chapter  Chapter Six
49 Pages

Blood Brotherhood, Blood Revenge, and Devotio

Glimpses of the Archaic Psyche
WithWolfgang Giegerich

When we speak of blood brothers nowadays, we usually think of an especially deep, firm, intimate friendship, sealed through a mixing of drops of blood from the two men concerned. This blood brotherhood is a bond on the level of their subjective feelings, and the mixing of their blood is merely a symbolic act to give visual expression to and sensibly underline their subjective intentions. Summarizing the main features of the ritual we can say that the blood brotherhood ritual is enacted in a pit dug under a lawn strip that has been lifted up by spears; as a rule, only two men step under it; they both let blood trickle to the earth and mix it there; and while shaking hands and invoking the gods they swear an oath to each other. Historians of the law see in the sworn brotherhood the establishment of an artificially created family relationship.