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Another account of the blood-covenant rite in Burmah is kindly furnished to me by the Rev. Dr. M. H. Bixby, of Providence, Rhode Island, who was also for some years a missionary among the Karens.

He says:

"In my first journey over the mountains of Burmah, into Shanland, toward Western China, I passed through several tribes of wild Karens among whom the practice of covenanting by blood' prevailed.

"If you mean what you say,' said the old chief of the Gecho tribe to me, referring to my professions of friendship, 'you will drink truth with me.' 'Well, what is drinking truth?' I said. In reply, he said:

This is our custom. Each chief pierces his arm-draws bloodmingles it in a vessel with whisky, and drinks of it; both promising to be true and faithful to each other, down to the seventh generation.'

"After the chiefs had drunk of the mingled blood and whisky, each one of their followers drunk of it also, and were thereby included in the covenant of friendship.

"A company of Shans laid a plot to kill me and my company in Shanland, for the purpose of plunder. They entered into covenant with each other by drinking the blood of their leader mingled with whisky, or a kind of beer made from rice.

"Those wild mountain tribes have strange traditions which indicate that they once had the Old Testament Scriptures, although now they have no written language. Some of the Karen tribes have a written language, given them by the missionaries.

"The covenant, also, exists in modified forms, in which the blood is omitted."


In various parts of the East, a tree is given prominence in the rite of blood-covenanting. In Burmah, as above shown, one mode of covenanting is by the mutual planting of a tree.1 In Timor, a newly planted

1 See page 313, supra.


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fig-tree is made to bear a portion of the blood of the covenant, and to remain as a witness to the sacred rite itself. In one portion of Central Africa, a forked palm branch is held by the two parties, at their entering into blood-friendship; and, in another region, the ashes of a burned tree and the blood of the covenanting brothers are brought into combination, in the use of a knotted palm branch which the brothers together hold. And, again, in Canaan, in the days of Abraham, the planting of a tree was an element in covenant making; as shown in the narrative of the covenant which Abraham cut with Abimelech, at Beer-sheba.1

It may, indeed, be fair to suppose that the trees at Hebron, which marked the dwelling-place of Abraham were covenant-trees, witnessing the covenant between Abraham and the three Amorite chiefs; and that

therefore they have prominence in the sacred story. “Now he [Abram] dwelt by [or, in: Hebrew, beelonay (1)] the [four] oaks [or, terebinths] of Mamre, the Amorite, brother of Eschol, and brother of Aner; and these [three it was who] were confederate [literally, were masters of the covenant] with [the fourth one] Abram." 5 This rendering certainly gives a reason for the prominent mention of the trees at Hebron, in conjunction with Abram's covenant with Amorite chieftains; and it accords with Oriental customs of former days, and until to-day. So, also, it would seem that the tree which witnessed the confirmation, or the recognition, of the covenant between another Abimelech and the men of Shechem and the men of Beth-millo, by the pillar (the symbol of Baal-bereeth) in Shechem, was a covenant-tree, after the Oriental custom in sacred covenanting.



There is apparently a trace of the blood-covenanting and tree-planting rite of primitive times in the blood-stained "Fiery Cross" of the

1 See page 53, supra.

4 Gen. 21 33.

6 The covenant was

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as in the presence of, as accompanied by] the tree at Shechem.

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8 Judges 9: 1-6.

7 See page 218, supra, note.

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Scottish Highlands, with its correspondent Arabian symbol of tribal covenant-duties in the hour of battle. Von Wrede, describing his travels in the south-eastern part of Arabia, tells of the use of this symbol as he saw it employed as preliminary to a tribal warfare. A war-council had decided on conflict. Then, "the fire which had burned in the midst of the circle was newly kindled with a great heap of wood, and the up-leaping flames were greeted with loud rejoicing. The green branch of a nubk tree [sometimes called the 'lote-tree,' and again known as the dôm,' although it is not the dôm palm]1 was then brought, and also a sheep, whose feet were at once tied by the oldest shaykh. After these preparations, the latter seized the branch, spoke a prayer over it, and committed it to the flames. As soon as every trace of green had disappeared, he snatched it from the fire, again said a short prayer, and cut with his jembeeyeh [his short sword] the throat of the sheep, with whose blood the yet burning branch was quenched. He then tore a number of little twigs from the burnt branch, and gave them to as many Bed'ween, who hastened off with them in various directions. The black bloody branch was then planted in the earth. little twigs, which the shaykh cut off and gave to the Bed'ween, serve as alarm signals, with which the messengers hasten from valley to valley, calling the sons of the tribe to the impending war [by this blood-stained symbol of the sacred covenant which binds them in brotherhood]. None dare remain behind, without loss of honor, when the chosen [covenant] sign appears at his encampment, and the voice of its bearer calls to the war. At the conclusion of the war [thus inaugurated], the shaykhs of the propitiated tribe return the branches to the fire, and let them burn to ashes." 2

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How strikingly this parallels the use and the symbolism of the Fiery Cross, in the Scottish Highlands, as portrayed in The Lady of the Lake. Sir Roderick Dhu would summon Clan Alpine against the King.

1 Robinson's Biblical Researches, II., 210 f., note.

2 Von Wrede's Reise in Hadhramaut, p. 197 f.


"A heap of withered boughs was piled,
Of juniper and rowan wild,

Mingled with shivers from the oak,

Rent by the lightning's recent stroke.
Brian the Hermit by it stood,

Barefooted, in his frock and coat.

'Twas all prepared;-and from the rock
A goat, the patriarch of the flock,
Before the kindling fire was laid,
And pierced by Roderick's ready blade.
Patient the sickening victim eyed

The life-blood ebb in crimson tide

Down his clogged beard and shaggy limb,
Till darkness glazed his eyeballs dim.
The grisly priest, with murmuring prayer,
A slender crosslet framed with care,

A cubit's length in measure due;
The shaft and limbs were rods of yew,

Whose parents in Inch-Cailliach wave

Their shadows o'er Clan Alpine's grave."


Lifting up this fragment of the tree from the grave of the patriarch of the Clan,1 the old priest sounded anathemas against those who should be untrue to their covenant obligations as clansmen, when they recognized this symbol of their common brotherhood.

"Burst with loud roar their answer hoarse,

'Woe to the traitor, woe!'

Ben-an's gray scalps the accents knew,

The joyous wolf from covert drew,

The exulting eagle screamed afar,

They knew the voice of Alpine's war.

"The shout was hushed on lake and fell,
The monk resumed his muttered spell :

Dismal and low its accents came,

The while he scathed the cross with flame.

1 See reference (in note at page 268 f. supra) to the custom in Sumatra, of taking

an oath over the grave of the original patriarch of the Passumah."

The crosslet's points of sparkling wood
He quenched among the bubbling blood,
And, as again the sign he reared,
Hollow and hoarse his voice was heard:
'When flits this cross from man to man,
Vich-Alpine's summons to his clan,
Burst be the ear that fails to heed!
Palsied the foot that shuns to speed!

Then Roderick with impatient look

From Brian's hand the symbol took :

'Speed, Malise, speed!' he said, and gave
The crosslet to his henchman brave.

'The muster-place be Lanrick mead

Instant the time-Speed, Malise, speed!'"1

"At sight of the Fiery Cross," says Scott, "every man, from sixteen years old to sixty, capable of bearing arms, was obliged instantly to repair, in his best arms and accoutrements, to the place of rendezvous.

During the civil war of 1745-6, the Fiery Cross often made its circuit; and upon one occasion it passed through the whole district of Breadalbane, a tract of thirty-two miles, in three hours." 2



Another item of evidence that the blood-covenant in its primitive form was a well-known rite in primitive Europe, is a citation by Athenæus from Poseidonios to this effect: "Concerning the Germans, Poseidonios says, that they, embracing each other in their banquets, open the veins upon their foreheads, and mixing the flowing blood with their drink, they present it to each other; esteeming it the farthest attainment of friendship to taste each other's blood." As Poseidonios was earlier than our Christian era, this testimony shows that the custom with our ancestors was in no sense an outgrowth, nor yet a perversion, of Christian practices.

1 Lady of the Lake, Canto III. 8 See pages 13, 86 f., supra.

2 Ibid., note.

4 Athenæus's Deipnosophista, II., 24 (45).

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