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VOL. I, November 1887.



"The Blood-Covenant, a Primitive Rite, and its bearings on Scripture."  By H. Clay Trumbull, D.D.  London: Redway.

PARTICULAR attention has been recently directed to this subject of Blood-Covenant by the experiences of explorers in Africa, who appear to have discovered in that Dark Land some of the primitive facts the gory ghost of which has long haunted our European mind in the Eschatological phase.

    Stanley, an especial. sufferer from the practice, denounces the blood-brotherhood as a beastly cannibalistic ceremony. "For the fiftieth time my poor arm was scarified and my blood shed for the cause of civilization."  As the writer of this book observes: "The blood of a fair proportion of all the first families of equatorial Africa now courses in Stanley's veins; and if ever there was an American citizen who could pre-eminently appropriate to himself the national motto 'E pluribus unum,' Stanley is the man."

    In his book, Dr. Trumbull has collected a mass of data from a wide range of sources to illustrate what he terms the "Primitive rite of covenanting by the inter transfusion of blood."

    Dr. Trumbull is anxious to make the efficacy of the rite depend upon the recognition of a vivifying virtue in the blood itself, as the essence of life.  But such recognition appears to have been remote enough from the Primitive thought.  The Aborigines were not Jews or Christians.  They gave of their life without always thinking of the exact equivalent or superior value received.  They gave it as the witness to the troth they plighted and the covenant which they intended to keep.  His theory of interpretation is that there was a dominating and universal conviction that the "blood is the life; that blood-transfer is soul-transfer, and that blood-sharing, human or divine-human, secures an inter-union of natures; and that a union of the human nature with the divine is the highest ultimate attainment reached out after by the most primitive, as well as the most enlightened, mind of humanity."

    His collection of facts may serve a most useful purpose as eye-openers to other people (and for other facts to follow), just as they appear to have been to himself.  The book is interesting, if not profound; and nothing that follows in this article is intended to decry it, or to prevent the readers of LUCIFER from looking into it if they do not feel too great a "scunner" at sight of the gilded-gory illustration on the cover.  But the work is written by one who talks to us out of a window of Noah's Ark, and who still seems to think the Hebrew Bible is the rim of the universe.  We value and recommend the book solely for its facts, not for its theories, nor for its bibliolatry.

    In all studies of this kind which make use of the word "Primitive," it is the fundamental facts that we first need; and next a first-hand acquaintanceship with all the facts, so that we may do our own thinking for ourselves and strike our light within by which we can read the facts without, as the primary and essential procedure in the endeavour to attain the truth.

    Also the facts may be genuine and honestly presented, yet the interpretation may be according to an inadequate or a "bogus" theory.  The truth is that no bibliolator can be trusted to interpret the past of our race now being unveiled by evolution.  He is born and begotten with the blinkers on.  His mode of interpretation is to get behind us, to lay the hands upon our eyes in front, and ask us to listen whilst he gives us his views of the past!  But the non-evolutionist cannot interpret the past from lack of a true standpoint with regard to the beginnings or rather the processes of becoming.  He can begin anywhere and at any time short of the starting-point.  There is nothing for it but to break away, and turn round to see for ourselves whether the traditionary vision of the Blinkerists be true or false.  The facts alone are the final determinatives of the Truth.  But we must have the whole of them and not a few, whether judiciously or Jesuitically selected to support a Christian theory.  Whereas, the object and aim of this work the bias of the writer, and the trend of his arguments, are all on the line of showing or suggesting that the blood-covenant was the result of some innate instinct or divine revelation which prefigured and foreshadowed, and may be taken to indicate and authorize, the Christian scheme of atonement, and the remission of sin by the shedding of innocent blood.  The writer asserts that this primitive symbolism was "made a reality in Jesus Christ," in whom "God was to give of his blood in the blood of his Son for the revivifying of the sons of Abraham in the Blood of the Eternal Covenant."  But it can be demonstrated that the covenant by blood did not commence where Dr. Trumbull begins—with a religious yearning God-ward for the establishing of a brotherhood between the human nature and the Divine.  The root-idea was not that of an " inter-union of the spiritual natures by the inter-commingling of blood for the sake of an inter-communion with deity."  That, at least, was by no means the "primitive rite," which the blood-covenant is here called.  The many forms of the blood-covenant can only be unified at the root, i.e., in the beginning, not at the end.  They are not to be understood apart from the primitive language of signs; as in Tattoo, the very primitive biology of the early observers, and the most primitive sociology of the Totemic times.

    Time was, and may be still, when the blood-covenant would often serve as the one protection against being killed and eaten.  Even the cannibals will not partake of their own Totemic brothers.  Also the covenant was extended to certain animals which were made of kin and held to be sacred as brothers of the blood.

    The Blood-covenant takes many forms besides that of the blood-brotherhood, which are not to be explained by this writer's theory of exchange.  When the blood of an African woman accidentally spurted into the eye of Dr. Livingstone, she claimed him for her blood relation, without there being any exchange of blood for blood.

    Dr. Trumbull claims the Egyptians as witnesses to the truth of his interpretation.  But so far from their highest conception of "a union with the Divine nature" being an inter-flowing and interfusion of blood, the soul of blood was the very lowest, that is the first, in a series of seven souls!  Their highest type of the soul was the sun that vivified for ever called Atmu, the Father Soul.[1]  The bases of natural fact which lie at the foundation of the Blood-covenant, preceded any and all such ideas as those postulated by the writer as being extant from the first, such as " a longing for oneness of life with God ; " an " out-reaching after inter-union and inter-communion with God." There was no conception of a one God extant in the category of human consciousness when the rites of a blood-covenant were first founded. There could be no atonement where there was no sense of sin or a breaking of the law. All through, the writer is apt to confuse the past with the present, and eager to read the present into the past.[2]

    The real roots of matters like these are to be found only in certain facts of nature which were self-revealing, and not in the sphere of concepts and causation!  And it is only when we can reach the natural genesis of primitive customs and fetishtic beliefs, and trace their lines of descent, that we can understand and interpret their meaning in the latest symbolical and superstitious phase of religious rites.  Nothing can be more fatally false than to interpret the physics of the past by means of modern metaphysic, with the view of proving that certain extant doctrines of delusion are the lineal descendants of an original Divine revelation, which has been bound up in two Testaments for the favoured few.

    The blood-covenant is undoubtedly a primitive rite; but the author of this work does not penetrate to its most primitive or significant phases.  These are not to be read by the light of Hebrew revelation, but by the light of nature if at all.  Many primitive customs and rites survived amongst the Semites, but they themselves were not amongst the aboriginal races of the world.  We have to get far beyond their stage to understand the meaning of the myths, legends, rites, and customs, that were preserved by them as sacred survivals from the remoter past.  The symbolical and superstitious phases of custom cannot be directly explained on the spot where we may first meet with them in going back.  In becoming symbolical they had already passed out of their primary phase, and only indirectly represent the natural genesis of the truly primitive rite.  I have spent the best part of my life in tracking these rites and customs to their natural origin, and in expounding the typology and symbols by which the earliest meaning was expressed.

    What then was the root-origin of a blood-covenant?  The primary perceptions of primitive or archaic men included the observation that they came from the mother, and first found themselves at her breast.

    Next they saw that the child was fleshed by the mother, and formed from her blood, the flow of which was arrested to be solidified, and take form in their own persons.  Thus the red amulet which was worn by the Egyptian dead, was representative of the blood of Isis, who came from herself, and made her own child without the fatherhood, when men could only derive their blood and descent from the mother.  This amulet was put on by her, says Plutarch, when she found herself enceinte with Horus, her child, who was derived from the mother alone, or was traced solely to the blood of Isis.  Primitive men could perceive that the children of one mother were of the same blood.  This, the first form of a blood-brotherhood, was the first to be recognised as the natural fact.  Uterine brothers were blood-brothers.  The next stage of the brotherhood was Totemic; and the mode of extending the brotherhood to the children of several mothers implies, as it necessitated, some form of symbolic rite which represented them as brothers, or as typically becoming of the one blood.  Here we can track the very first step in sociology which was made when the typical blood-brotherhood of the Totem was formed in imitation of the natural brotherhood of the mother-blood.  The modes and forms of the Covenant can be identified by the Totemic mysteries, some of which yet survive in the crudest condition.  The brotherhood was entered at the time of puberty; that is, at the time of rebirth, when the boy was re-born as a man, and the child of the mother attained the soul of the fatherhood, and was permitted to join the ranks of the begetters.  The mystery is one with that of Horus, child of the mother alone, who comes to receive the soul of the father in Tattu, the region of establishing the son as the father, which is still extant in the mysteries, and the symbolism of Tattoo.

    This re-birth was enacted in various ways by typically re-entering the womb.  One of these was by burial in the earth, the tomb or place of re-birth being the image of the maternal birth-place all the world over.  Thus when the Norsemen or other races prepared a hole under the turf, and buried their cut and bleeding arms to let the blood flow, and commingle in one as the token of a covenant, they were returning typically to the condition of uterine twins, and the act of burial for the purpose of a re-birth was a symbolical mode of establishing the social brotherhood upon the original grounds of the natural brotherhood of blood.  Thus the blood-covenant did not originate in the set transfusion or inter-fusion of blood.  In the Totemic mysteries the pubescent lad was admitted by the shedding of his blood, with or without any interchange.  The blood itself was the symbol of brotherhood, and the shedding of it was the seal of a covenant.

    Nor was this merely because flesh was formed of blood, or the first men were made of the mystical red soil, as with the aarea of the Tahitians, or the red earth of the Adamic man.  Most of these primitive rites, the Blood-Covenant included, had their starting-point from the period of puberty.  It was at this time the lads who were not brothers uterine were made brothers of the Totem at what was termed the festival of young-man-making.  The proper period for circumcision, or cutting and sealing, as still practised by the oldest aborigines, is the time of puberty, the natural coming of age.  It is then they enter the Totemic Brotherhood.  Now in Egyptian, the word khet or khut = out, means to cut and to seal.  Khetem is to enclose, bind, seal, and is applied to sealing.  The same root passes into Assyrian and Hebrew as Khatan, Katam or Chatan, with the same meaning.  In Arabic, Khatana is to circumcise.  Cutting and sealing are identical as the mode of entering into a Blood-Covenant.  Circumcision was one form of the sealing, but there were various kinds of cuts employed, and different parts of the body were scarified and tattooed.  In the primary phase, then, the blood-brotherhood was established by the shedding of blood; the register was written in blood, and instead of the covenant being witnessed by the seal of red wax, it was stamped in blood.

    The reason for phallic localization is to be sought in the fact that the young men not only entered the Brotherhood by the baptism of blood, they were also received into the higher ranks of the fathers, and sworn in to live an orderly, legal and cleanly life, henceforth, as the pro-creators and loyal preservers of the race.

    But this was not the only clue directly derived from nature. There is another reason why blood should have become the sacred sign of a covenant.  Amongst many primitive races blood, or the colour red, is the symbol of Tapu, the sign of sanctity.  The bones of the dead were covered with red ochre as a means of protection by the most widely scattered races in the world.  The stamp of a red hand on the building, or a crimson daub upon the gravestone will render them sacred.  The Kaffirs will wash their bodies with blood as a protection against being wounded in battle.  The colour of robin-redbreast still renders him tapu or sacred to English children.

    Blood having become a sign of that which is true and sacred, on account of the Covenant, it is then made the symbol of all that is sacred.  It can be used for the purpose of anointing the living or the dead, can be the seal of the marriage or other ceremonies and rites of, covenanting.  It is the primæval token of tapu.

    As I have elsewhere shown, blood was sworn by as the type of that which was true, the primary one of the typical Two Truths of Egypt.  It was so in all the mysteries, and is so to-day, including the mysteries of Masonry.  I have suggested the derivation of the masonic name from the Egyptian Sen = son, for blood and brotherhood.  The working Mason in Egyptian is the makh (makht) by name.  Makh means to work, inlay by rule and measure.  We see that makh modifies into for measure, and for that which is just and true.

    Mâ-sen = Mason, would denote the true brotherhood ; and as sen is also blood, the true brotherhood as the blood-brotherhood would be the masons in the mystical or occult sense.  Red is the colour of or Truth personified, and sen is blood.  Blood is sworn by because it is the colour of truth, or the true colour.  Now in old English the word seng means both "blood" and "true."  Here, then, we find the origin of the oath, which constitutes the supreme expression in the vocabulary of our English roughs, when they use the oath of the blood-covenant, and swear by the word "bloody!"  When they wax emphatic, every thing they say becomes "bloody true."  This is the exact equivalent of "seng it is" for "it is true."  According to the primitive mysteries, this mode of swearing, or establishing the covenant, was sacred whilst kept piously secret, and it becomes impious when made public or profane.  Such mysteries were very simply natural at first, and it was this primitive simplicity and nearness to nature which demanded the veil to protect them from the gaze of the later consciousness.  Time was when the English felon would carry a red handkerchief with him to the scaffold, and hold it in his hand as a signal that he had betrayed no secrets, but died "bloody true," or true blood.

    These customs were symbolical, but there is a hint of the blood-covenant beyond them—a hint received direct from Nature herself—call it revelation if you please.  In the first rude ethics we find that the time for the sexes to come together was recognised by the intimation of nature, made in her own sign-language at the period of feminine pubescence.  Nature gave the hint, and a covenant was established.  Henceforth, the child that could not enter that covenant would be protected from brutal assault, and was allowed, or rather compelled, to run about unclothed in token of her exemption.  It is here in the swearing-in and covenanting of the sexes at the time of pubescence that we discover another real and most secret, i.e., sacred root of the rite.

    The self-revelation made by nature to primitive man was very primitive in its kind.  She not only demonstrated that the blood was the life, or that the life passed away with the letting out of the blood, but in another domain, which our author has not entered, she showed that blood was, and how it was, the future life.  Blood was the primary witness to the future life which the child received from the mother.  It was the token of the time when the female could become the bearer of that future life which took flesh and form in her blood.

    The blood-covenanting of the primitive races is still a part of the most elaborate system of making presents, which are the express witnesses of proffered troth and intended fealty. The most precious or sacred things are parted from in proof.  The best is given on either side.  And in the offering of blood, they were giving their very life, that in which the best attains supremacy.  But these primitive rites can never be truly read except by those who are deeply grounded in the fact, and well acquainted with the evidence, that sign-language was primordial, that gestures preceded verbal speech, and acting was an earlier mode of representing than talking.  Primitive men could only do that which we can say.  In Egyptian that which is said is done.  And in these primitive customs and religious rites we see the early races of men performing in pantomime the early drama of dumb or inarticulate humanity.  And it seems as if this primitive language could produce an impression and reach a reality that are unapproachable by means of words.  The significance of the teaching went all the deeper when it was incised in the flesh and branded into the blood.  For example, what a terrific glimpse of reality is revealed by the fact that the Malagasy make their sign of a blood-covenant by an incision in the skin that covers the bosom, and this opening with its utterance of blood is called ambavfo, the "mouth of the heart." Thus the covenant is made in the blood, which is the very life, uttering itself with the mouth of the heart.  In Egyptian the covenant, the oath, and the life, have the same name of Ankhu; and the greatest oath was to swear by the life or the blood of the Pharaoh.  The primitive mode was to slash the flesh and let the hot blood spout and speak for itself with the "mouth of the heart," the utterance of the living letter and red seal of the wound, as true witness.

    No verbal covenant or written record of the modern races has ever had the full force and effect of these modes of covenanting amongst the primitive people of the past.  The moderns do not keep their word with anything like the inviolable sanctity of the aborigines; when once they are sworn to fealty, the covenant is almost never broken.  Few things in poetry are more pathetic than the story related of Tolo, a chief of the Shastika Indians on the Pacific Coast.  In the year 1852 he entered into a tribal treaty with Colonel McKee and was desirous of making a covenant for life in some way that could not possibly be violated.  Instead of exchanging blood he proposed a transfer of their own two personal names.  Henceforth he was to be known as McKee, and the Colonel as Tolo.  But the treaty was discarded, the covenant was not kept by the American Government.  In reply, the Indian cast off the title of McKee and refused to resume his own tarnished and degraded name of Tolo!  He considered that his very identity was lost by this mode of losing his good name! I doubt whether 1,800 years of Christianity have evolved in the later races of men a consciousness of truth, probity, and loyalty, so quick and profound as that!

    The writer of this book remains stone-blind to its own teachings with regard to the doctrine of survivals, and of the past persisting as a pattern for the present.  To quote his own words, he rejoices in the "blessed benefits of the covenant of blood," and is still a fervent supporter of the great delusion inculcated by the gospel of ruddy gore.  The doctrine is fundamentally the same whether the Greek murderer was cleansed from his guilt by the filthy purification of pig's blood or the modern sinner is supposed to be washed white in the Blood of the Lamb.

    As I had already written in my "Natural Genesis," "the religious ritual of the moderns is crowded like a kitchen-midden with the refuse relics of customs that were natural once, and are now clung to as if they were supernatural in their efficacy because their origin has been unknown.  Indeed, the current masquerade in these appurtenances of the past is as sorry a sight to the archaic student as are the straw crowns and faded finery of the kings and queens whose domain is limited to the lunatic asylum."  Dr. Trumbull endorses the doctrine that "Mortals gave the blood of their first-born sons in sacrifice to the Supreme Being, then the Supreme Being gave the blood of his first-born male in sacrifice" for men; and there you have the covenant of blood in its final form!

    It is true that first-born children were offered in sacrifice just as the first take of fish was returned to the waters with a lively sense of future favours from the Typhonian power thus propitiated, but where is the sense of talking about the thought of an intercommunion with the divine nature through a blood-union with God as a concept in the mind of primitive man?  It is true the recognized nature-powers, or devils of physical force, were invoked with blood, but what was the status of these powers when the beasts of blood were their representatives on earth, and the blood, which is the life, was given to the Serpent, for instance, as the likeness of life itself because it sloughed its own skin and manifested the enviable power of self-renewal?  The profounder and more fundamental our researches, the more clearly does it become apparent that we have been victimised by the unsuspected survival of the past in the present, and that the veriest leavings of primitive man have been palmed off upon us by the ignorant as sacred mysteries and revelations guaranteed to be original and divine.  Continually we find that our errors of belief are based upon very simple truths that have been misunderstood through a misinterpretation of primitive matters and modes of representation by means of modern ignorance.  The blood-covenant of the aboriginal races has undoubtedly survived and culminated as Christian in the frightful formula, "Without blood there is no remission of sin."  Not merely the blood of beasts or human creatures this time, but the ruddy life and ichor of a supposed Divine Being, who was made flesh on purpose to pour out the blood for Almighty vengeance to lap in the person of a gory ghost of God.  One of the seven primal powers in Egypt was represented by the hawk, because it drank blood.  One of the Seven in Akkad was the vampire.  And this type of blood-drinking has been divinised at last as the Christian God.

    Pindar says: "It is impossible for me to call one of the blessed gods a cannibal."  But the Christian scheme makes the Only God a cannibal, who offers the flesh and blood of his own Son and Very Self as sacrificial food made sacred for his followers.  Such a god is, in two senses, chimerical.  How natural an accompaniment is the picture of the Crucified Christ to the Zuni saying, "My Father, this day shalt thou refresh thyself with blood!"  Such a doctrine is but an awful shadow of the primitive past—the shadow, so to say, of our old earth in the very far-off past—that remains to eclipse the light of Heaven to-day, and darken the souls of men in the present through the survival of savage spiritualism in its final Christian phase, where the extant doctrines are little more than an ignorant perversion of the most primitive knowledge.

    It is in this final and not in the primitive phase that we shall identify the irrationalty, the impiety, the disgusting grossness of Mythology under the surface of theological varnish and veneer.  The only senselessness is in the survival of Myths without their sense.

    Lastly, it is observable that in the genuine rite the covenant-makers always bled directly and suffered each for themselves.  Later on we find that other victims were substituted by purchase, by fraud, or by force; hence the blood-covenant by proxy.  Now the Christian scheme is that which culminated in the blood-covenant and atonement by proxy.  "His offspring for his life he gave," is said of an Akkadian ruler who sacrificed his own son as an expiatory offering to save himself from the consequences of his own sin.  And this doctrine of the despicable, this type of the fatherhood, is elevated to the status of divinity by Dr. Trumbull.  To quote his own words, the inspired author of the narrative found in the Hebrew Genesis shows "Abel lovingly and trustfully reaching out toward God with substitute blood!"

    And there began for the Historic Christians that vast perversion of a primitive custom which culminated at last in the Christian doctrine of vicarious sacrifice, based upon the mythology of the Old Testament being literalized in the New.  Now we have the ludicrous spectacle of salvation by means of a rite which has lost all the manhood, all the morality, all the meaning, that was put into it by the despised races of uncivilized men.

    The eucharistic rite is incredibly primitive when really understood.  The bread and wine of the Christian sacrament still represent the male spirit and the female source of life.  The "Blood of Jesus," which was to be "drink indeed," is identical with the "Blood of Bacchus," which preceded historic Christianity, and has been substituted for the human or animal blood of the earlier mysteries.  Imbibing the blood of the Christ did not originate in any historic or personal transaction.  Also the blood of Christ, or Mithras, or Horus, employed in drinking the covenant, was preceded by the blood of Charis.  In some of the Gnostic mysteries we have the proof that the first form of the saving blood was feminine, not masculine at all.  Irenæus presents us with a picture of profound interest from the anthropological point of view.

    He tells us how Marcus performed the eucharistic rite with the blood of Charis, instead of the blood of Christ.  He handed cups to the women and bade them consecrate these in his presence.  Then, by the use of magical incantation, "Charis was thought to drop her own blood into the cup" thus consecrated. (B. 1. 13, 2.)

    There is but one known fact in natural phenomena which will fitly account as Vera Causa for a monthly Sacrament, celebrated every twenty-eight days, or thirteen times to the year; which fact was commemorated by the Blood-Covenant of Charis (Vide "Nat. Gen." V. ii. section 12, for proofs).  This kind of blood-covenant can be paralleled in the Yain or Yonian mysteries of India.

    When rightly understood, the eucharist is a survival of the "beastly cannibalistic ceremony," whether considered as the blood of Charis or the blood of Christ, or partaken of as the red Tent wine or the " bloody wafer" of Rome.

    We welcome Dr. Trumbull's contribution on the subject, although he has but "breathed a vein" of it, because these rites and customs have to be unveiled, and when they are at last exposed in all the simplicity of naked nature the erroneous ideas read into them, the delusive inferences drawn from them, the false illusions painted upon the veil that concealed the truth about them, will be doomed to pass away.  To explain the true is the only effectual mode of exploding the false.




(by the Editor of Lucifer).

[1.]     The Theosophists are reminded that the "seven souls" are what we call the "seven principles" in man. "Blood" is the principle of the Body, the lowest in our septenary, as the highest is "Atma," which may well be symbolized by the Sun; Atma being the light and life in man, as the physical sun is the light and life of our solar system.

[2.]    The arcane doctrine teaches that the "blood " rites are as old as the Third-Root race, being established in their final form by the Fourth Parent race in commemoration of the separation of androgynous mankind, their forefathers, into males and females.  Mr. G. Massey is a strict scholar, who holds only to that which is made evident to him, and ignores the Occultistic division of mankind into Races, and the fact that we are in our Fifth-Root race, and would, of course, refuse to carry mankind back into pre-Tertiary times.  Yet his researches and the fruit of his life-labour, corroborate, by their numberless new facts revealed by him, most wonderfully, the teachings of the "Secret Doctrines."