The Threshold Covenant, or the Beginning of Religious Rites. By H. Clay Trumbull. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1896.
Dr. Trumbull is already well known to anthropological students as the author of The Blood Covenant. In pursuing his researches on the subject of that valuable work for a second edition he found the main idea of The Threshold Covenant so important as to justify separate treatment. Hence the present volume. Here he investigates a widespread rite of welcome, by which a stranger is received with the outpouring of blood at the threshold or upon the door-posts. This involves the rite of sacrifice at or upon the threshold, and leads to an inquiry into the sacredness of the threshold. The author derives it from the hearth, holding that the family fire was originally at the threshold of the tent or cave wherein the family dwelt. From the threshold he passes to the foundation stone and to the boundary stone. Having identified — or at least very intimately connected—these, he seeks the origin of the rite, and finds it in the covenant of conjugal union. The remainder of the work is chiefly devoted to an exposition, often excellent as it is new, of various passages in the Bible containing allusions to the rite.
We can go a long way with Dr. Trumbull, though some of his illustrations are, perhaps, a little strained; but we find difficulties in accepting his theory in its entirety. There is an analogy between the threshold and the boundary stone; but their identity can only be admitted with much reserve. This, however, is by no means the weakest link in his argument. To derive the sacredness of the threshold from that of the hearth is to go beyond the evidence produced. It may turn out to be correct, but not because Dr. Trumbull has collected a convincing array of proofs. The sacredness of the camp-fire, to which he hardly alludes, points in this direction. So does a marriage-rite, here i