« PrécédentContinuer »
"It is a mighty marvel, which oft e'en now we spy,
That, when the blood-stain'd murderer comes to the murder'd nigh, The wounds break out a-bleeding; then too the same befell,
And thus could each beholder the guilt of Hagan tell.
The wounds at once burst streaming, fast as they did before; Those who then sorrowed deeply, now yet lamented more.' "1 Under Christian II., of Denmark, the "Nero of the North," early in the sixteenth century, there was a notable illustration of this confidence in the power of blood to speak for itself. A number of gentlemen being together in a tavern, one evening, they fell to quarreling, and "one of them was stabbed with a poniard. Now the murderer was unknown, by reason of the number [present]; although the person stabbed accused a pursuivant of the king's who was one of the company. The king, to find out the homicide, caused them all to come together in the stove [the tavern], and, standing round the corpse, he commanded that they should, one after another, lay their right hand on the slain gentleman's naked breast, swearing that they had not killed him. The gentlemen did so, and no sign appeared against them. The pursuivant only remained, who, condemned before in his own conscience, went first of all and kissed the dead man's feet. But, as soon as he had laid his hand upon his breast, the blood gushed forth in abundance, both out
1 Lettsom's Nibel. Lied, p. 183; also Cox and Jones's Pop. Rom. of Mid. Ages, p. 47 f.
THE CRY OF LIFE IN THE DEAD. 145
of his wound and his nostrils; so that, urged by this evident accusation, he confessed the murder, and was, by the king's own sentence, immediately beheaded.” 1
A striking example of the high repute in which this ordeal of touch was formerly held, and of the underlying idea on which its estimate was based, is reported from the State Trials of Scotland. It was during the trial of Philip Standsfield, in 1688, for the murder of his father, Sir James. The testimony was explicit, that when this son touched the body, the blood flowed afresh, and the son started back in terror, crying out, "Lord, have mercy upon me!" wiping off the blood, from his hand, on his clothes. Sir George M'Kenzie, acting for the State, at the inquest, said concerning this testimony and its teachings: "But they, fully persuaded that Sir James was murdered by his own son, sent out [with him] some surgeons and friends, who having raised the body, did see it bleed miraculously upon his touching it. In which, God Almighty himself was pleased to bear a share in the testimonies which we produce: that Divine Power which makes the blood circulate during life, has oft times, in all nations, opened a passage to it after death upon such occasions, but most in this case." 2
1 Benson's Remarkable Trials, p. 94, note.
2 Cobbett's State Trials, XI., 1371; cited in Anecdotes of Omens and Superstitions, p. 47 f.
Mr. Henry C. Lea, in his erudite work on Superstition and Force, has multiplied illustrations of the ordeal of touch, or of "bier-right," all along the later centuries. He recalls that "Shakspeare introduces it, in King Richard III., where Gloster interrupts the funeral of Henry VI., and Lady Anne exclaims: 'O gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry's wounds Open their congealed mouths, and bleed afresh.'"
He refers to the fact that it was an old-time Jewish custom to ask pardon of a corpse for any offenses committed against the living man, laying hold of the great toe of the corpse while thus asking; and if the asker had really inflicted any grievous injury on the deceased, the body was supposed to signify that fact by a copious hemorrhage from the nose. "This, it will be observed," he adds, "is almost identical with the well-known story which relates that, when Richard Coeur-de-Lion hastened to the funeral of his father, Henry II., and met the procession at Fontevraud, the blood poured from the nostrils of the dead king; whose end he had hastened by his disobedience and rebellion." Mr. Lea shows that in some instances the bones of a murdered man are said to have given out
1 Superstition and Force, pp. 315-323.
*Cited from Gamal. ben Pedahzur's Book of Jewish Ceremonies, P. II.
INTER-COMMUNION THROUGH BLOOD. 147
fresh blood when handled by a murderer as long as twenty years, or even fifty, after the murder; and he gives ample evidence that a belief in this power of blood to speak for itself against the violator of God's law, still exists among the English-speaking people, and that it has manifested itself as a means of justiceseeking, in the United States, within a few years past.
6. INTER-COMMUNION THROUGH BLOOD.
Beyond the idea of inspiration through an interflow of God-representing blood, there has been in primitive man's mind (however it came there) the thought of a possible inter-communion with God through an interunion with God by blood. God is life. All life is from God, and belongs to God. Blood is life. Blood, therefore, as life, may be a means of man's inter-union with God. As the closest and most sacred of covenants between man and man; as, indeed, an absolute merging of two human natures into one,—is a possibility through an inter-flowing of a common blood; so the closest and most sacred of covenants between man and God; so the inter-union of the human nature with the divine,—has been looked upon as a possibility, through the proffer and acceptance of a common life in a common blood-flow.
Whatever has been man's view of sin and its punishment, and of his separation from God because of
unforgiven sin (I speak now of man as he is found, without the specific teachings of the Bible on this subject), he has counted blood-his own blood, in actuality or by substitute-a means of inter-union with God, or with the gods. Blood is not death, but life. The shedding of blood, Godward, is not the taking of life, but the giving of life. The outflowing of blood toward God is an act of gratitude or of affection, a proof of loving confidence, a means of inter-union. This seems to have been the universal primitive conception of the race. And an evidence of man's trust in the accomplished fact of his inter-union with God, or with the gods, by blood, has been the also universal practice of man's inter-communion with God, or with the gods, by his sharing, in food-partaking, of the body of the sacrificial offering, whose blood is the means of the divine-human inter-union.
Perhaps the most ancient existing form of religious worship, as also the simplest and most primitive form, is to be found in China, in the state religion, represented by the Emperor's worship at the Temple of Heaven, in Peking. And in that worship, the idea of the worshiper's inter-communion with God, through the body and blood of the sacrificial offering, is disclosed, even if not always recognized, by all the representative Western authorities on the religions of China. "The Chinese idea of a sacrifice to the supreme