Sacrificial King

Richard

I think it's largely symbolic, Carla, like the burning of the Carnival King in certain parts of the world. There have been hints of very old ritual sacrifice of a "king" in ancient civilizations but these notions are largely disputed by many modern scholars.
Like others pointed out the concept is a romanticized interpretation introduced by Frazer. Any "solar" hero/god/king "sacrificed" for the common good or for reasons of apotheosis (like Herakles), regeneration etc. can be construed as a "sacred king".
Robert Graves was certainly capable of stating stating romanticized interpretations as though they were hard facts, but James Frazer was a serious anthropologist. He could indeed be mistaken about some things, since some of his sources (such as letters and diaries of missionaries) were nonprofessional, but it seems extremely unlikely that he would deliberately distort the truth just for effect. If he had an ulterior motive, such as proving that the Christ events may have been fabricated from earlier stories, then there is enough hard factual material to do so without risking his scientific reputation by distorting his data.
 

Dain

Robert Graves was certainly capable of stating stating romanticized interpretations as though they were hard facts, but James Frazer was a serious anthropologist. He could indeed be mistaken about some things, since some of his sources (such as letters and diaries of missionaries) were nonprofessional, but it seems extremely unlikely that he would deliberately distort the truth just for effect. If he had an ulterior motive, such as proving that the Christ events may have been fabricated from earlier stories, then there is enough hard factual material to do so without risking his scientific reputation by distorting his data.

My intention was certainly not to imply any ulterior motive to anyone, much less imply any deliberate distortion of facts, but point out that there are no indisputable historical facts concerning a widespread "real life" practice of sacrifice of kings. Extrapolations and comparisons may very well lead to valid interpretations and, personally, I've enjoyed the work of both Graves and Frazer, but I think that, in light of lack of hard evidence of such practices in a matter-of-fact way, they were mostly symbolic in nature.
I used an example in my previous post, based on the Carnival King. The Carnival is a very old custom from "pagan" times (which is why the local church here still bristles at the idea) and it's celebrated in the city of Patras - and elsewhere - in a manner similar to Venice and Rio. The celebration ends with the burning of the Carnival King, an effigy.
The symbolic reality is there and it fits perfectly with the concept in Frazer's work. The actual, pragmatic reality is that no king (person) is - or was - sacrificed and hard archeological evidence is very scarce either way. Certainly, it does not point towards a more or less global practice within known historical time. :)
 

Carla

My intention was certainly not to imply any ulterior motive to anyone, much less imply any deliberate distortion of facts, but point out that there are no indisputable historical facts concerning a widespread "real life" practice of sacrifice of kings. Extrapolations and comparisons may very well lead to valid interpretations and, personally, I've enjoyed the work of both Graves and Frazer, but I think that, in light of lack of hard evidence of such practices in a matter-of-fact way, they were mostly symbolic in nature.
I used an example in my previous post, based on the Carnival King. The Carnival is a very old custom from "pagan" times (which is why the local church here still bristles at the idea) and it's celebrated in the city of Patras - and elsewhere - in a manner similar to Venice and Rio. The celebration ends with the burning of the Carnival King, an effigy.
The symbolic reality is there and it fits perfectly with the concept in Frazer's work. The actual, pragmatic reality is that no king (person) is - or was - sacrificed and hard archeological evidence is very scarce either way. Certainly, it does not point towards a more or less global practice within known historical time. :)

But Pollack says nothing about effigies or symbols. And thus my original question. Why do so many occult/pagan/whatever authors make reference to this practice as if it actually occurred? I believe it must go back to Frazer. I just wonder if these writers know this. And the question remains, where did he get it?
 

Dain

But Pollack says nothing about effigies or symbols. And thus my original question. Why do so many occult/pagan/whatever authors make reference to this practice as if it actually occurred? I believe it must go back to Frazer. I just wonder if these writers know this. And the question remains, where did he get it?

Perhaps they refer to practices, mythical or real, that would symbolically, spiritually, and esoterically mean the sacrifice of a "king". There are many such examples both in myths and in religious practices. Usually they refer to the death of a solar (in other words, "royal") hero/deity, usually male, for the world to be reborn or light to return etc. A few examples would be:

The killing of Orhpeus by Maenads (who at the end of his life disdained the worship of all gods save the sun)

The death of Herakles (Hercules) before he became a god on Olympus

The Mithraic Mysteries and the myths about Mithras that parallel the life of Jesus in certain ways.

Attis, the consort of the goddess Cybele and his self-mutilation, death and resurrection after winter. Incidentally, I've read that Attis' priests were eunuchs which, to me, seems to parallel the myth of Uranus, King of the Gods, who is castrated by Cronus so a new generation of deities and humans could come along.

The Egyptian Osiris and Isis' search for the members of his body

There is evidence of human sacrifice, of course, but the practice was not widespread in ancient Europe, at least, and certain historical sources that allude to human sacrifices are today considered "suspicious".

Well, that's my understanding according to what I've read... :)
 

Carla

Now we're just going in circles.
 

Debra

Why don't you write to Rachel and ask what she has in mind?
 

Milfoil

Human sacrifice, as such, was practiced in Norse communities. The eye-witness account from Ibn Fadlan of the sacrifice of a female slave along with the old king is one. Peat bog bodies are another factual evidence of this practice.

There are also the myths and stories, such as that of King Aun who killed all his sons in order to stay young until his last son was saved by his people who killed him!

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/sacrifice.html

Actually, there is quite a history, even if we don't wish to acknowledge it toay. It may have been one of the reasons that Christianity was so readily adopted in many areas of Europe. One guy who was sacrificed for the good/benefit of all - sounds good when you may have been next on the sacrificial altar!
 

Carla

I'll be seeing Rachel at the London Tarot Conference next month, maybe I'll get the chance to ask her there.
 

Dain

I'll be seeing Rachel at the London Tarot Conference next month, maybe I'll get the chance to ask her there.

That's great, Carla! Please post what she'll say about it. I'd certainly want to know. :)
 

Dain

Human sacrifice, as such, was practiced in Norse communities. The eye-witness account from Ibn Fadlan of the sacrifice of a female slave along with the old king is one. Peat bog bodies are another factual evidence of this practice.

There are also the myths and stories, such as that of King Aun who killed all his sons in order to stay young until his last son was saved by his people who killed him!

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/sacrifice.html

Actually, there is quite a history, even if we don't wish to acknowledge it toay. It may have been one of the reasons that Christianity was so readily adopted in many areas of Europe. One guy who was sacrificed for the good/benefit of all - sounds good when you may have been next on the sacrificial altar!

I agree with you. It was practiced in many parts of Europe, particularly in prehistoric times and myths, legends, and even theatre place (like Iphigeneia) may point towards and actual practice in the most distant past.You are also right that some people/groups today tend to "sweep under the rug" the uglier sides of ancient societies (like, for example, the fact of slavery in ancient Athens, a fact that makes certain reconstructionist groups here in Greece squirm).
That said, there have been archeologists and serious writers who doubt the accuracy of ancient reports about human sacrifice, reports coming from Roman and/or Christian officials because of the bias involved. That's not too dissimilar to the horrible exaggerations in the middle ages etc. about what witches did.

This is an interesting subject. Perhaps we could start a new topic and discuss it? :)