Images de page



The native Australians find, it is said, an inducement to bloodshed, in their belief-like that of the ancient Scythians-that the life, or the spirit, of the first man whom one slays, enters into the life of the slayer, and remains as his helpful possession thereafter.1 The Ashantee fetishmen, of West Africa, apparently acting on a kindred thought, make a mixture of the hearts of enemies, mingled with blood and consecrated herbs, for the vivifying of the conquerors. "All who have never before killed an enemy eat of the preparation; it being believed that if they did not, their energy would be secretly wasted by the haunting spirits of their deceased foes." The underlying motive of the bloody "head-hunting" in Borneo, is the Dayak belief, that the spirits of those whose heads are taken are to be subject to him who does the decapitating. The heads are primarily simply the proof-like the Indian's scalps—that their owner has so many lives absorbed in his own.3

A keen observer of Fellâheen life in Palestine has reported: "There is an ugly expression used among

1 Trans. of Ethn. Soc. new series, III., 240, cited in Spencer's Des. Soc., III., 36.

2 Beecham's Ashantee and the Gold Coast, p. 211; cited in Spencer's Des Soc., IV., 33.

'See Tylor's Primitive Culture, I., 459; also Bock's Head Hunters of Borneo, passim.

Mrs. Finn's "Fellaheen of Palestine" in Surv. of West. Pal. "Special Papers," p. 360.

the fellâheen of South Palestine, in speaking of an enemy slain in war-Dhabbahhtho bisnâny' (I slew him with my teeth')1; and it is said that there have been instances of killing in battle in this fashion by biting at the throat. In the Nablous district (Samaria), where the people are much more ferocious, the expression is, 'I have drunk his blood'; but that is understood figuratively."

An ancient Greek version of the story of Jason, telling of that hero's treatment of the body of Apsyrtos-whom he had slain-says: "Thrice he tasted the blood, thrice [he] spat it out between his teeth;" and a modern collator informs us that the scholiast here finds "the description of an archaic custom, popular among murderers."2 This certainly corresponds with the Semitic phrases lingering among the Fellâheen of Palestine. In the old German epic, the Nibelungen Lied, it is told of the brave Burgundians, when they were fighting desperately in the burning hall of the Huns, that they were given new courage for the hopeless conflict by drinking the blood of their fallen comrades; which quenched their thirst, and made them fierce." With 1This is Mrs. Finn's rendering of it; but it should be “I sacrificed him with my teeth." The Arabic word is obviously dhabaha identical with the Hebrew zabhakh (2)" to sacrifice."


2 Lang's Custom and Myth, p. 95 f.; also Grimm's Household Tales,

P. lxviii.

3 Cox and Jones's Pop. Rom. of Mid. Ages, p. 310.



their added life, from the added blood of heroes, they battled as never before.

"It strung again their sinews, and failing strength renewed.

This, in her lover's person, many a fair lady rued.” 2

Is there not, indeed, a trace of the primitive custom —thus recognized in all quarters of the globe—of absorbing the life of a slain one by drinking in his blood, in our common phrase, "blood-thirstiness," as descriptive of a life-seeker? That phrase certainly gains added force and appropriateness in the light of this universal idea.

It is evident that the wide-spread popular belief in nature-absorption through blood-appropriation, has included the idea of a tribal absorption of new life in vicarious blood. Alcedo, a Spanish-American writer, has illustrated this in his description of the native Araucanians of South America. When they have triumphed in war, they select a representative prisoner for official and vicarious execution. After due preparation, they "give him a handful of small sticks and a sharp stake, with which they oblige him to dig a hole in the ground; and in this they order him to cast the sticks one by one, repeating the names of the principal warriors of his country, while at the same time the surrounding soldiers load these abhorred names with the bitterest execrations. He is then ordered to cover

2 Lettsom's Nibel. Lied, p. 373.

the hole, as if to bury therein the reputation and valor of their enemies, whom he has named. After this ceremony, the toqui, or one of his bravest companions to whom he relinquishes the honor of the execution, dashes out the brains of the prisoner with a club. The heart is immediately taken out, and presented palpitating to the general, who sucks a little of the blood, and passes it to his officers, who repeat in succession the same ceremony." And in this way the life of the conquered tribe passes, symbolically, into the tribal life of the conquerors.

Burckhardt was so surprised at a trace of this idea in Nubia, that he could hardly credit the information concerning it; "although several persons asserted it to be a fact," he says; and he "heard no one contradict it."2 As he learned it: "Among the Hallenga, who draw their origin from Abyssinia, a horrible custom is said to attend the revenge of blood. When the slayer has been seized by the relatives of the deceased, a family feast is proclaimed, at which the mur, derer is brought into the midst of them, bound upon an angareyg; and while his throat is slowly cut with a razor, the blood is caught in a bowl, and handed round amongst the guests; every one of whom is

1 Thompson's Alcedo's Geog. and Hist. Dict. of America, I., 408; cited in Spencer's Des. Soc., VI., 19.

2 Travels in Nubia, p. 356.



bound to drink of it, at the moment the victim breathes his last." The forfeited life of the murderer here seems to be surrendered to, and formally appropriated by, the family, or clan, which he had, to the same extent, depleted of character and life.

A practice not unlike this is reported of the Australians, in their avenging the blood of a murdered person. They devour their victims; who are selected from the tribe of the murderer, although they may be personally innocent of the murder. The tribe depleted by the murder replaces its loss by blood-which is life from the tribe of the murderer. Indeed, "when any one of a tribe [in New South Wales] dies a natural death, it is usual to avenge [or to cancel] the loss of the deceased by taking blood from one or other of his friends." In this way, the very life and being of those whose blood is taken, go to restore to the bereaved ones the loss that death has brought to them.

Strange as this idea may seem to us, its root-thought, as a fact, is still an open question in the realm of physiological science. The claim is positive, in medical works, that insanity has been cured by the transfusion of a sane man's blood; that a normal mind has been

1 Trans. of Ethn. Soc.,II., 246, and Angas's Austr. and New Zeal., I., 73, 227, 462, cited in Spencer's Des. Soc. III., 26.

2 See Dict. Med. et Chir. Prat., Art. "Transfusion"; also Roussel's Transf. of Blood, pp. 78–88.

« PrécédentContinuer »