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"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.
'Twas all prepared;—and from the rock
And pierced by Roderick's ready blade.
The life-blood ebb in crimson tide
Down his clogged beard and shaggy limb,
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,' 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,-
"The shout was hushed on lake and fell,
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
Then Roderick with impatient look
'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,3 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.
3 See pages 13, 86 f., supra.
2 Ibid., note. Athenæus's Deipnosophistæ, II., 24 (45).
In Moore's Lalla Rookh, the young maiden, Zelica, being induced by Mokanna, the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, to accompany him to the charnel-house, pledged herself to him, body and soul, in a draught of blood.
"There in that awful place, when each had quaffed
And pledged in silence such a fearful draught,
It was after this that he reminded her of the binding force of this bloodcovenant:
"That cup-thou shudderest, Lady-was it sweet?
That cup we pledg'd, the charnel's choicest wine,
And her bitter memory of that covenant-scene, in the presence of the "bloodless ghosts," was:
Their blue lips echo'd it. I hear them now!
Their eyes glared on me, while I pledged that bowl,
'Twas burning blood-I feel it in my soul!"
Although this is Western poetry, it had a basis of careful Oriental study in its preparation; and the blood-draught of the covenant is known to Persian story and tradition.
One of the indications of the world-wide belief in the custom of covenanting, and again of life seeking, by blood-drinking, is the fact that both Jews and Christians have often been falsely charged with drinking the blood of little children at their religious feasts. This was one of the frequent accusations against the early Christians (See Justin Martyr's Apol., I., 26; Tertullian's Apol., VIII., IX.) And it has been repeated against the Jews, from the days of Apion down to the present decade. Such a baseless charge could not have gained credence but for the traditional understanding that men were wont to pledge each other to a close covenant by mutual blood-drinking.
It is worthy of note that when the Lord enters into covenant with Abraham by means of a prescribed sacrifice (Gen. 15: 7-18), it is said that the Lord "cut a covenant with Abram"; but when the Lord calls on Abraham to cut a covenant of blood-friendship, by the rite of circumcision (Gen. 17: 1-12), the Lord says, for himself, “I will make [or I will fix] my covenant between me and thee." In the one case, the Hebrew word is karath (♫2) "to cut"; in the other, it is nathan ()" to give," or "to fix." This change goes to show that the idea of cutting a covenant includes the act of a cutting-of a cutting of one's person or the cutting of the substitute victim—as an integral part of the covenant itself; that a covenant may be made, or fixed, without a cutting, but that the term "cutting" involves the act of cutting.
Thus, again, in Jeremiah 34: 18, there is a two-fold reference to covenant-cutting; where the Lord reproaches his people for their faithlessness to their covenant. "And I will give [to destruction] the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they made [literally, 'cut'] before me [in my sight] when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof." In this instance, there is in the Hebrew, a pun, as it were, to give added force to the accusation and reproach. The same word 'abhar (2) means both "to transgress" and "to pass over" [or, "between"], so that, freely rendered, the charge here made, is, that they went through the covenant when they had gone through the calf; which is another way of saying that they cut their duty when they claimed to cut a covenant. The correspondence of cutting the victim of sacrifice, and of cutting into the flesh of the covenanting parties, in the ceremony of making blood-brotherhood, or blood-friendship, is well illustrated in the interchanging of these methods in the primitive customs of Borneo. The pig is the more commonly prized victim of sacrifice in Borneo. It 1 St. John's Life in Far East, Comp. I., 38, 46, 56, 74-76, 115, 117, 185.
seems, indeed, to be there valued only next after a human victim. In some cases, blood-brotherhood is made, in Borneo, by "imbibing each other's blood." In other cases, "a pig is brought and placed between the two [friends] who are to be joined in brotherhood. A chief addresses an invocation to the gods, and marks with a lighted brand 1 the pig's shoulder. The beast is then killed, and after an exchange of jackets, a sword is thrust into the wound, and the two [friends] are marked with the blood of the pig." On one occasion, when two hostile tribes came together to make a formal covenant of brotherhood, "the ceremony of killing a pig for each tribe" was the central feature of the compact; as in the case of two Kayans becoming one by interchanging their own blood, actually or by a substitute pig. And it is said of the tribal act of cutting the covenant by cutting the pig, that "it is thought more fortunate if the animal be severed in two by one stroke of the parang (half sword, half chopper)." In another instance, where two tribes entered into a covenant, "a pig was placed between the representatives of [the] two tribes; who, after calling down the vengeance of the spirits on those who broke the treaty, plunged their spears into the animal ['cutting a covenant' in that way], and then exchanged weapons.2 Drawing their krises, they each bit the blade of the other [as if drinking the covenant'],3 and so completed the affair." So, again, "if two men who have been at deadly feud, meet in a house [where the obligations of hospitality restrain them], they refuse to cast their eyes upon each other till a fowl has been killed, and the blood sprinkled over them."
In every case, it is the blood that seals the mutual covenant, and the "cutting of the covenant" is that cutting which secures the covenanting, or the inter-uniting, blood. The cutting may be in the flesh of the covenanting parties; or, again it may be in the flesh of the substitute victim which is sacrificed.
1 A trace of the burnt branch of the covenant-tree.
2 See page 270, supra.
8 See pages 9, 154, supra.