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save by the slaying of the
In the Midrash Rabboth (Shemoth, Beth, 92, col. 2) there is this comment by the Rabbis on Exodus 2: 23: "And the king of Egypt died.' He was smitten with leprosy. 6 And the children of Israel sighed.' Wherefore did they sigh? Because the magicians of Egypt said: There is no healing for thee little children of the Israelites. Slay them in the morning, and slay them in the evening; and bathe in their blood twice a day.' As soon as the children of Israel heard the cruel decree, they poured forth great sighings and wailings." That comment gives a new point, in the rabbinical mind, to the first plague, whereby the waters of the Nile, in which royalty bathed (Exod. 2: 5), were turned into blood, because of the bondage of the children of Israel.
A survival of the blood-baths of ancient Egypt, as a means of re-vivifying the death-smitten, would seem to exist in the medical practices of the Bechuana tribes of Africa; as so many of the customs of ancient Egypt still survive among the African races (See page 15, supra). Thus, Moffat reports (Missionary Labours, p. 277) a method employed by native physicians, of killing a goat "over the sick person, allowing the blood to run down the body."
Among other Bible indications that the custom of balancing, or canceling, a blood account by a payment in money, was well known in ancient Palestine, appears the record of David's conference with the Gibeonites, concerning their claim for blood against the house of Saul, in 2 Samuel 21: 1-9. When it was found that the famine in Israel was because of Saul's having taken blood-or life-unjustly from the Gibeonites, David essayed to balance that unsettled account. "And the Gibeonites said unto him, It is no matter of silver or gold between us and Saul, or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in
Israel; " which was equivalent to saying: "Money for blood we will not take. Blood for blood we have no power to obtain." Then said David, "What ye shall say, that will I do for you." At this, the Gibeonites demanded, and obtained, the lives of the seven sons of Saul. The blood account must be balanced. In this case, as by the Mosaic
law, it could only be by life for life.
In some parts of Arabia, if a Muhammadan slays a person of another religion, the relatives of the latter are not allowed to insist on blood for blood, but must accept an equivalent in money. The claim for the spilled blood is recognized, but a Muhammadan's blood is too precious for its payment. (See Wellsted's Travels in Arabia, I., 19.)
It is much the same in the far West as in the far East, as to this canceling of a blood-debt by blood or by other gifts.
in No. Am., pp. lxi.-lxiii.; 354-360) says of the custom among the Hurons and the Iroquois, that in case of bloodshed the chief effort of all concerned was to effect a settlement by contributions to the amount of the regular tariff rates of a human life.
Another indication that the mission of the goel was to cancel the loss of a life rather than to avenge it, is found in the primitive customs of the New World. "Even in so rude a tribe as the Brazilian Topanazes," says Farrer (citing Eschwege, in Prim. Man. and Cust., p. 164), " a murderer of a fellow tribesman would be conducted by his relations to those of the deceased, to be by them forthwith strangled and buried [with his forfeited blood in him], in satisfaction of their rights; the two families eating together for several days after the event as though for the purpose of [or, as in evidence of ] reconciliation,"—not of satisfied revenge.
Yet more convincing than all, in the line of such proofs that it is restitution, and not vengeance, that is sought by the pursuit of blood in the mission of the goel, is the fact that in various countries, when a man has died a natural death, it is the custom to seek blood, or life, from those immediately about him; as if to restore, or to equalize, the family loss. Thus, in New South Wales, "when any one of the tribe dies a natural
death, it is usual to avenge [not to avenge, but to meet] the loss of the deceased by taking blood from one or other of his friends," and it is said that death sometimes results from this endeavor (Angas's Sav. Life, II., 227). In this fact, there is added light on the almost universal custom of blood-giving to, or over, the dead. (See, e. g. Ellis's Land of Fetish, pp. 59, 64; Stanley's The Congo, II., 180–182; Angas's Sav. Life, I., 98, 331; II., 84, 89 f.; Ellis's Polyn. Res., I., 527-529; Dodge's Our Wild Indians, p. 172 f.; First An. Rep. of Bureau of Ethn., pp. 109, 112, 159 f., 164, 183, 190.)
It has already been shown that the blood-stained record of the covenant of blood, shielded in a leathern case, is proudly worn as an armlet or as a necklace by the Oriental who has been fortunate enough to become a sharer in such a covenant; and that there is reason for believing that there are traces of this custom in the necklaces, the armlets, the rings, and the frontlets, which have been worn as the tokens of a sacred covenant, in well-nigh all lands, from the earliest days of Chaldea and Egypt down to the present time. There is a confirmation of this idea in the primitive customs of the North American Indians, which ought not to be overlooked.
The distinctive method by which these Indians were accustomed to confirm and signalize a formal covenant, or a treaty, was the exchange of belts of wampum; and that these wampum belts were not merely conventional gifts, but were actual records, tokens, and reminders, of the covenant itself, there is abundant evidence. In a careful paper on the "Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans," in one of the reports of the Bureau of Ethnology, of the Smithsonian Institution, the writer 1 says: "One of the most remarkable customs practiced by the Americans is found in the mnemonic use of wampum. It does not seem
that a custom so unique and so widespread could
1 W. H. Holmes, in Second Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnol., pp. 240-254.
have grown up within the historic period, nor is it probable that a practice foreign to the genius of tradition-loving races could have become so well established and so dear to their hearts in a few generations. The mnemonic use of wampum is one which, I imagine, might readily develop from the practice of gift giving and the exchange of tokens of friendship, such mementoes being preserved for future reference as reminders of promises of assistance or protection. The wampum records of the Iroquois [and the same is found to be true in many other tribes] were generally in the form of belts [as an encircling and binding token of a covenant], the beads being strung or woven into patterns formed by the use of different colors." Illustrations, by the score, of this mnemonic use of the covenant-confirming belts, or "necklaces,"1 as they are sometimes called, are given, or are referred to, in this interesting article.
In the narrative of a council held by the "Five Nations," at Onondaga, nearly two hundred years ago, a Seneca sachem is said to have presented a proposed treaty between the Wagunhas and the Senecas, with the words: "We come to join the two bodies into one"; and he evidenced his good faith in this endeavor, by the presentation of the mnemonic belts of wampum. "The belts were accepted by the Five Nations, and their acceptance was a ratification of the treaty." Lafitau, writing of the Canadian Indians, in the early years of the eighteenth century, says: "They do not believe that any transaction can be concluded without these belts ;" and he mentions, that according to Indian custom these belts were to be exchanged in covenant making; "that is to say, for one belt [received] one must give another [belt].” 3 historian of the Moravian Missions says: "Everything of moment transacted at solemn councils, either between the Indians themselves, or with Europeans, is ratified and made valid by strings and belts of wam1 W. H. Holmes, in Second Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnol., p. 243. 2 Events in Indian History, p. 143; cited Ibid., p. 242 f.
8 Moeurs des Sauvages Ameriq., tom. II., pp. 502-507; cited Ibid., p. 243 ff.
"The strings," according to Lafitau, "are used for affairs of little consequence, or as a preparation for other more considerable presents"; but the binding "belts" were as the bond of the covenant itself.
These covenant belts often bore, interwoven with different colored wampum beads, symbolic figures; such as two hands clasped in friendship, or two figures with hands joined. As the belts commonly signalized tribal covenants, they were not worn by a single individual, but were sacredly guarded in some tribal depository; yet their form and their designation indicate the origin of their idea.
There is still preserved, in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the wampum belt which is supposed to have sealed the treaty of peace and friendship between William Penn and the Indians. It contains two figures, wrought in dark colored beads, representing “an Indian grasping with the hand of friendship the hand of a man evidently intended to be represented in the European costume, wearing a hat.” 2
Still more explicit in its symbolism is the royal belt of the primitive kings of Tahiti. Throughout Polynesia, red feathers, which had been inclosed in a hollow image of a god, were considered not only as emblematic of the deities, but as actually representing them in their personality (Ellis's Polyn. Res., I., 79, 211, 314, 316; II., 204; Tour thro' Hawaii, p. 121). "The inauguration ceremony [of the Tahitian king], answering to coronation among other nations, consisted in girding the king with the maro ura, or sacred girdle of red feathers; which not only raised him to the highest earthly station, but identified him with their gods [as by oneness of blood]. The maro, or girdle, was made with the beaten fibres of the ava; with these a number of ura, red feathers, taken from the images of their deities [where they had, seemingly, represented the blood, or the life, of the image], were interwoven; the feathers [as the blood] being supposed to retain all the
1 Loskiel's Missions of the United Brethren, Trans. by La Trobe, Bk. I., p. 26; cited in Ibid., p. 245 f. 2 Ibid., p 253 f.