Images de page

the ancients; for the ancient Latins called blood, assir." Our modern lexicons give this isolated claim, made by Festus, of the existence of any such word as

[ocr errors]

assir" signifying "blood," in "the ancient Latin language;"1 and some of them try to show the possibilities of its origin ;2 but no convincing proof of any such word and meaning in the Latin can be found.

Turning, however, to the languages of the East, where the binding vow of blood-friendship was pledged in the drink of wine and blood, or of blood alone, from time immemorial, we have no difficulty in finding the meaning of "assir." Asar (p) is a common Hebrew word, signifying "to bind together"-—as in a mutual covenant. Issar (), again, is a vow of self-renunciation. Thus we have Asar issar 'al nephesh ( EN ) "To bind a self-devoting vow upon one's life "-upon one's blood; "for the blood is the life." In the Arabic, also, asara () means "to bind," or "to tie"; while asar (l) is “a covenant," or "a compact"; and aswâr (ul) is “a bracelet"; which in itself is "a band," and may be " a fetter." So, again, in the Assyrian, the verb "to bind," and the noun for "a bracelet" or "a fetter,"


1 See Scheller's, and Harpers', Latin Dictionary, s. v.
2 See Curtius's Griechische Etymologie, s. v., čap (ear).

3 See Gesenius, and Fuerst, s. vv.

4 Deut. 12: 23.

'See Lane, and Freytag. s. vv.




are from the same root. The Syriac gives esar ( ;]), “a bond," or "a belt."

[ocr errors]


All these, with the root idea, "to bind -as a covenant binds. In the light of these facts, it is easy to see how the "issar" or the "assar," when it was a covenant of blood, came to be counted by the Latins the blood which was a cove



Just here it may be well to emphasize the fact, that, from time immemorial, and the world over, the armlet, the bracelet, and the ring, have been counted the symbols of a boundless bond between giver and receiver; the tokens of a mutual, unending covenant. Possibly, -probably, as I think,—this is in consequence of the primitive custom of binding, as an amulet, the enclosed record-enclosed in the "house of the amulet"3 of the covenant of blood on the arm of either participant in that rite; possibly, again, it is an outgrowth of the common root idea of a covenant and a bracelet, as a binding agency.

Blood-covenanting and bracelet-binding seem-as already shown to be intertwined in the languages of the Oriental progenitors of the race. There are, likewise, indications of this intertwining in the customs of 1 See, for example, Delitzsch's Assyrische Lesestücke, second edition, p. 101, line 72.

2 See Castell's Lexicon Syriacum, s. v.

3 See page 7, supra.

peoples, East and West. For example, in India, where blood-shedding is peculiarly objectionable, the gift and acceptance of a bracelet is an ancient covenant-tie, seemingly akin to blood-brotherhood. Of this custom, an Indian authority says: "Amongst the rajput races of India the women adopt a brother by the gift of a bracelet. The intrinsic value of such pledges is never looked to, nor is it necessary that it should be costly, though it varies with the means and rank of the donor, and may be of flock silk and spangles, or of gold chains and gems. The acceptance of the pledge is by the 'katchli,' or corset, of simple silk or satin, or gold brocade and pearls. Colonel Tod was the Rakhi-bund Bhai [the Bracelet-bound Brother] of the three queens of Oodipur, Bundi, and Kotch; as also of Chund-Bai, the maiden sister of the Rana, and of many ladies of the chieftains of rank. Though the bracelet may be sent by maidens, it is only on occasions of urgent necessity and danger. The adopted brother may hazard his life in his adopted sister's cause, and yet never receive a mite in reward; for he cannot even see the fair object, who, as brother of her adoption, has constituted him her defender."

"The . . . 'Bracelet-bound Brother' feels himself called upon to espouse the cause of the lady from

1 Cited from "Tod's Travels, Journal Indian Archipelago, Vol. V., No. 12," in Balfour's Cycl. of India, s. v., “Brother."



whom he has received the gift, and to defend her against all her enemies, whenever she shall demand his assistance." Thus, the Great Mogul, Hoomâyoon, father of the yet more celebrated Akbar, was in his early life bound, and afterwards loyally recognized his binding, as "the sworn knight of one of the princesses of Rajasthan, who, according to the custom of her country, secured the sword of the prince in her service by the gift of a bracelet." When he had a throne of his own to care for, this princess, Kurnivati, being besieged at Cheetore, sent to Hoomâyoon, then prosecuting a vigorous campaign in Bengal ; and he, as in duty bound, "instantly obeyed the summons"; and although he was not in season to rescue her, he " evinced his fidelity by avenging the fall of the city."1 It is noteworthy, just here, that the Oriental biographer of the Mogul Akbar calls attention to the fact, that while the Persians describe close friendship as chiefly subsisting between men, "in Hindostan it is celebrated between man and woman ";2 as, indeed, it is among the Arab tribes east of the Jordan.3

In the Norseland, an oath of fidelity was taken on a ring, or a bracelet, kept in the temple of the gods; and the gift and acceptance of a bracelet, or a ring,

1 See Elliott and Roberts's Views in India, II., 64.

2 Ayeen Akbery, II., 453.

See citation from Wetzstein, at page 9 f., supra.

was a common symbol of a covenant of fidelity. Thus, in “Hávamál,” the high song of Odin, we find:

"Odin, I believe,

A ring-oath gave.

Who in his faith will trust?"

And in "Viga Glum's Saga," it is related: "In the midst of a wedding party, Glum calls upon Thorarin, his accuser, to hear his oath, and taking in his hand a silver ring which had been dipped in sacrificial blood, he cites two witnesses to testify to his oath on the ring, and to his having appealed to the gods in his denial of the charge made against him." In the "Saga of Fridthjof the Bold," when Fridthjof is bidding farewell to his beloved Ingeborg, he covenants fidelity to her by the gift of

"An arm-ring, all over famous;

Forged by the halting Volund, 'twas, the old North-story's Vul


Heaven was grav'd thereupon, with the twelve immortals' strong castlesSigns of the changing months, but the skald had Sun-houses named them."

As Fridthjof gave this pledge to Ingeborg, he said:

"Forget me never; and,

In sweet remembrance of our youthful love,

This arm-ring take; a fair Volunder-work,

With all heaven's wonders carved i' th' shining gold.

Ah! the best wonder is a faithful heart
How prettily becomes it thy white arm-
A glow-worm twining round a lily stem."

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »