Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth by Walter Burkert.pdf (USD-0.00)Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth by Walter Burkert.epub (USD-0.00)Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth by Walter Burkert.doc (USD-0.00)Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth by Walter Burkert.txt (USD-0.00)Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth by Walter Burkert.mobi (USD-0.00)
What is it about animal sacrifice that makes otherwise staid European scholars and experts on go ape-shit crazy and start fantasizing about primal violence and making up strange myths of their own? I liked this book, actually, it’s fun, but it’s in a certain tradition, ranging from Robertson Smith to Rene Girard, of just making stuff up about how all religion goes back to some primal, orgiastic desire to kill and rip and eat the flesh of animals as a way of resolving our desires to kill and rip
Reality, it seems to me, is simpler: killing animals is almost always surrounded by elaborate ritual, often expressing ambivalence and guilt, because it’s disturbing. Especially when it comes to domestic animals – since game is almost never sacrificed, anywhere – the problem, really, is you have to raise them, take care of them, tend to their needs – and then kill them. How can this not cause a certain ambivalence? The Greek ritual of pretending the animal agrees to the sacrifice, and then holding a trial for the axe on charges of murder, seems only one particularly elaborate working-out of a dilemma that must always exist. (This is also why we feel most ambivalent about pork, incidentally: it’s both smarter and more like humans than the others, and it’s the one animal we raise _only_ to eat. At least with cows and sheep and goats we can tell ourselves we’re doing it for the fleece or milk, etc. Pigs you just eat.)
This stuff is disturbing as it dovetails with the “killer ape” theory of human evolution that is just pure and unadulterated myth – but it’s also worth reading because it does have a lot of fascinating material.
Excellent research on Greek sacrifice. Somewhat of an acidemic read. Berkert has some excellent explanations, and though this book may seem outdated, his theories on the topic may shed some light on both Jewish and Christian views concerning guilt, aggression, sacrifice, and redemption.
“The modern world, whose pride is in the full emancipation of the
individual, has gradually allowed the ritual tradition to break down.
At the same time, it has relegated death to the fringes of existence
So much about the ancient Greeks relates well to the modern world: democracy, logic, tragedy and comedy, etc. But Greek religion remains far estranged from our own religion and spirituality, above all in its emphasis on sacrifice. This was something that it had in common with many if not all ancient religions, including that of the Israelites depicted in the Hebrew Bible. Walter Burkert’s “Homo Necans” (Sacrificing Man) is an attempt to explain the origins of religious sacrifice by delving deep
Burkert’s thesis is that sacrifice comes out of rituals from the earliest hominid hunters, perhaps even before language arose. He draws some evidence from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Bible, but focuses primarily on ancient Greece, his area of expertise. Collecting together various myths and worship sites, he convincingly shows how they derive from these ancient sacrificial rites, even if no animals (that we know of) were actually sacrificed. For many of these myths, only sketchy details have come down to us, but by comparing them with similar archetypes, Burkert gives the reader a better idea of what might have been behind the stories.
“Homo Necans” greatly increased my understanding of Greek mythology, and of humanity’s former reliance on sacrificial rituals. But it was a difficult book to read. The prose is quite dense, however interesting the content, making it hard to read long stretches at a time. Nonetheless, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the subject matter. I can imagine myself returning to various sections in the future to review what is known about various celebrations (Thesmophoria, Eleusinian mysteries, etc.).