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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.
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
is again employed, and the blood streams down.
When a person of eminence dies
the relatives and friends
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 she 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.
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.”l 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."' ?
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
1 Ellis's Polynesian Researches, I., 529.
2 Psa. 56:8.
BLEEDING FOR BAAL.
it, so that it bled. Then she held her napkin beneath, and let three drops of blood fall into it; which she gave to her daughter, saying: 'Dear child, preserve this well, and it will help you out of trouble.'” That blood represented the mother's very life. It was accustomed to speak out in words of counsel and warning to the daughter. But by and by the napkin which held it was lost, and then the power of the young princess over her mother's servant was gone, and the poor princess was alone in the wide world, at the mercy of strangers.
Acting on the symbolism of this covenanting with another by the loving proffer of one's blood, men have reached out toward God, or toward the gods, in desire for a covenant of union, and in expression of fidelity of devotedness, by the giving of their blood God-ward. This, also, has been in the East and in the West, in ancient days and until to-day.
There was a gleam of this in the Canaanitish worship of Baal, in the contest between his priests and the prophet Elijah, before King Ahab, at Mount Carmel. First, those priests shed the blood of the substitute bullock, at the altar of their god, and “called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us ! But there was no voice,
1“ The Goose Girl," in Grimm's Household Tales.