Blood brother

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Norwegian warrior Örvar-Oddr bids a last farewell to his blood brother, the Swedish warrior Hjalmar, by Mårten Eskil Winge (1866).

Blood brother can refer to two or more men not related by birth who have sworn loyalty to each other. This is in modern times usually done in a ceremony, known as a blood oath, where each person makes a small cut, usually on a finger, hand or the forearm, and then the two cuts are pressed together and bound, the idea being that each person's blood now flows in the other participant's veins.[a]

The act carries a risk due to blood-borne diseases. The process usually provides a participant with a heightened symbolic sense of attachment with the other participant.



The Norsemen entering the pact of foster brotherhood (Icelandic: Fóstbræðralag) involved a rite in which they let their blood flow while they ducked underneath an arch formed by a strip of turf propped up by a spear or spears. An example is described in Gísla saga.[1][2] In Fóstbræðra saga, the bond of Thorgeir Havarsson (Þorgeir Hávarsson) and Thormod Bersason (Þormóð Bersason) is sealed by such ritual as well, the ritual being called a leikr.[3]

Örvar-Oddr's saga contains another notable account of blood brotherhood. Örvar-Oddr, after fighting the renowned Swedish warrior Hjalmar to a draw, entered a foster brotherhood with him by the turf-raising ritual. Afterwards, the strand of turf was put back during oaths and incantations.[citation needed]

In the mythology of Northern Europe, Gunther and Högni became the blood brothers of Sigurd when he married their sister Gudrun. In Wagner's opera Götterdämmerung, the concluding part of his Ring Cycle, the same occurs between Gunther and Wagner's version of Sigurd, Siegfried, which is marked by the "Blood Brotherhood Leitmotiv". Additionally, it is briefly stated in Lokasenna that Odin and Loki are blood brothers.


Among the Scythians, the covenantors would allow their blood to drip into a cup; the blood was subsequently mixed with wine and drunk by both participants. Every man was limited to having three blood brotherhoods at any time lest his loyalties be distrusted. As a consequence, blood brotherhood was highly sought after and often preceded by a lengthy period of affiliation and friendship (Lucian, Toxaris). The 4th-century BC depictions of two Scythian warriors drinking from a single drinking horn (most notably in a gold appliqué from Kul-Oba) have been associated with the Scythian oath of blood brotherhood.[4]

The Hungarian hajduks had a similar ceremony, but the wine was often replaced with milk so that the blood would be more visible.[citation needed]

East Asia[edit]

In Asian cultures, the act and the ceremony of becoming blood brothers is generally seen as a tribal relationship for bringing about alliance between tribes. It was practiced for that reason most notably by the Mongols, Turkic and early Chinese.[5]

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Chinese classical literature, the three main characters took an oath of blood brother, the Oath of the Peach Garden, by sacrificing a black ox and a white horse and by swearing faith.[6] Other blood oaths involving animal sacrifice were characteristic of rebel groups, such as the uprising led by Deng Maoqi in the 1440s, of criminal organizations, such as the triads or the pirates of Lin Daoqian, and of non-Han ethnic minorities such as the Mongols and the Manchu.[7] Genghis Khan had an anda called Jamukha.[8] The term also exist in Old Turkic: ant ičmek ("to take an oath"), derived from the "ancient test by poison". The Turkic term, if it's not a loanword in Middle Mongol, is related to Mongol anda.[9]


El Pacto de Sangre, a romanticized painting of the Sandugo blood compact ritual between the Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna of Bohol, Philippines; by Juan Luna (1886)

In the Philippines, blood compacts (sandugo or sanduguan, literally "one blood") were ancient rituals that were intended to seal a friendship or treaty or to validate an agreement. They were described in the records of the early Spanish and Portuguese explorers to the islands. The most well-known version of the ritual from the Visayan people involves mixing a drop of blood from both parties into a single cup of wine that is then drunk. Other versions also exist, like in Palawan which describes a ritual involving making a cut on the chest and then daubing the blood on the tongue and forehead.[10][11]

Sub-Saharan Africa[edit]

The blood oath was used in much the same fashion as has already been described in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. The British colonial administrator Lord Lugard is famous for having become blood brothers with numerous African chiefs as part of his political policy in Africa. A powerful blood brother was the Kikuyu chieftain Waiyaki Wa Hinga. David Livingstone wrote of a similar practice called 'Kasendi'.[12]

Southeastern Europe[edit]

Blood brothers among larger groups were common in ancient Southeastern Europe, where, for example, whole companies of soldiers would become one family through the ceremony. It was perhaps most prevalent in the Balkans during the Ottoman era, as it helped the oppressed people to fight the enemy more effectively. Blood brotherhoods were common in what is today Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and North Macedonia. Christianity also recognized sworn brotherhood in a ceremony, which was known as Greek: adelphopoiesis, Slavic languages: pobratimstvo in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and as Latin: ordo ad fratres faciendum in the Catholic Church. The tradition of intertwining arms and drinking wine is also believed to be a representation of becoming blood brothers.[citation needed]

Famous blood brothers[edit]




Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ The term "blood brother" may also refer to brothers related by birth, in that case as opposed to adoptive, step or foster brothers.


  1. ^ Poole, Russell (2005), "Claiming Kin Skaldic-Style", Verbal Encounters: Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Studies for Roberta Frank, University of Toronto Press, p. 278, ISBN 9780802080110
  2. ^ The Story of Gisli the Outlaw. Translated by George Webbe Dasent. Mildmay, C. E. St. John (illustrator). Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas. 1866. pp. 23–24.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ Gunnell, Terry (1995), The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, p. 27, ISBN 9780859914581
  4. ^ Caspar Meyer, Greco-Scythian Art and the Birth of Eurasia: From Classical Antiquity to Russian Modernity, OUP (2013), 246 (fig. 98b) "Gold relief appliqué showing two Scythians drinking from one drinking horn. From Kul-Oba (Inventory 2, K.12h). Rostoftzeff identified the scene with the Scythain sacred oath described in Herodotus 4.70. Fourth century BC. 5 × 3.7 cm, 28.35 gr."; see also "Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine", Scythian gold statuette depicting the ritual of brotherhood.
  5. ^ "Bloody Oath Rituals And The Blood Fraternity". ULUKAYIN. 2021-10-04. Archived from the original on 2021-11-09. Retrieved 2021-12-01.
  6. ^ Wynne, Mervyn Llewelyn (2000) [1941]. Triad Societies: Western Accounts of the History, Sociology and Linguistics of Chinese Secret Societies. Vol. 5. Routledge. p. 19. ISBN 9780415243971.
  7. ^ Ownby, David (2016-09-16). "Chinese Hui and the early modern social order: Evidence from eighteenth-century southeast China". In Ownby, David; Somers Heidhues, Mary (eds.). Secret Societies Reconsidered: Perspectives on the social history of early modern south China and southeast Asia. p. 46. ISBN 9781315288031.
    ter Haar, Barend (2016-09-16). "Messianism and the Heaven and Earth Society: Approaches to Heaven and Earth Society texts". In Ownby, David; Somers Heidhues, Mary (eds.). Secret Societies Reconsidered: Perspectives on the social history of early modern south China and southeast Asia. p. 155. ISBN 9781315288031.
  8. ^ "Anda | oath". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  9. ^ Peter B. Golden (2003). Nomads and Their Neighbours in the Russian Steppe: Turks, Khazars and Qipchaqs. Ashgate/Variorum. p. 82.
  10. ^ Pigafetta, Antonio (1906). "Primo Viaggio Intorno Al Mondo". In Emma Helen Blair; James Alexander Robertson (eds.). The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898, Volume XXXIII, 1519-1522. Arthur H. Clark Company.
  11. ^ Sandugo Festival Bohol Philippines Retrieved December 2006.
  12. ^ Trumbull, H. Clay (1885). The Blood Covenant (Outlook Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2018 ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 9783732636679. Retrieved 2019-10-19.
  13. ^ Anonymus (c. 1200). Gesta Hungarorum (PDF).
  14. ^ The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis. January 2000. ISBN 9789639116566.
  15. ^ Bilby, Kenneth (1997). "Swearing by the Past, Swearing to the Future: Sacred Oaths, Alliances, and Treaties among the Guianese and Jamaican Maroons". Ethnohistory. 44 (4): 655–689. doi:10.2307/482884. ISSN 0014-1801. JSTOR 482884.
  16. ^ Бошко Стрика (1927). Српске задужбине Фрушкогорски манастири: Fruškogorski manastiri. тисак закладе тискаре "Народних новина". p. 173.
  17. ^ Douglas Dakin (1973). The Greek Struggle for Independence, 1821–1833. University of California Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-520-02342-0.
  18. ^ Béla K. Király; Gunther Erich Rothenberg (1982). War and Society in East Central Europe: The first Serbian uprising 1804-1813. Brooklyn College Press. p. 382. ISBN 978-0-930888-15-2.
  19. ^ The Slavonic and East European Review. Jonathan Cape Limited. 1928. p. 183.
  20. ^ The Revolt of the Serbs Against the Turks: (1804–1813). Cambridge University Press. 2012. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-107-67606-0.
  21. ^ Dušan Baranin (1977). Milan Obrenović: kralj Srbije. V. Karadžić. p. 67.
  22. ^ Vukadin Sretenović (1990). Kralj Milan. NIGP "Glas". p. 55.
  23. ^ Gavrilo Kovijanić (1986). Tragom čitališta u Srbiji. Narodna knjiga. p. 138.
  24. ^ Nebojša Popov (January 2000). The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis. Central European University Press. pp. 192–. ISBN 978-963-9116-56-6.
  25. ^ Tanya Popovic (1988). Prince Marko: The Hero of South Slavic Epics. Syracuse University Press. pp. 26–. ISBN 978-0-8156-2444-8.
  26. ^ Anamaria Dutceac Segesten (16 September 2011). Myth, Identity, and Conflict: A Comparative Analysis of Romanian and Serbian Textbooks. Lexington Books. pp. 208–. ISBN 978-0-7391-4865-5.
  27. ^ Asmus Soerensen; Marija Kleut (1999). Prilog istoriji razvoja srpskog junačkog pesništva. Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva. p. 55. ISBN 9788617077059.
  28. ^ May, Karl (1878). Winnetou. ISBN 978-0874221794.
  29. ^ "Blood Brothers (musical)", Wikipedia, 2022-11-02, retrieved 2022-11-28