Re: Incest taboos

William Stoltzfus (
Wed, 10 May 1995 09:23:42 -0400

> > Remember where the Hawaii state motto came from. The British
> >took over Hawaii for awhile in the early 1800's. Lord George Paulette
> >came out from South America and gave it back. As the British flag was
> >being lowered, the Hawaiian king said, "Ua mau, ke ea o ka aina i ka pono".
> >That translates several ways. The one I like is, "Once again, the Spirit
> >of the Land Speaks the Law".
> > imo the "Divine right of Kings" had a basis in observable reality.
> You miss the fact that kings become kings through sustained violence
> against their fellows, beating them forcefully into subjection. It is
> subsequent to that process when few had the courage to reply, that the
> kings begin to appropriate unto themselves only attributes which are
> in fact common to all.

"...To be properly understood royal incest must be perceived as part of a
ritual pattern that is identical with the monarchy itself. The king must
be looked upon as a future sacrificial object; that is, as the
replacement for the surrogate victim. Incest, then, plays a relatively
minor role in the proceedings. Its purpose is to augment the
effectiveness of the sacrifice. And although the sacrifice, directly
linked as it is to spontaneous collective violence, is perfectly
intelligible without reference to incest, the incest is unintelligible
without reference to sacrifice...

...modern ethnology has almost invariably
isolated institutional incest from its context; it consistently fails to
appreciate its meaning because it insists on viewing incest as an
autonomous event, something so remarkable that it should have a
significance all its own, without reference to the surrounding phenomena...

...Even in a society that formally excludes incest, the king replaces an
original victim who is believed to have violated the rules of exogamy.
It is as the heir and successor of this victim that the king is
considered particularly susceptible to incest..."

Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins U. Press,
1972. Patrick Gregory trans.), pp. 112-3.

Regards, Bill Stoltzfus