Blood brother

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Blood brother can refer to one of two things: two males related by birth, or two or more men not related by birth who have sworn loyalty to each other. This is usually done in a ceremony, known as a blood oath, where the blood of each man is mingled together. The process usually provides a participant with a heightened symbolic sense of attachment with another participant.

Örvar-Oddr's saga contains a notable account of blood brotherhood. The Norwegian warrior Örvar-Oddr felt a desire to test his fighting skills with the renowned Swedish warrior Hjalmar. Thus Örvar-Oddr sailed to Sweden with five ships and met Hjalmar who had fifteen ships. Hjalmar could not accept such an uneven balance of strength and sent away ten of his own ships so that the forces would be even. The two warriors fought for two days with a lot of blood-letting and poetry, but it was a draw. Finally, they realized that they were equals and decided to become sworn brothers by letting their blood flow under a strand of turf raised by a spear. Then the strand of turf was put back during oaths and incantations.

The Lydian ceremony involved nicking their arms with a sharp object and licking the blood off of each other's arms.

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 at most three blood brotherhoods at any time, lest his loyalties be distrusted; as a consequence,...
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