Jack Donovan: My co-author Nathan Miller and I wrote a book about blood-brotherhood because Mr. Miller originally suggested it to me as an alternative to the ideal of “marriage” which carries too much heterosexual cultural baggage to create an innately masculine bond between two men.
But the book really isn’t about same sex-marriage. It’s about rites between men who were predominantly straight. It’s about male bonding and things that men—specifically men—have done to ritualize their friendships and alliances. Very few books have ever handled this topic, and ours is the only one to pull together so much information from so many diverse sources. In our research, we found blood-brotherhood bonds of various kinds in the recorded practices, literature, folklore and mythology of cultures from all over the world, throughout history. […]
Nathan F. Miller: It’s very interesting, because similar rituals have been performed by men of Africa, aboriginal Australia, and South America — populations that had been separated from each other for tens of thousands of years! Anthropological study of the blood-brother phenomenon shows certain logics that could apply to men anywhere. One reason is the rituals were meant to create a physical connection in a way that imitated natural biological relationships, but allowing the men to control the bond. Another logic was involved in the idea that the blood of a person was their very life or soul, so for two or more men to mingle their lives together was to create the most sacred bond possible. Yet another idea that often went into blood-bond ceremonies was that blood was such a magical substance that “conditional curses” could be placed on the blood, and the potential oath-breakers. Interestingly, instances of blood brother rituals could show all three logics simultaneously; the men involved would be considered to have become actual brothers, yet also something even more sacred than brothers, and have curse-backed promises tied into the agreement as well.