The Burden of Royalty

  • James George Frazer


At a certain stage of early society the king or priest is often thought to be endowed with supernatural powers or to be an incarnation of a deity, and consistently with this belief the course of nature is supposed to be more or less under his control, and he is held responsible for bad weather, failure of the crops, and similar calamities. To some extent it appears to be assumed that the king’s power over nature, like that over his subjects and slaves, is exerted through definite acts of will; and therefore if drought, famine, pestilence, or storms arise, the people attribute the misfortune to the negligence or guilt of their king, and punish him accordingly with stripes and bonds, or, if he remains obdurate, with deposition and death. Sometimes, however, the course of nature, while regarded as dependent on the king, is supposed to be partly independent of his will. His person is considered, if we may express it so, as the dynamical centre of the universe, from which lines of force radiate to all quarters of the heaven; so that any motion of his—the turning of his head, the lifting of his hand—instantaneously affects and may seriously disturb some part of nature. He is the point of support on which hangs the balance of the world, and the slightest irregularity on his part may overthrow the delicate equipoise.


Sacred Grove Supernatural Power Slight Irregularity High Priest Supreme Power 


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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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