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of Scandinavia communities were formed, where the sanction of religion was employed to consecrate the most unholy engagements. In token of their alliance, the heroes were wont to make incisions in their hands and arms; and besmearing their weapons with the blood, or mixing it in a cup, each of them drank a portion. One of the most remarkable of these associations was that established at Julin, near the mouth of the Oder. From this brotherhood women were absolutely excluded ; and in order to be admitted a member, the candidate was required to prove by witnesses that he had never refused to accept a challenge, and to take an oath that he would bring no female into the city. The reader will call to remembrance that the Areois not only claimed a descent from the gods, but their rites always began with sacrifice. Like the ancient Syrians, and even the heathen priests of a more civilized era in Europe, they perpetrated the most offensive immoralities in the name of their deities ; mixing the ceremonies of a gross worship, founded on the productive powers of nature, with the maxims of a more early faith which they were unable to comprehend.*
A similar connexion may be traced between the usages of the Polynesians and those adopted by the Israelites from their pagan neighbours, and hence an additional proof is obtained of a primitive religion in the central parts of Asia, which had gradually extended in a corrupted form into the islands of the Great Sea. We allude to the practice of inflicting wounds on the body and cutting off the hair, on the death of a relation or a popular chief. Many instances of this custom were observed in the Sandwich group. At a particular village, the missionaries saw that many of the people had their hair either cut away or shaven closely on both sides of the head, while it was left very long in the middle. Upon being asked the reason for so singular a fashion, they replied,
Scandinavia, Ancient and Modern, &c. By Andrew Crichton, LL.D. (Edinburgh Cabinet Library, Nos. xxiii. xxiv.) vol. i. pp. 174, 175.
that, according to the custom of their country, they had so disfigured themselves on account of a chief who had been sick,and of whose death notice had just been brought to them. Not to remove the hair in such a case, indicates want of respect towards the deceased as well as to his surviving friends; but to have it cut close in any form is enough. Each individual follows his own peculiar taste, which produces the almost endless variety in which this ornamental appendage of the head is worn by the islanders during a season of mourning. It was also customary, on the occurrence of such a loss, to knock out one or more of the front teeth. The cutting of one or both ears was likewise common as an expression of deep grief, or of profound veneration for the dead. The Friendly Islanders were wont to remove a joint of one of their fingers at the demise of a favourite leader, while their neighbours in the Society cluster cut their faces, temples, and bosom, with sharks' teeth.*
Following out the principle now stated, we may hazard the assertion, that even the revolting practices connected with human sacrifice had a higher source than the mere impulse of revenge, and that when the blood of man was shed on the altar of the gods, an atonement or propitiation was originally intended. In the course of time, it is true, other motives obtruded themselves; and there is little doubt that, in the selection of his victims, the priest frequently acted with a reference to the
* Ellis's Polynesian Researches, vol. iv. p. 175. The import of the remark made in the text will be more fully comprehended when the reader turns to the Mosaical law, where it is thus written :-“ Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you.” (Levit. xix. 27, 28.)
“ Ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead." (Deut. xiv. 1.) At a later period, the prophet Jeremiah, bewailing the fate of his countrymen in the latter days, observes, “that they shall die of grievous deaths, they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them ; neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead."-Chap. xvi. ver. 4-7.
wishes of his chief, who might desire to remove a worthless or a dangerous subject. It may now be impossible to trace this horrible superstition to the fountain whence it took its rise ; but, guided by the light supplied to us by history, as well sacred as profane, we may discover the process by which the notion of appeasement was gradually corrupted into the means of gratifying a vindictive feeling or of promoting a political interest. Without examining minutely into the motives of Jephthah when he devoted his daughter, we cannot shut our eyes to the operation of the same principle, which also finds a place in the early annals of Greece. Plutarch relates that three sons of Sandanke, sister to the King of Persia, were offered, in obedience to an oracle, to Bacchus Omestes. The blood-stained altar of Diana is frequently mentioned both by historians and dramatists. Even in the Homeric age prisoners were sometimes slain on the tombs of warriors. Octavius, at an era which boasted a high civilisation, is said to have sacrificed three hundred Perugian captives on an altar consecrated to the deified Julius, the founder of his family. This, no doubt, may be considered as the sanguinary spirit of the age of proscriptions taking a solemn and religious form. A similar conclusion may be drawn in regard to the practice of making a libation of the blood of the gladiators who fell in the arena, as mentioned by Tertullian, Cyprian, and Lactantius. All public spectacles, it is admitted, were to a certain degree religious ceremonies ; though it is still possible that the combatants whose blood was formally poured out were victims to the sanguinary pleasures of the Roman people, and not slain in honour of their gods.*
* The Roman authors are full of allusions to human sacrifice. See, for example, the Annals of Tacitus, book i. c. 61, and his Germany, c. 10. Pliny's Natural History, c. 30, 1; and the Fasti of Ovid, book iii. 1. 341, where is noticed the reluctance of Numa to offer a human victim. Hadrian issued an edict prohibiting such sacrifices; directed, it is supposed, against the later Mithriac rites, which had again introduced the shocking custom of consulting futurity in the entrails of men. But the sa
It may perhaps be regarded in the light of a proof that the usages of the Polynesians have descended to them from a remote antiquity, and through various channels, when we find among them a custom so singular as that of cutting a lock of hair from the head of a dying person devoted to the idols. When a battle took place, the first that either party slew was called “ erehua.” Frequently the victor jumped upon the expiring body, or spurning it contemptuously, dedicated its spirit to his gods. He then tore off a lock from the top of the forehead, and elevating it in the air, shouted aloud, “a ringlet!” Having despoiled the fallen warrior, he delivered the corpse to the king or priest, who, in a short address, offered the victim to the supernatural powers. The classical reader will recollect instances of a similar observance among the Greeks and Romans, or at least an allusion to an article of their belief that such an office was performed by the minister of death; it being understood that the seat of life was in the brain, and that the spirit could not be released from its earthly prison until a certain portion of the covering which protects the skull had been withdrawn.*
vage Commodus offered a human victim to Mithra, as is related in his Life by Lampridius. In a word, human sacrifices are said to have taken place under Aurelian and even Maxentius. Several other instances are recorded by Mr Miman in his History of Christianity, vol. i. p. 27.
* In the beautiful verses which describe the death of Queen Dido, Virgil introduces this article of the popular faith.
Nam, quia nec fato, merita nec morte peribat,
Æneid. iv. 696.
There remain, we are satisfied, among the people of the South Sea, manifold tokens that they are descended from those primitive families in Central Asia who, at an early age, carried knowledge into the West, and at a subsequent period allowed themselves to sink into a comparative barbarism, when scattered among the islands of the Indian archipelago. Their traditional recollections, not less than their superstitions, identify them with nations who have acted a more prominent part on the theatre of the globe, though climate, food, and peculiar habits have in some degree obscured the resemblance.
The progress which has already been made in the conversion of the natives on either side of the equator, may enable the reader to determine the question, whether, in all cases, the lessons of abstract belief should precede the direct means of civilisation; or whether savages ought not to be raised to the rank of men before they shall be invited to receive the mysteries of the christian creed. The analogy of the divine proceedings seems to suggest the inference, that as a fulness of time was required to prepare the heathen world for the introduction of the gospel, so the communication of some degree of secular knowledge, and more especially the habit of reflection and the desire of improvement, must be necessary to prepare the way for the sublime truths with which the missionary is charged. Experience, even in modern times, seems to justify the same method of procedure. It is manifest that, in most cases, the exhortations of the preacher produced little effect until the
And rage of love, that plunged her in despair,