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actually drunk; but the more common method is that of touching the lips with the blood-stained finger.1
"This covenant is of the utmost force. It covers not merely an agreement of peace, or truce, but also a promise of mutual assistance in peace and in war. It also conveys to the covenanting parties mutual tribal rites. If they are chiefs, the covenant embraces their entire tribes. If one is a private individual, his immediate family and direct descendants are included in the agreement.
"I never heard of the blood-covenant being broken. I do not remember to have inquired particularly on this point, because the way in which the blood-covenant was spoken of, always implied that its rupture was an unheard-of thing. It is regarded as a perfectly valid excuse for any amount of reckless devotion, or of unreasoning sacrifice on behalf of another, for a Karen to say: ' Thui p'aw th`coh li;' literally, The blood,-we have drunk it together.' An appeal for help on the basis of the blood-covenant is never disregarded.
"A few of our missionaries have entered into the blood-covenant with Karen tribes; though most have been deterred, either from never having visited the debatable land' where the strong arm of British rule does not reach, or else, as in most instances, from a repugnance to the act by which the covenant is sealed. In one instance, at least, where a missionary did enter into covenant with one of these tribes, the agreement has been interpreted as covering not only his children, but one who was so happy as to marry his daughter. In an enforced absence of fifteen years from the scene of his early missionary labors nothing has been at once so touching and so painful to the writer as the frequent messages and letters asking When will you come back to your people?' Yet, mine is only the inherited right above mentioned.
"The blood-covenant gives even a foreigner every right which he would have if born a member of the tribe. As an instance, the writer once shot a hawk in a Karen village, just as it was swooping dowr 1 See page 154, supra.
upon a chicken. He was surprised to find, half an hour afterward, that his personal attendant, a straightforward Mountain Karen, had gone through the village and collected' a fat hen from each house. When remonstrated with, the mountaineer replied, Why, Teacher, it is your right, that is our custom,-you are one of us. These people wouldn't understand it if I did not ask for a chicken from each house, when you killed the hawk.'
“In the wilder Karen regions, it is almost impossible to travel unless one is in blood-covenant with the chiefs, while on the other hand one is perfectly safe, if in that covenant. The disregard of this fact has cost valuable lives. When a stranger enters Karen territory, the chiefs order the paths closed. This is done by tying the long elephant grass across the paths. On reaching such a signal, the usual inquiry in the traveling party is, 'Who is in blood-covenant with this tribe?' If one is found, even among the lowest servants, his covenant covers the party, on the way, as far as to the principal village or hill fortress. The party goes into camp, and sends this man on as an ambassador. Usually, guides are sent back to conduct the party at once to the chief's house. If no one is in covenant with the tribe, and the wisp of grass is broken and the party passes on, the lives of the trespassers are forfeited. A sudden attack in some defile, or a night surprise, scatters the party and drives the survivors back the way they came.
“Notwithstanding the widespread prevalence of the blood-covenant, the ceremonies attendant upon its celebration, and even the existence of such a custom, are shrouded with a certain degree of secrecy, at least from outside nations. The writer has been surprised to find, on some occasions, those longer resident in Burmah than himself in total ignorance of the existence of such a custom; and even the Karens themselves would probably deny its existence to a casual inquirer. Apropos of this, the writer did not know of such a custom in any other country until his attention was called to the fact by Dr. Trumbull, while this treatise was in preparation."
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."
BLOOD-STAINED TREE OF THE COVENANT.
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.
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.3 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.*
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, beëlonay ()] 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
6 The covenant was "with" [Hebrew,
3 See page 37, supra.
5 See Gen. 13: 18; 14: 13; 18: 1.
y'im, not "with as an instrument,
but "with" as in the presence of, as accompanied by] the tree at Shechem.
7 See page 218, supra, note.
8 Judges 9: 1-6.
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. . . The 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
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.
Von Wrede's Reise in Hadhramaut, p. 197 £.