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UNITED WITH THOTH.
there are incidental mentions of the tasting of blood by gods and by men;1 and of the proffering, or the uplifting, of the blood-filled arm, in covenant with the gods.2
On a recently deciphered stéle of the days of Rameses IV., of the Twentieth Dynasty, about twelve centuries before Christ, there is an apparent reference to this blood-covenanting, and to its amulet record. The inscription is a specimen of a funereal ritual, not unlike some portions of the Book of the Dead. The deceased is represented as saying, according to the translation of Piehl3: "I am become familiar with Thoth, by his writings, on the day when he spat upon his arm." The Egyptian word, khenmes, here translated “familiar," means "united with," or "joined with." The word here rendered "writings," is hetepoo; which, in the singular, hetep, in the Book of Dead, stands for the record of the covenant on the blood-stained amulet.1
The word pegas (), rendered “spat,” by Piehl, is an obscure term, variously rendered "moistened," "washed," "wiped," "healed."5 It is clear therefore that this passage may fairly be read: “I am become united with Thoth, by the covenant-record, on the day when he moistened, or healed his arm"; and 2 Ibid., V., 323.
1See Egypt's Place, V., 174, 254, 282.
3 See Zeitschrift für Ægyptische Sprache, erstes Heft, 1885, p. 16. 4 See page 81 f., supra. 5 See Pierret, Brugsch, Birch, s. v.
if the arm were healed, it had been cut, and so moistened. Indeed, it is quite probable that this word pegas 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 tooth instrument
blood streams down.
is again employed, and the When a person of
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. He 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.