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111 THE PASSO VER 49
butchery but a regular custom, which with the growth of
morning breaks gray in the east.” And he would pass on
* See above, p. 39. Pie Lebensalter in der judischen Liter* As to the redemption of the first- a tur (Szegedin, 1875), pp. 110-118.
The conclusion that the Hebrew custom of redeeming the firstborn is a modification of an older custom of sacrificing them has been mentioned by some very distinguished scholars only to be rejected on the ground, apparently, of its extreme improbability." To me the converging lines of evidence which point to this conclusion seem too numerous and too distinct to be thus lightly brushed aside. And the argument from improbability can easily be rebutted by pointing to other peoples who are known to have practised or to be still practising a custom of the same sort. In some tribes of New South Wales the firstborn child of every woman was eaten by the tribe as part of a religious ceremony.” Amongst the people of Senjero in Eastern Africa we are told that many families must offer up their firstborn sons as sacrifices, because once upon a time, when summer and winter were jumbled together in a bad season, and the fruits of the earth would not ripen, the soothsayers enjoined it. At that time a great pillar of iron is said to have stood at the entrance of the capital, which in accordance with the advice of the soothsayers was broken down by order of the king, whereupon the seasons became regular again. To avert the recurrence of such a calamity the wizards commanded the king to pour human blood once a year on the base of the broken shaft of the pillar, and also upon the throne. Since then certain families have been obliged to deliver up their firstborn sons, who are sacrificed at an appointed time.” Among some tribes of South-Eastern Africa it is a rule that when a woman's husband has been killed in battle and she marries again, the first child she gives birth to after her second marriage must be put to death, whether she has it by her first or her second husband. Such a child is called “the child of the assegai,” and if it were not killed, death or an accident would be sure to befall the second spouse, and the woman herself would be barren. The notion is that the woman must have had some share in the misfortune that overtook her first husband, and that the only way of removing the malign influence is to slay “the child of the assegai.” The heathen Russians often sacrificed their firstborn to the god Perun.” The Kutonaqa Indians of British Columbia worship the sun and sacrifice their firstborn children to him. When a woman is with child she prays to the sun, saying, “I am with child. When it is born I shall offer it to you. Have pity upon us.” Thus they expect to secure health and good fortune for their families.” Among the Coast Salish Indians of the same region the first child is often sacrificed to the sun in order to ensure the health and prosperity of the whole family." The Indians of Florida sacrificed their firstborn male children.” Among the Indians of North Carolina down to the early part of the eighteenth century a remarkable ceremony was performed, which seems to be most naturally interpreted as a modification of an older custom of putting the king's son to death, perhaps as a substitute for his father. It is thus described by a writer of that period: “They have a strange custom or ceremony amongst them, to call to mind the persecutions and death of the kings their ancestors slain by their enemies at certain seasons, and particularly when the savages have been at war with any nation, and return from their country without bringing home some prisoners of war, or the heads
the idea being that this will give the
* J. Wellhausen, Prolesomena zur weak child the strength of the stronger
Geschichte Israe/s," p. 9o; W. Robert
son Smith, Aeligion of the Semites,” P. 464.
* Brough Smyth, Victoria, ii. 311. In the Luritcha tribe of Central Australia “young children are sometimes killed and eaten, and it is not an infrequent custom, when a child is in weak health, to kill a younger and healthy one and then to seed the weakling on its flesh,
one" (Spencer and Gillen, Aative
* J. Macdonald, Light in Africa, p. 156. In the text I have embodied some fuller explanations and particulars which my friend the Rev. Mr. Macdonald was good enough to send me in a letter dated September 16th, 1899. Among the tribes with which Mr. Macdonald is best acquainted the custom is obsolete and lives only in tradition; formerly it was universally practised.
* F. J. Mone, Geschichte des Heidenthums im nordlichen Europa, i. 119.
* Fr. Boas, in “Fourth Annual
Report on the North-Western tribes of Canada,” Report of the British Association for 1888, p. 242 : id., in Fifth A’eport on the AVorth - Western Tribes of Canada, p. 52 (separate reprint from the Report of the British Association for 1889).
* Fr. Boas, in Fifth Aeport on the Morth-Western Tribes of Canada, p. 46 (separate reprint from the A’eport of the British Association for 1889).
* Strachey, Historie of traz'aille into Virginia Britannia (Hakluyt Society), p. 84.
III SACRIFICE OF CA////DA’EAV 53
of their enemies. The king causes as a perpetual remembrance of all his predecessors to beat and wound the best beloved of all his children with the same weapons wherewith they had been kill'd in former times, to the end that by renewing the wound, their death should be lamented afresh. The king and his nation being assembled on these occasions, a feast is prepared, and the Indian who is authorised to wound the king's son, runs about the house like a distracted person crying and making a most hideous noise all the time with the weapon in his hand, wherewith he wounds the king's son ; this he performs three several times, during which interval he presents the king with victuals or cassena, and it is very strange to see the Indian that is thus struck never offers to stir till he is wounded the third time, after which he falls down backwards stretching out his arms and legs as if he had been ready to expire; then the rest of the king's sons and daughters, together with the mother and vast numbers of women and girls fall at his feet and lament and cry most bitterly. During this time the king and his retinue are feasting, yet with such profound silence for some hours, that not one word or even a whisper is to be heard amongst them. After this manner they continue till night, which ends in singing, dancing, and the greatest joy imaginable.” In this account the description of the frantic manner assumed by the person whose duty it was to wound the king's son reminds us of the frenzy of King Athamas when he took or attempted the lives of his children.” The same feature is said to have characterised the sacrifice of children in Peru. “When any person of note was sick and the priest said he must die, they sacrificed his son, desiring the idol to be satisfied with him and not to take away his father's life. The ceremonies used at these sacrifices were strange, for they behaved themselves like mad men. They believed that all calamities were occasioned by sin, and that sacrifices were the remedy.” An early Spanish historian of the conquest of Peru, in
1 J. Bricknell, 7%e Matural History * See above, p. 35. of Morth Carolina (Dublin, 1737), p. 342 sq. I have taken the liberty * Herrera, The general history of the
of altering slightly the writer's some- vast continent and islands of America what eccentric punctuation. (translated by Stevens), iv. 347 sy.