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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 mâ for measure, and for that which is just
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 Mâ 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
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
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.