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Selected quotes from “Blood Covenant a Primitive Rite and its bearings on Scripture” by H. Clay Trumbull

Trumbull’s book written at the end of the 19th Century remains one of the most comprehensive works on the history of blood covenants throughout the world. It is indispensable reading for those who want to understand the true nature of covenants and particularly blood covenants.

The indissolubility of a covenant

A covenant of blood, a covenant made by the inter- commingling of blood, has been recognized as the closest, the holiest, and the most indissoluble, compact conceivable. Such a covenant clearly involves an absolute surrender of one’s separate self, and an irrevocable merging of one’s individual nature into the dual, or the multiplied, personality included in the compact. Man’s highest and noblest outreachings of soul have, therefore, been for such a union with the divine nature as is typified in this human covenant of blood.

The two friends declared together : ” We are brothers in a covenant made before God : who deceiveth the other, him will God deceive.” Each blood-marked covenant-record was then folded carefully, to be sewed up in a small leathern case, or amulet, about an inch square ; to be worn thenceforward by one of the covenant-brothers, suspended about the neck, or bound upon the arm, in token of the indissoluble relation. The compact thus made, is called … the ” Covenant of Blood.” The two persons thus conjoined, are …” Brothers of the Covenant.” The rite itself is recognized, in Syria, as one of the very old customs of the land, as ‘… ” a primitive rite.” There are many forms of covenanting in Syria, but this is the extremist and most sacred of them all. As it is the inter-commingling of very lives, nothing can transcend it. It forms a tie, or a union, which cannot be dissolved. In marriage, divorce is a possibility: not so in the covenant of blood.

The evidence is abundant, that the main idea of this primitive and supreme service in the religions of China is the inter-communion of the Emperor with God. And there is no lack of proof that in China, as elsewhere all the world over, blood as life is the means of covenanting in an indissoluble inter-union ; of which inter-union, inter-communion is a result and a proof.

The Covenant of Bread and the Covenant of Blood are two distinct covenants, in Oriental practice as well as in biblical teaching; although this difference has been strangely overlooked by biblical students in the realm of Orientalisms. The Covenant of Bread is temporary; the Covenant of Blood is permanent.

I never heard of the blood-covenant being broken. I do not remember to have inquired particularly on this point, because the way in which the blood-covenant was spoken of, always implied that its rupture was an unheard-of thing. It is regarded as a perfectly valid excuse for any amount of reckless devotion, or of unreasoning sacrifice on behalf of another, for a Karen to say: “ Thui p’aw th’coh li, “ literally, “The blood, we have drunk it together.”

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