This volume of the magnificent Golden Bough by James George Frazer handles a phenomenon called The Scapegoat. Now if you were raised in a Christian surrounding, like me, who grew up in a community that is 99,99% catholic then you will probably think that it deals exclusively with Jesus and his impact upon the world. But that is far from what this book is. Much like in the book about the history of the Jews written by Flavius Josephus, Jesus is just an add on.
Growing up Christian you learn that Jesus being El/Jahve/God’s incarnate scapegoat is a unique event of comic importance. But later in life, you learn that that is not really the thing. But if you read this book you will realize that it is just another cliche or one of the most common mythological ideas that people in ancient times had.
There isn’t a culture that has not practiced some sort of scapegoat. From Japan, Polynesia, Peru, Uganda, many native American tribes, to the UK and Germany or Russia. It’s literally impossible not to come in touch with a scapegoat figure.
The most shocking and horrifying parts of the book were probably the whole section on the Aztecs and one form of the Ugandan Scapegoat ritual. The Aztecs really loved to sacrifice and wrench still-beating hearts. Being a sacrifice for the Fire God was the worst one. They would bake you until you are just barely conscious and then rip your still-beating heart. But it’s so fun to see that every single one of their gods was incarnated at least once during the year. And they would die for their people at least once a year. (Jesus dude, lazy much?).
The Ugandan practice was also really hard to read. One tribe selecting one kid, let it cross towards the enemy territory with some goats, sheep, or other animals. There the enemy tribe would break every single bone in his body and leave him to die. I can’t imagine a worse combination of pain and loneliness. Broken to pieces both mentally and physically, barely breathing, hoping you die as soon as possible.
If you want to read the book yourself you can find it on this Project Gutenberg link.