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pum."1 "The strings," according to Lafitau, "are used for affairs of little consequence, or as a preparation for other more considerable presents"; but the binding "belts" were as the bond of the covenant itself.

These covenant belts often bore, interwoven with different colored wampum beads, symbolic figures, such as two hands clasped in friendship, or two figures with hands joined. As the belts commonly signalized tribal covenants, they were not worn by a single individual, but were sacredly guarded in some tribal depository; yet their form and their designation indicate the origin of their idea.


There is still preserved, in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Le wampum belt which is supposed to have sealed the treaty of peace and friendship between William Penn and the Indians. It contains two figures, wrought in dark colored beads, representing an Indian grasping with the hand of friendship the hand of a man evidently intended to be represented in the European costume, wearing a hat.” 2 Still more explicit in its symbolism is the royal belt of the primitive kings of Tahiti. Throughout Polynesia, red feathers, which had been inclosed in a hollow image of a god, were considered not only as emblematic of the deities, but as actually representing them in their personality (Ellis's Polyn. Res., I., 79, 211, 314, 316; II., 204; Tour thro' Hawaii, p. 121). "The inauguration ceremony [of the Tahitian king], answering to coronation among other nations, consisted in girding the king with the maro ura, or sacred girdle of red feathers; which not only raised him to the highest earthly station, but identified him with their gods [as by oneness of blood]. The maro, or girdle, was made with the beaten fibres of the ava; with these a number of ura, red feathers, taken from the images of their deities [where they had, seemingly, represented the blood, or the life, of the image], were interwoven;

the feathers [as the blood] being supposed to retain all the

1 Loskiel's Missions of the United Brethren, Trans. by La Trobe, Bk. I., p. 26; cited in Ibid., p. 245 f.

2 Ibid., p. 253 f.

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dreadful attributes of vengeance which the idols possessed, and with which it was designed to endow the king." In lieu of the king's own blood, in this symbolic ceremony of inter-union, a human victim was sacrificed, for the "fastening on of the sacred maro." "Sometimes a human victim was offered for every fresh piece added to the girdle [blood for blood, between the king and the god]; and the girdle

was considered as consecrated by the blood of those victims." The chief priest of the god Oro formally invested the king with this "sacred girdle, which, the [blood-representing] feathers from the idol being interwoven in it, was supposed to impart to the king a power equal to that possessed by Oro." After this, the king was supposed to be a sharer of the divine nature of Oro, with whom he had entered into a covenant of bloodunion (Ellis's Polyn. Res., II., 354-360).

Thus it seems that a band, as a bond, of a sacred covenant is treasured reverently in the New World; as a similar token, of one kind, or another, was treasured, for the same reason, in the Old World. Yet, in the face of such facts as these, one of the notable rationalistic theological writers on Old Testament manners and customs, in the latest edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, coolly ascribes the idea of the Jewish phylacteries to the superstitious idea of a pagan “amulet." He might indeed, with good reason, have ascribed the idea of the pagan amulet itself to a perversion of that common primitive idea of the binding bond of a sacred covenant which shows itself in the blood-friendship record of Syria, in the red covenant-cord of China and India, in the divine-human covenant token of ancient Egypt, in the red-feather belt of divine-royal union, in the Pacific Islands, in the wampum belt of America, and in the evolved wedding-covenant ring, or amulet, of a large portion of the civilized world. But that would hardly have been in accordance with the fashionable method of the modern rationalistic theologian; which is, to fix on some later heathenish perversion of a primitive sacred rite, and then to ascribe the origin of all the normal uses of that primitive rite to its own later perversions.

Yet another indication that the binding circlet of the covenant-token stands, among primitive peoples, as also among cultivated ones, as the representative, or proof, of this very covenant itself, is found in a method of divorce prevailing among the Balau Dayaks, of Borneo. It has already been shown (page 73, supra) that a ring of blood is a binding symbol in the marriage covenant in some parts of Borneo. It seems, also, that when a divorce has been agreed on by a Balau couple, "it is necessary for the offended husband to send a ring to his wife, before the marriage can be considered as finally dissolved; without which, should they marry again, they would be liable to be punished for infidelity." 1 This practice seems to have grown out of the old custom already referred to (page 73 f.), of the bride giving to the bridegroom a bloodrepresenting ring in the marriage cup. Until that symbolic ring is returned to her by the bridegroom, it remains as the proof of her covenant with him.

This connection of the encircling ring with the heart's blood is of very ancient origin, and of general, if not of universal, application. Wilkinson (Anc. Egypt., III., 420) cites Macrobius as saying, that "those Egyptian priests who were called prophets, when engaged in the temple near the altars of the gods, moistened [anointed] the ring-finger of the left hand (which was that next to the smallest) with various sweet ointments, in the belief that a certain nerve communicated with it from the heart." He also says, that among the Egyptian women, many finger rings were worn, and that "the left was considered the hand peculiarly privileged to wear these ornaments; and it is remarkable that its third finger [next to the little finger] was considered by them, as by us, par excellence the ring finger; though there is no evidence [to his knowledge] of its having been so honored at the marriage ceremony." Birch adds (Ibid., II., 340) that "it is very difficult to distinguish between the ring worn for mere ornament, and the signet [standing for the wearer's very life] employed to seal [and to sign] epistles and other things." The evidence 1 St John's Life in the Far East, I, 67

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is, in fact, ample, that the ring, in ancient Egypt, as elsewhere, was not a mere ornament, nor yet a superstitious amulet, but represented one's heart, or one's life, as a symbol and pledge of personal fidelity.

In South Australia, the rite of circumcision is one of the steps by which a lad enters into the sphere of manhood. This involves his covenanting with his new god-father, and with his new fellows in the sphere of his entering. In this ceremony, the very ring of flesh itself is placed on the third finger of the boy's left hand" (Angas's Sav. Life, I., 99). What clearer indication than this is needed, that the finger-ring is a vestige of the primitive blood-covenant token?


An instance of the use of a large ring, or bracelet, encircling the two hands of persons joining in the marriage covenant, is reported to me from the North of Ireland, in the present century. It was in the county Donegal. The Roman Catholic priest was a French exile. In marrying the people of the poorer class, who could not afford to purchase a ring, he "would take the large ring from his old-fashioned double-cased watch, and hold it on the hands, or the thumbs, of the contracting parties, while he blessed their union."

Yet another illustration of the universal symbolism of the ring, as a token of sacred covenant, is its common use as a pledge of friendship, even unto death. The ring given by Queen Elizabeth to the unfortunate Earl of Essex is an instance in point. Had that covenant-token reached her, her covenant promises would have been redeemed.

There is an old Scottish ballad, “Hynd Horn,”—perhaps having a common origin with the Bohemian lay on which Scott based The Noble Moringer,1-which brings out the idea of a covenant-ring having the power to indicate to its wearer the fidelity of its giver; corresponding with the popular belief to that effect, suggested by Bacon.2 Hynd Horn has won the heart of the king's daughter, and the king sends him over the sea, as a means of breaking up the match. As he sets out Hynd Horn carries with him a symbol of his lady-love's troth. 2 See page 75, supra

1 See page 73, supra.

"O his love gave him a gay gold ring,

With a hey lillelu, and a how lo lan;
With three shining diamonds set therein,

And the birk and the broom blooms bonnie.
"As long as these diamonds keep their hue,
With a hey lillelu, and a how lo lan,
Ye'll know that I'm a lover true,

And the birk and the broom blooms bonnie.

"But when your ring turns pale and wan,

With a hey lillelu, and a how lo lan,

Then I'm in love with another man,

And the birk and the broom blooms bonnie." 1

Seven years went by, and then the ring-gems grew "pale and wan." Hynd Horn hastened back, entered the wedding-hall disguised as a beggar, sent the covenant-ring to the bride in a glass of wine; and the sequel was the same as in The Noble Moringer.

At a Brahman wedding, in India, described by Miss H. G. Brittan (in "The Missionary Link," for October, 1864; cited in Women of the Orient, pp. 176-179) a silver dish, filled with water, (probably with water colored with saffron, or with turmeric, according to the common custom in India,) "also containing a very handsome ruby ring, and a thin iron bracelet," was set before the father of the bride, during the marriage ceremony. At the covenanting of the young couple, "the ring was given to the groom; the bracelet to the bride; then some of the [blood-colored?] water was sprinkled on them [See page 194, supra], and some flowers [were] thrown at them." Here seem to be combined the symbolisms of the ring, the bracelet, and the blood, in a sacred covenanting.


: From the very fact that so little attention has been given to the primitive rite of blood-covenanting, in the studies of modern scholars, there is reason for supposing that the rite itself has very often been unnoticed

1 Allingham's Ballad Book, p. 6 f.

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