Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 466
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 466
 
bull form must have been only another expression for his character as a deity of vegetation, especially as the bull is a common embodiment of the corn-spirit in Northern Europe; and the close association of Dionysus with Demeter and Persephone in the mysteries of Eleusis shows that he had at least strong agricultural affinities.
  The probability of this view will be somewhat increased if it can be shown that in other rites than those of Dionysus the ancients slew an OX as a representative of the spirit of vegetation. This they appear to have done in the Athenian sacrifice known as “the murder of the OX” (bouphonia). It took place about the end of June or beginning of July, that is, about the time when the threshing is nearly over in Attica. According to tradition the sacrifice was instituted to procure a cessation of drought and dearth which had afflicted the land. The ritual was as follows. Barley mixed with wheat, or cakes made of them, were laid upon the bronze altar of Zeus Polieus on the Acropolis. Oxen were driven round the altar, and the OX which went up to the altar and ate the offering on it was sacrificed. The axe and knife with which the beast was slain had been previously wetted with water brought by maidens called “water-carriers.” The weapons were then sharpened and handed to the butchers, one of whom felled the OX with the axe and another cut its throat with the knife. As soon as he had felled the OX, the former threw the axe from him and fled; and the man who cut the beast’s throat apparently imitated his example. Meantime the OX was skinned and all present partook of its flesh. Then the hide was stuffed with straw and sewed up; next the stuffed animal was set on its feet and yoked to a plough as if it were ploughing. A trial then took place in an ancient law-court presided over by the King (as he was called) to determine who had murdered the OX. The maidens who had brought the water accused the men who had sharpened the axe and knife; the men who had sharpened the axe and knife blamed the men who had handed these implements to the butchers; the men who had handed the implements to the butchers blamed the butchers; and the butchers laid the blame on the axe and knife, which were accordingly found guilty, condemned, and cast into the sea.
  The name of this sacrifice,— “the murder of the OX,”—the pains taken by each person who had a hand in the slaughter to lay the blame on some one else, together with the formal trial and punishment of the axe or knife or both, prove that the OX was here regarded not merely as a victim offered to a god, but as itself a sacred creature, the slaughter of which was sacrilege or murder. This is borne out by a statement of Varro that to kill an OX was formerly a capital crime in Attica. The mode of selecting the victim suggests that the OX which tasted the corn was viewed as the corn-deity taking possession of his own. This interpretation is supported by the following custom. In Beauce, in the district of Orleans, on the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth of April they make a straw man called “the great mondard.” For they say that the old mondard is now dead and it is necessary to make a new

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