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covenant is sometimes entered into by confidential partners in business, or by fellow-travelers; again, by robbers on the road-who would themselves rest fearlessly on its obligations, and who could be rested on within its limits, however untrustworthy they or their fellows might be in any other compact. Yet, again, it is the chosen compact of loving friends; of those who are drawn to it only by mutual love and trust.


This covenant is commonly between two persons of the same religion-Muhammadans, Druzes, or Nazarenes; yet it has been known between two persons of different religions;1 and in such a case it would be held as a closer tie than that of birth2 or sect. He who has entered into this compact with another, counts himself the possessor of a double life; for his friend, whose blood he has shared, is ready to lay down his life with him, or for him. Hence the leathern case, or Bayt hejâb (❤l)," House of the amulet,”

ذو عهد Hence ،

1 Of the possibility of a covenant between those of different religions, Lane says (Arab.-Eng. Lexicon, s. v. 'Ahd): (dho'ahd), an appellation given to a Christian and a Jew (and a Sabean, who is a subject of a Muslim government), meaning one between whom and the Muslims a compact, or covenant, exists, whereby the latter are responsible for his security and freedom and toleration as long as he lives agreeably to the compact." And the Blood Covenant is more sacred and more binding than any other compact.

2 Prov. 18: 24.

See Lane's Lex. s. v. 66


3 John 15:13.

containing the record of the covenant ('uhdah,

gs ),

is counted a proud badge of honor by one who possesses it; and he has an added sense of security, because he will not be alone when he falleth.1

I have received personal testimony from native Syrians, concerning the observance of this rite in Damascus, in Aleppo, in Hâsbayya, in Abayh, along the road between Tyre and Sidon, and among the Koords resident in Salehayyah. All the Syrians who have been my informants, are at one concerning the traditional extreme antiquity of this rite, and its exceptional force and sacredness.

In view of the Oriental method of evidencing the closest possible affection and confidence by the sucking of the loved one's blood, there would seem to be more than a coincidence in the fact, that the Arabic words for friendship, for affection, for blood, and for leech, or blood-sucker, are but variations from a common root. 'Alaqa (le) means "to love," "to adhere," "to feed." 'Alaq (le), in the singular, means love," friendship," "attachment," "blood." As the plural of 'alaga (le), 'alaq means "leeches," or "blood-suckers." The truest friend clings like a leech, and draws blood in order to the sharing thereby of his friend's life and nature.




A native Syrian, who had traveled extensively in 1 Eccl. 4:9, 10. 2 See Freytag, and Catafago, s. v.



the East, and who was familiar with the covenant of blood in its more common form, as already described, told me of a practice somewhat akin to it, whereby a bandit-chieftain would pledge his men to implicit and unqualified life-surrendering fidelity to himself; or, whereby a conspirator against the government would bind, in advance, to his plans, his fellow conspirators,—

by a ceremony known as Sharb el-ahd (zell pü), "Drinking the covenant." The methods of such covenanting are various; but they are all of the nature of tests of obedience and of endurance. They sometimes include licking a heated iron with the tongue, or gashing the tongue, or swallowing pounded glass or other dangerous potions; but, in all cases, the idea seems to be, that the life of the one covenanting is, by this covenant, devoted-surrendered as it were-to the one with whom he covenants; and the rite is uniformly accompanied with a solemn and an imprecatory appeal to God as witnessing and guarding the compact.

Dr. J. G. Wetzstein, a German scholar, diplomat, and traveler, who has given much study to the peoples east of the Jordan, makes reference to the binding force and the profound obligation of the covenants of brotherhood in that portion of the East; although he gives no description of the methods of the covenant-rite. Speaking of two Bed'ween-Habbâs and

Hosayn-who had been "brothered" (verbrüdert), he explains by saying: “We must by this [term] understand the Covenant of Brotherhood (Chuwwat el-Ahed [All]), which is in use to-day not only among the Hadari [the Villagers], but also among the Bed'ween; and is indeed of pre-Muhammadan origin. The brother [in such a covenant] must guard the [other] brother from treachery, and [must] succor him in peril. So far as may be necessary, the one must provide for the wants of the other; and the survivor has weighty obligations in behalf of the family of the one deceased." Then, as showing how completely the idea of a common life in the lives of two friends thus covenanted-if, indeed, they have become sharers of the same blood-sways the Oriental mind, Wetzstein adds: "The marriage of a man and woman between whom this covenant exists, is held to be incest."2

There are, indeed, various evidences that the tie of blood-covenanting is reckoned, in the East, even a closer tie than that of natural descent; that a "friend" by this tie is nearer and is dearer, "sticketh closer," than a "brother" by birth. We, in the West, are accustomed to say that "blood is thicker than water"; but the Arabs have the idea that blood is thicker than milk, 1 See "Brothers of the Covenant," p. 6, supra.

2 Sprachliches aus den Zeltlagern der syrischen Wüste, p. 37.


than a mother's milk. With them, any two children nourished at the same breast are called "milk-brothers," or "sucking brothers";2 and the tie between such is very strong. A boy and a girl in this relation cannot marry, even though by birth they had no family relationship. Among even the more bigoted of the Druzes, a Druze girl who is a "sucking sister" of a Nazarene boy is allowed a sister's privileges with him. He can see her uncovered face, even to the time of her marriage. But the Arabs hold that brothers in the covenant of blood are closer than brothers at a common breast; that those who have tasted each other's blood are in a surer covenant than those who have tasted the same milk together; that "blood-lickers," as the blood-brothers are sometimes called, are more truly one than "milk-brothers," or sucking brothers"; that, indeed, blood is thicker than milk, well as thicker than water.



This distinction it is which seems to be referred to in a citation from the Arabic poet El-A'asha, by the Arabic lexicographer Qamus, which has been a puzzle to Lane, and Freytag, and others. Lane's transla1 See Redhouse's Turkish and English Dictionary, s. vv. sood and soot. 2 See Lane, and Freytag, s. vv. rada 'a, and thady.

3 See reference to Ibn Hishâm, 125, in Prof. W. Robertson Smith's Old Test. in Jewish Church, Notes to Lect. XII. See, also, p. 59, infra. 4 See Lane, and Freytag, s. v. sahama; also Smith's Old Test. in Jewish Church, Notes to Lect. XII.

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