Our Debt to the Savage

  • James George Frazer


Itwould be easy to extend the list of royal and priestly taboos, but the instances collected in the preceding pages may suffice as specimens. To conclude this part of our subject it only remains to state summarily the general conclusions to which our enquiries have thus far conducted us. We have seen that in savage or barbarous society there are often found men to whom the superstition of their fellows ascribes a controlling influence over the general course of nature. Such men are accordingly adored and treated as gods. Whether these human divinities also hold temporal sway over the lives and fortunes of their adorers, or whether their functions are purely spiritual and supernatural, in other words, whether they are kings as well as gods or only the latter, is a distinction which hardly concerns us here. Their supposed divinity is the essential fact with which we have to deal. In virtue of it they are a pledge and guarantee to their worshippers of the continuance and orderly succession of those physical phenomena upon which mankind depends for subsistence. Naturally, therefore, the life and health of such a god-man are matters of anxious concern to the people whose welfare and even existence are bound up with his; naturally he is constrained by them to conform to such rules as the wit of early man has devised for averting the ills to which flesh is heir, including the lest ill, death.


Orderly Succession Preceding Page Controlling Influence Sacred Rite Anxious Concern 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • James George Frazer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Trinity CollegeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Universities of Paris and StrasbourgFrance

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