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ALAN DUNDES The Ritual Murder or Blood Libel Legend: A Study of Anti-Semitic Victimization through Projective Inversion So much has been written on the blood libel legend that one might despair of being able to say anything about the legend that had not already been said before. In the following essay, I try to interpret the blood 1ibe11egend by using a psychoanalytic concept I call "projective inversion." I also draw on much ofthe previous scholarship-including many of the essays included in this casebook. The reader will have to form his or her own conclusion as to whether my utilization of projective inversion succeeds in illuminating both the possible cause and content of this insidious legend . It is my fervent hope that any understanding of any of the contributing factors in the formation of bigotry and prejudice may help in the constant struggle against bigotry and prejudice. That is what led me to carry out myresearch on such a horrible and dastardly legend in the first place. If one were to poll most folklorists as to whether or not folklore was on the whole a positive force in human culture, I suspect there would be considerable consensus that indeed it was. A tale well told, a song well sung ordinarily give pleasure to the performers themselves and almost certainly to those in the performer's audience. Esthetically speaking, it would appear to be a safe generalization that life is more pleasant because of the charm of folk costume and the deReprinted from Temenos 25 (1989): 7-32. 336 The Ritual Murder or Blood Libel Legend light in participating in a favorite calendrical festival. Shorn of its folkloristic dress, daily life would be ever so much more drab and dull than it otherwise is. Yet it is important to keep in mind that there is some folklore which is highly pernicious and even life-threatening. I am thinking of vari0us forms of racist and sexist folklore. Social scientists are normally reluctant to attach value judgments to the data they study, but it is my contention that one can make a convincing case for the label "evil folklore" for selected individual items of tradition.I Among the prime candidates for placement under the rubric of the folklore of evil, I would rank at or very near the top of the list the so-called blood libel legend. Other phrases designating this vicious legend include blood accusation and ritual murder (accusation). These terms are used almost interchangeably but there are several scholars who have sought to distinguish between ritual murder and blood libel, arguing that ritual murder refers to a sacrificial murder in general whereas the blood libel entails specific use of the blood of the victim.2 In the case of alleged Jewish ritual murder , the blood motivation is nearly always present which presumably accounts for the equally common occurrence of both ritual murder and blood libel as labels. The relevant motif is V361. Christian child killed to furnish blood for Jewish rite. The typical gist of the story line is that one or more Jews murder an innocent Christian infant or child, supposedly to obtain blood required for ritual purposes , e.g., to mix with unleavened bread or to make matzah. The legend has been in constant circulation in oral and written tradition from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries, often leading to deadly consequences for Jews accused of the crime. Like all legends, the blood libel story is traditionally told as true, that is, as an actual historical happening. Joshua Trachtenberg begins his chapter of The Devil and the Jews devoted to a discussion of ritual murder as follows: "Of all the bizarre 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 so337 Alan Dundes called ritual-murder accusation. In its popular version, it foists upon Jewish ritual the need for Christian blood at the Passover. 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."3 Salomon Reinach made a similar comment: "Of all the accusations which fanaticism and ignorance have used as a weapon against Judaism, there is none which can be compared in terms of improbability and absurdity to that of ritual murder."4 Max Grunwald, the pioneer of Jewish folklore studies, had this to say: "Of all the attacks on Jews...


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