last we hear of this. As a result of this violence, nearby city of Vicenza prohibited Jewish moneylending (one of the few professions Jews were allowed) in 1479 and fully expelled all Jews in 1486. It is also said that the Rabbis of Italy decreed that no Jew could settle in Trent.

Simon was a martyr who “was canonized about a century later”. He had a dedicated cult across Europe for roughly four centuries, continually spreading blood libel against Jews..

“After the second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the entire episode was declared a fraud; Simon’s name was removed from the calendar of saints’ days in 1965”

But again, him being stripped of his sainthood is not the last we hear of him.

In 2007, a group in Italy sought to revive the cult of Simon of Trent. In April 2019, a gunman entered a synagogue in Poway near San Diego, killing one and injuring several others. In his online manifesto, he invoked Simon of Trent saying, “You are not forgotten Simon of Trent, the horror that you and countless children have endured at the hands of the Jews will never be forgiven.”

Simon of Trent stands to be one of the most famous cases of blood libel and it also had massive repercussions.

While previous popes had attempted to speak against Catholic antisemitism, the extremely weak defense of the Jews in Trent appears to be the last time the papacy spoke up. To quote, “The papal refusal after 1583, and certainly after 1755, to reissue public condemnations of accusations that Jews killed Christians for blood, the dominant charge in eastern Europe, spoke louder than the previous protections.

With the canonization of Simon and the subsequent silence of the Pope, blood libel was validated.

But he is not the only ‘blood libel saint’.

Gabriel of Bialystok is a prominent Eastern European case of blood libel.

According to N. Kizenko, “The first East Slavic Orthodox theologian to articulate the blood accusation was Archimandrite Ioanikii Haliatovskii. His ‘Righteous Messiah’ («Мессия правдивый»), was first published in Polish in ChernihivI, and in Ukrainian translation in Kiev in 1669 [11]. In describing various Jewish “evil deeds,” Haliatovskii included twelve examples of ritual murder in different European countries (taken mostly from Polish and Jewish sources), and adduced four reasons for why Jews might need the blood of Christian children:

• magic,

• to slip into the food and drink of Christians to gain their goodwill,

• to free themselves from “stench”,

• something known supposedly only to rabbis: in a variant of unction, that dying Jews were anointed with Christian blood with a ritual incantation to the effect that if the crucified Jesus were indeed the real Messiah, this blood would cleanse the dying Jew of that guilt and serve to gain eternal life [12].”

You can learn more about the “stench” by listening to the podcast on Jews and the Witchcraze.

So who was Gabriel?

On April 20th, 1690, 6-year-old Gabriel was killed. Notably to the Christians in the area, it was the time of Passover. His parents worked in the fields, but a nearby Jew was accused of his murder. He was not only accused of murdering him, but taking Gabriel to Bialystok, where he drained him of his blood before taking him back to the field where his parents worked. But there are very few records of what happened because Gabriel didn’t become well known until much later. Roughly 30 years after his death, his grave was accidentally uncovered when they were trying to bury someone else, but in typical saint fashion, his body was miraculously fine. So, they transferred his body around for quite a while after that, his cult growing. During one of the moves of his body, someone attached a placard stating that it was the Jews who had killed him. He was venerated as a saint from roughly the 1820’s forward but wouldn’t receive official canonization until later on, according to Kizenko. It’s difficult to find out the official dates, as people locally venerated their own saints without official canonization. It should be said, however, that he is widely acknowledged within the Orthodox church as the patron saint of children and is venerated on April 20th.

According to Kizenko, “the sole reference to Gavriel in the text of the service to all the saints of Belarus’ is an easy-to-miss troparion in Ode VII of the canon: “Enduring as an infant great torments from Jews repugnant to G-d, thou has become like a Heavenly Angel, o passion-bearer Gabriel; pray now for the all the children of our land.”

As one of the most famous cases of blood libel in the area of Russia, Poland & Belarus, Gabriel was used well into the 1990’s to promote antisemitism, translated from the original Russian, “[in connection with the Day of St. Gabriel of Bialystok (the only Orthodox saint-child), the Belarusia]n state television on July 27, 1997, exploiting the topic of blood libel, bluntly stated, that the Jew Shutko with ritual purposes killed the Christian baby Gabriel (1690). The authorities refuse to engage in dialogue with the Jewish community on these topics.”

The Damascus Affair

February 5th, 1840, Damascus, Syria, then part of the Ottoman Empire. A Capuchin friar, Father Thomas, originally of Sardinia, and his servant Ibrahim Amara, who was Muslim, disappear without a trace. Despite the friar being involved in ‘shady business’, as per the Jewish Virtual Library, the initial reaction was to spread the idea that it must have been Jews that abducted and killed them for their blood for the upcoming Passover. It is unclear whether or not the accusers believed that Jews would be using Amara’s blood, as the traditional accusation was solely regarding Christian blood, or if he was collateral damage in the abduction in the friar.

At the time, Catholics in Syria were presided over by the French government, so it was up to the French consulate to deal with this matter. To the surprise of no one, the French consul, Ratti-Menton was a raging antisemite. He allied himself with Sheriff and they set about a task force. They used torture to ‘find out the truth’.

They went into the Jewish quarters, where he was supposedly last seen, and tortured a “confession” from a Jewish barber, Solomon. After being literally tortured, he said he and seven other Jewish men, some of whom were in interfaith families, had killed the monk and his servant in the house of a man named David Harari. The men listed were: David Arari, Isaac Arari, Aron Arari, Joseph Legnado, Moses Abolafia, Moses BEnar Juda, and Joseph Arari.

According to Abigail Green, two of the men listed above were rabbis while others belonged to a well-known merchant family.

Green continues that they suffered "the most severe beatings and cruelties," while the 5,000 Jews of Damascus ran the gauntlet of threats, intimidation, and extortion. Several butchers were “beaten to such an extreme that their flesh hung in pieces upon them,” and all the children at one primary school were chained and incarcerated in the expectation that the fathers for the sake of liberating their children would confess the truth of the matter. “When a Jew came forward to say that he had seen Father Tommaso and his servant leaving town on the night in question, he was flogged to death. After an energetic series of house searches, the governor reverted to torturing the prisoners.”g.

Green continues that more Jews were implicated and it just got worse. “One prisoner claimed to have secreted the blood in a bottle, which he delivered to Rabbi Moses Abulafia. The rabbi was beaten so savagely for his failure to produce the bottle that he eventually converted to Islam-lending his authority to the ritual-murder calumny.”

A Muslim servant of David Harari was also tortured into confession that Ibrahim Amara, Father Thomas’ servant, was killed in the house of Meir Farhi, a merchant, and that there were Jews present at the time of the murder. So, Jews were again rounded up, including Isaac Levi Picciotto. Now, Isaac was an Austrian citizen and thus he was under the protection of the Austrian consul. It was no longer free reign for the French consulate.

When they searched the sewers in the Jewish quarter, they found what they believed to be human bones. They refused to certify to whom they belonged and if they were even human bones and buried them as Father Thomas, adding the inscription to his grave that he was killed by Jews. When they found more bones, they said it was Ibrahim. According to Jewish Virtual Library, “A well-known physician in Damascus, Dr. Lograso, refused to certify that they were human bones, and requested that they be sent to a European university for examination. This, however, met with the opposition of the French consul. The authorities then announced that, on the strength of the confessions of the accused and the remains found of the victims, the guilt of the Jews in the double murder was proved beyond doubt”.

Isaac Levi Picciotto, the Austrian, was stood up for by a series of important people and eventually, the charges were officially dropped; But not before people were dead, synagogues were destroyed, and the Jewish population of Damascus had suffered greatly. And across Europe, these rumors had spread anew, particularly in France, as it was the French consulate spearheading the operation. The amount of antisemitism was horrific. In the US, American Jews came together and protested for their Jewish brethren suffering in Syria.

According to Jewish Virtual Library, “The tomb (allegedly) housing Father Thomas' remains still stands in the Franciscan Terra Sancta church in Damascus and carries the statement that he was "murdered by the Jews on February 5, 1840.”

The Beilis Affair

Known as the Beilis Affair is the case of Mendel Beilis (1874–1934), the Jewish manager of a brick factory in Kiev, Ukraine, was accused of murdering a boy for ritual purposes in 1911. He was initially indicted for the ritual murder of 12-year-old boy named Andrei Iushchinskii, despite there being clear links to gang activity. These clear links were ignored and dismissed as ‘higher ranking officials’ pushed prosecutors to move forward with the ritual murder charge against Beilis, whose factory was located near the cave where the boys body was found.

The team leading the charge against him included some the most prominent antisemites at the time.

‘The prosecution included some of the Russian Empire’s leading antisemitic activists, while Beilis’s defenders included a number of eminent Jewish and non-Jewish lawyers. The prosecution called a defrocked Catholic priest to be a chief witness; this priest claimed to have expertise about Jewish religious practices. The defense, in turn, relied on Iakov Maze, a rabbi from Moscow, to expose the shallowness of the priest’s knowledge. Several witnesses retracted their earlier statements on the stand, while other witnesses clearly stated their conviction that Cheberiak was to blame for the murder…Archival documents reveal that the jury was rigged and monitored, while some witnesses were bribed or threatened by officials. In its verdict, the jury found that Beilis was innocent, but that the killing had indeed been a ritual murder.”¹

The Beilis case was the cause of the flight of many Jews from Eastern Europe, believing the brutality and totality of the pogroms against Jews of the period and local was deemed evidentiary that Jews of Eastern Europe would not be safe. Not to mention that the clear evidence that the government would not protect them and would in fact work to persecute them. But tragically, less than twenty years later, there would be another case of blood libel, this time, in the United States--Marking as one of the most recent cases of blood libel and one of the most official within the United States, without addition of modern conspiracy theory.

Barbara Griffiths

In 1928, a 4-year-old named Barbara Griffiths wandered into the forest near her home in upstate New York. Because she was a four-year-old, she got lost. To quote:

“Late n Saturday afternoon [September 22], a four-year old girl, Barbara Griffiths, got lost in the woods and thick brush which, at that time, covered the edge of the village just a couple of blocks from her home. Quickly, search crews, family, friends and neighbors went looking for her, but when darkness fell, she had not been found. Naturally, there was great concern; autumn nights in Massena can be cold and damp. In those days, searches of this kind were largely conducted by the Volunteer Fire Department, which included several Ku Klux Klan members in its ranks.”

The next day, the 23rd, would be the start of Yom Kippur, arguably the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

The Residents of Massena, including their KKK neighbors, began to spread rumours, “There was an important Jewish holiday about to take place, wasn’t there? And wasn’t there something about blood, Christian blood, being needed in their rituals? Could there be some connection with the girl’s disappearance?

“We do not know who in the Jewish community first heard these frightening insinuations. Probably it was the president of the congregation, Jacob Shulkin, whose 21-year-old son William had been escorted home by the police. William, called Willie by everyone, was known to be mentally impaired. Yet, he had been questioned by the State police and what he told his father, though confused, was enough to alert the latter to a potentially dangerous situation for the entire Jewish community.”

Despite there being zero evidence, apparently a Jewish business had its cellar searched while others merely dealt with cops shining flashlights in their windows and behind their businesses.

The next morning, “The two troopers in charge of the investigation were advised by an unknown informant to question a man by the name of Morris Goldberg. One must assume that this suggestion was prompted by blatant anti-Semitism, because Mr. Goldberg was on the periphery of the Jewish community. He knew that he was a Jew; that was all. For the many years he was employed by Alcoa, he was, so to speak, their token Jew. In fact, he was interrogated while on the job at Alcoa. Knowing nothing of Judaism, he pleaded ignorance, but the clumsy way in which he phrased his answer somehow left a hint that there might be something to the ritual murder charge after all.”

These troopers went straight to the mayor who is described as a typical small-town bigot. Based solely on the rumors of ritual murder and blood libel, the troopers entered the synagogue on erev Yom Kippur and wanted to take the rabbi to question him.

Rabbi Berel Brennglass of Massena’s Orthodox congregation Adath Israel did not go withthem, but rather came on his own accord later to issue his statement.

According to Dr. Yitzchok Levine, who wrote on this topic, “When the Mayor and the trooper attempted to put questions to him, the rabbi quickly and vehemently turned the tables on them, demanding to know who was responsible for the contemptible libel. In no uncertain terms, he denounced all who dared to accuse Jews of such heinous crimes in the 20th century, particularly in these enlightened United States. Certainly, he made clear, all of them should hang their heads in shame. “After delivering his angry speech, the rabbi left abruptly. There is one report that he also called out to a mob of men who were hanging around the alley that led from Main Street to the police station. They should search for the little girl, he is alleged to have said, rather than pursue medieval calumnies against the Jews. It is said that both the Mayor, Trooper McCann and others loitering around the police station were abashed, at least momentarily, by the rabbi’s skillful tongue lashing. It is entirely possible, however, that this little episode is apocryphal.”

Even more poetic: Little Barbara wandered out of the woods and was found before Yom Kippur even began.

But it didn’t end there.

The people of the community didn’t believe their Jewish neighbors had nothing to do with it, nor did the Mayor, who organized a boycott of the Jewish-owned businesses in Massena, which had active KKK members in its ranks.

The mayor was up for re-election, and so when faced with backlash for his blatant antisemitism, he issues a weak apology, for which he was granted his sixth re-election.

Modern Blood Libel

Blood libel has not disappeared in the modern day, though the trials of old have. Blood libel lives on: it is not dead. It is important to understand that while the material acts of old (child goes missing, Jews are accused, violence against Jews, etc) have ceased, the existence of the theory and the violence that stems from it is not over or gone. It is a living, breathing ideology. Blood libel lives on in the stories told around dinner tables, preached from the pulpit, and most horrifically, spread in chat rooms and social media under a new pernicious name.

The outright idea that Jews murder and use the blood of people (particularly Christians, children, and Christian children) is believed by many, but often people are radicalized into an ideology that walks in the footsteps of blood libel, taking from other antisemitic mythos to supplement the rather sci-fi aspects to it: adrenochrome.

In fact, a Facebook published within days of the publication of the original podcast version of this blog featured the claim that a statue depicting men stabbing Simon of Trent (discussed above) was in fact an ancient statue depicting the harvesting of adrenochrome. ¹⁶

‘"Nothing has changed,”…. overlaid on the image of a sculpture depicting a child being stabbed by a group of men. "Adrenochrome: A habbit (sic) set in stone."

Numerous duplicates of the claim exist online, one of which received more than 300 likes and almost 200 shares before being deleted...

But the claim is based on false premises. The artwork shows Simon of Trent, whose death was falsely blamed on the town's Jewish population. It's an example of long-running "blood libel" against Jews. The QAnon claim that Hollywood and political elites harvest adrenochrome from children's blood is baseless.”¹

What is adrenochrome? Simply explained by USAToday citing PubChem, “Adrenochrome is a chemical produced by the oxidation of adrenaline”. QAnon, an alt-right conspiracy theory group that is far reaching, believes and promotes the idea that there is a secret cabal of elite, demonic people (read Jews and anyone associated with Jews), who require adrenochrome to be harvested from the vital (read: children and ‘pure’ people) in order to stay young and in power.

These lies are nothing but repackaged antisemitism, sometimes only repackaged as far as to change the name of “Jews” to “globalist” or “elite” or “celebrity” and “drink blood” to “inject adrenochrome”.

The antisemitic group responsible for hanging signs on the 405 freeway stating “Kanye was right” also promote blood libel, as well as the adrenochrome conspiracy theory within their horrific forums.


It is important to understand how conspiracy theories exist within a self-sustaining ecosystem, interconnected and interwoven, each functioning as a load-bearing branch for the other. Blood libel upholds the idea that Jews are evil and demonic, the idea that Jews are satanic and connected to the Devil and must make sacrifices to him upholds blood libel, the idea that Jews are inherently filthy and animalistic upholding both, etc. Not only do these conspiracy theories uphold one another, but they function to serve other forms of bigotry. These ideas are not without impact on the greater world. Nazis rally carrying these flags. Men murder their children because they believe in conspiracy theories that promote these very ideas. Synagogues are attacked by people who claim to be upholding the legacy of blood libel saints. This is not merely a theory, as many would have you believe. It is vital that we stand against antisemitism in every form.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This was originally formatted as a podcast script, however, with rising antisemitism, Jewitches deemed it important to post as a static blog post. This may mean that there are errors with in-text citations, as the original podcast features only citations at the end, as is traditional podcasting protocol. The highest effort has been made to go back and add correct in text citations after the fact.


  1. Ehrman, Albert. “THE ORIGINS OF THE RITUAL MURDER ACCUSATION AND BLOOD LIBEL.” <i>Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought</i>, vol. 15, no. 4, 1976, pp. 83–90. <i>JSTOR</i>, Accessed 22 Aug. 2021.


  3. Goodman, Martin. “Trajan and the Origins of Roman Hostility to the Jews.” <i>Past &amp; Present</i>, no. 182, 2004, pp. 3–29. <i>JSTOR</i>, Accessed 22 Aug. 2021.

  4. The Power of a Lie (1144–1300)

  5. From Medieval Tales to the Challenge in Trent


  7. Lachs, Stephen. “The Legend of Little Hugh.” <i>Western Folklore</i>, vol. 19, no. 1, 1960, pp. 61–62. <i>JSTOR</i>, Accessed 23 Aug. 2021.

  8. “Introduction.” <i>Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth</i>, by DA TETER, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England, 2020, pp. 1–13. <i>JSTOR</i>, Accessed 23 Aug. 2021.

  9. “The Death of Little Simon and the Trial of Jews in Trent.” <i>Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth</i>, by MAGDA TETER, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England, 2020, pp. 43–88. <i>JSTOR</i>, Accessed 23 Aug. 2021.


  11. Blood accusation and Orthodox liturgy in the Russian Empire before and after the Beilis Case N.Kizenko


  13. “The Damascus Affair.” <i>Moses Montefiore</i>, by ABIGAIL GREEN, Harvard University Press, 2010, pp. 133–157. <i>JSTOR</i>, Accessed 24 Aug. 2021.


  15. QAnon Conspiracy Theory: Examining its Evolution and Mechanisms of Radicalization. Amanda Garry, Samantha Walther, Rukaya Mohamed, Ayan Mohammed



  18. Yvonne Owens. (2014). The Saturnine History of Jews and Witches. Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural,3(1), 56-84. doi:10.5325/preternature.3.1.0056

  19. “The Dehumanization and Demonization of the Medieval Jews.” Medieval Antisemitism?, by François Soyer, Arc Humanities Press, Leeds, 2019, pp. 45–66. JSTOR,

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