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"Father of Slaughter,1 Odin, say,
Rememberest not the former day,
When ruddy in the goblet stood,
Unless thy brother Lok was there?"
In citing this illustration of the ancient rite, a modern historian of chivalry has said: "Among barbarous people [the barbarians of Europe] the fraternity of arms [the sacred brotherhood of heroes] was established by the horrid custom of the new brothers drinking each other's blood; but if this practice was barbarous, nothing was farther from barbarism than the sentiment which inspired it."2
Another of the methods by which the rite of bloodfriendship was observed in the Norseland, was by causing the blood of the two covenanting persons to inter-flow from their pierced hands, while they lay together underneath a lifted sod. The idea involved seems to have been, the burial of the two individuals, in their separate personal lives, and the intermingling of those lives-by the intermingling of their bloodwhile in their temporary grave; in order to their
'Odin "is the author of war." He is called "Valfather (Father of the slain), because he chooses for his sons all who fall in combat." Anderson's Norse Mythol., p. 215 f.
2 Mills's History of Chivalry, chap. IV.
rising again with a common life1-one life, one soul, in two bodies. Thus it is told, in one of the Icelandic Sagas, of Thorstein, the heroic son of Viking, proffering "foster-brotherhood," or blood-friendship, to the valiant Angantyr, Jarl of the Orkneys. "Then this was resolved upon, and secured by firm pledges on both sides. They opened a vein in the hollow of their hands, crept beneath the sod, and there [with clasped hands inter-blood-flowing] they solemnly swore that each of them should avenge the other if any one of them should be slain by weapons." This was, in fact, a three-fold covenant of blood; for King Bele, who had just been in combat with Angantyr, was already in blood-friendship with Thorstein.2
The rite of blood-friendship, in one form and another finds frequent mention in the Norseland Sagas. Thus, in the Saga of Fridthjof the Bold, the son of Thorstein :
"Champions twelve, too, had he-gray-haired, and princes in exploits,— Comrades his father had loved, steel-breasted and scarred o'er the forehead.
Last on the champions' bench, equal-aged with Fridthjof, a stripling Sat, like a rose among withered leaves; Bjorn called they the hero Glad as a child, but firm like a man, and yet wise as a graybeard; Up with Fridthjof he'd grown; they had mingled blood with each other, Foster-brothers in Northman wise; and they swore to continue Steadfast in weal and woe, each other revenging in battle." 3
1 Rom. 6:4-6; Col. 2: 12
2 Anderson's Viking Tales of the North, p. 59.
3 Ibid., p. 191 f.
THE RITE IN CHINA.
A vestige of this primitive rite, coming down to us through European channels, is found, as are so many other traces of primitive rites, in the inherited folk-lore of English-speaking children on both sides of the Atlantic. An American clergyman's wife said recently, on this point: "I remember, that while I was a schoolgirl, it was the custom, when one of our companions pricked her finger, so that the blood came, for one or another of us to say 'Oh, let me suck the blood; then we shall be friends."" And that is but an illustration of the outreaching after this indissoluble bond, on the part of thirty generations of children of Norseland and Anglo-Saxon stock, since the days of Fridthjof and Bjorn; as that same yearning had been felt by those of a hundred generations before that time.
5. WORLD-WIDE SWEEP OF THE RITE.
Concerning traces of the rite of blood-covenanting in China, where there are to be found fewest resemblances to the primitive customs of the Asiatic Semites, Dr. Yung Wing, the eminent Chinese educationalist and diplomat, gives me the following illustration: "In the year 1674, when Kănhi was Emperor, of the present dynasty, we find that the Buddhist priests of Shanlin Monastery in Fuhkin Province had rebelled against the authorities on account of persecution. In their encounters with the troops, they fought against great
odds, and were finally defeated and scattered in different provinces, where they organized centres of the Triad Society, which claims an antiquity dated as far back as the Freemasons of the West. Five of these priests fled to the province of Hakwong, and there, Chin Kinnan, a member of the Hanlin College, who was degraded from office by his enemies, joined them; and it is said that they drank blood, and took the oath of brotherhood, to stand by each other in life or death."
Along the southwestern border of the Chinese Empire, in Burmah, this rite of blood-friendship is still practiced; as may be seen from illustrations of it, which are given in the Appendix of this work.
In his History of Madagascar, the Rev. William Ellis, tells of this rite as he observed it in that island, and as he learned of it from Borneo. He says:
"Another popular engagement in use among the Malagasy is that of forming brotherhoods, which though not peculiar to them, is one of the most remarkable usages of the country. Its object is to cement two individuals in the bonds of most sacred friendship. . . More than two may thus associate, if they please; but the practice is usually limited to that number, and rarely embraces more than three or four individuals. It is called fatridá, i. e., 'dead blood,' either because the oath is taken over the blood of a
THE MOUTH OF THE HEART.
45 fowl killed for the occasion, or because a small portion of blood is drawn from each individual, when thus pledging friendship, and drunk by those to whom friendship is pledged, with execrations of vengeance on each other in case of violating the sacred oath. To obtain the blood, a slight incision is made in the skin covering the centre of the bosom, significantly called ambavafo, 'the mouth of the heart.' Allusion is made to this, in the formula of this tragi-comical ceremony.
"When two or more persons have agreed on forming this bond of fraternity, a suitable place and hour are determined upon, and some gunpowder and a ball are brought, together with a small quantity of ginger, a spear, and two particular kinds of grass. A fowl also is procured; its head is nearly cut off; and it is left in this state to continue bleeding during the ceremony.
"The parties then pronounce a long form of imprecation, and [a] mutual vow, to this effect:-'Should either of us prove disloyal to the sovereign, or unfaithful to each other, then perish the day, and perish
1 Apparently these articles form a "heap of witness," or are the aggregated symbolic witnesses of the transaction; as something answering to this usage is found in connection with the rite in various parts of the world.
2 He who would be true in friendship must be true in all things. The good friend is a good citizen. See 1 Peter 2: 17.