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if the arm were healed, it had been cut, and so moistened. Indeed it is quite probable that this word peqas has a root connection with peq, peqa, peqau, "a gap," "an opening," "to divide"; and even with penqu, () "to bleed." Apparently, the unfamiliarity of Egyptologists with this rite of blood-covenanting, by the cutting of the arm, has hindered the recognition of the full force of many of the terms involved.
Ebers, in his "Uarda," has incidentally given an illustration of the custom of blood-covenanting in ancient Egypt. It is when the surgeon Nebsecht has saved the life of Uarda, and her soldier-father, Kaschta, would show his gratitude, and would pledge his lifelong fidelity in return.
“If at any time thou dost want help, call me, and I will protect thee against twenty enemies. Thou hast saved my child-good! Life for life. I sign myself thy blood-ally-there!'
"With these words he drew his poniard, out of his girdle. He scratched his arm, and let a few drops of his blood run down on a stone at the feet of Nebsecht.
"Look!' he said. There is my blood! Kaschta has signed himself thine; and thou canst dispose of my life as of thine own. What I have said, I have said.""1
1 Uarda, I., 192.
LOVE-SHOWING BY BLOOD-LETTING.
9. OTHER GLEAMS OF THE rite.
In this last cited illustration, from Uarda, there would, at first glance, seem to be the covenant proffered, rather than the covenant entered into; the covenant all on one side, instead of the mutual covenant. But this is, if it were possible, only a more unselfish and a more trustful mode than the other, of covenanting by blood; of pledging the life, by pledging the blood, to one who is already trusted absolutely. And this mode of proffering the covenant of blood, or of pledging one's self in devotedness by the giving of one's blood, is still a custom in the East; as it has been in both the East and the West, from time immemorial.
For example, in a series of illustrations of Oriental manners, prepared under the direction of the French ambassador to Turkey, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, there appears a Turkish lover gashing his arm in the presence of his lady-love, as a proof of his loving attachment to her; and the accompanying statement is made, that the relative flow of blood thus devoted indicates the measure of affection—or of affectionate devotedness.1
A custom akin to this was found in Otaheite, when the South Sea Islands were first visited by English
1 Ferriol's Recueil de cent Estampes representant differentes Nations du Levant, Carte 43, and Explication, p. 16.
missionaries. The measure of love, in time of joy or in time of grief, was indicated by the measure of blood drawn from the person of the loving one. Particularly was this the case with the women; perhaps because they, in Otaheite as elsewhere, are more loving in their nature, and readier to give of their very life in love.
"When a woman takes a husband," says a historian of the first missionary work in Otaheite, "she immediately provides herself with a shark's tooth, which is fixed, with the bread-fruit gum, on an instrument that leaves about a quarter of an inch of the tooth bare, for the purpose of wounding the head, like a lancet. Some of these have two or three teeth, and struck forcibly they bring blood in copious streams; according to the love they bear the party, and the violence of their grief, the strokes are repeated on the head; and this has been known to bring on fever, and terminate in madness. If any accident happen to the husband, [to] his relations, or friends, or their child, the shark's tooth goes to work; and even if the child only fall down and hurt itself, the blood and tears mingle together. They have a very similar way of expressing their joy as well as sorrow; for whether a relation dies, or a dear friend returns from a journey, the shark's
A BLOODY GREETING.
repeat before it [the corpse] some of the tender scenes which happened during their life time, and wiping the blood which the shark's teeth has drawn, deposit the cloth on the tupapow as the proof of their affection."1
In illustration of this custom, the same writer says, in the course of his narrative: "When we had got within a short mile of the Isthmus, in passing a few houses, an aged woman, mother to the young man who carried my linen, met us, and to express her joy at seeing her son, struck herself several times on the head with a shark's tooth, till the blood flowed plentifully down her breast and shoulders, whilst the son beheld it with entire insensibility [He saw in it only the common proof of his mother's devoted love]. The
son seeing that I was not pleased with what was done, observed coolly, that it was the custom of Otaheite."2
This custom is again referred to by Mr. Ellis, as observed by him in the Georgian and the Society Islands, a generation later than the authority above cited. speaks of the shark's tooth blood-letter, as employed by men, as well as by women; although more commonly by the latter. He adds another illustration of the truth, that it is the blood itself, and not any suffering caused by its flowing, that is counted the proof of
1 First Miss. Voyage to the So. Sea Islands, pp. 352–363.
2 Ibid., p. 196.
affection; by its representing the outpoured life, in pledge of covenant fidelity.
Describing the scenes of blood-giving grief, over the dead bodies of the mourned loved ones, he says: "The females on these occasions sometimes put on a kind of short apron, of a particular sort of cloth; which they held up with one hand, while they cut themselves with the other. In this apron they caught the blood that flowed from these grief-inflicted wounds, until it [the apron] was almost saturated. It was then dried in the sun, and given to the nearest surviving relatives, as a proof of the affection of the donor, and was preserved by the bereaved family as a token of the estimation in which the departed had been held.”1 There is even more of vividness in this memorial, than in that suggested by the Psalmist, when he says:
"Put thou my tears into thy bottle." 2
There would seem to be a suggestion of this same idea in one of Grimm's folk-lore fairy tales of the North. A queen's daughter is going away from her home, attended by a single servant. Her loving mother would fain watch and guard her in her absence. Accordingly, "as soon as the hour of departure had arrived, the mother took her daughter into a chamber, and there, with a knife, she cut her [own] finger with 2 Psa. 56: 8.
1 Ellis's Polynesian Researches, I., 529.