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Attitudes Toward Death

The key element is that resurrection is implied in the death. "Death was originally the spirit of vegetation," says Frazer, "who was annually slain in the spring, in order that he might come to life again with all the vigour of youth. . . . Death was not merely the dying god of vegetation, but also a public scapegoat, upon whom were laid all the evils that had afflicted the people during the past year."2

With death surrounded by so much ceremony in primitive cultures, it is but a short leap from the death and rebirth of agricultural cycles to a culture of human death that involves death and rebirth as well. The agricultural cycle is personified in the myth of the death and resurrection of the Egyptian god Osiris, but the same structure can be seen in Asian and Christian religions as well. Joseph Campbell cites rites of initiation in Greek culture that involved the death of Demeter's son Plutus, and his subsequent rebirth and return to her, but as her consort: "[I]n those rites of initiation . . . the initiate, returning in contemplation to the goddess mother of the mysteries, became detached reflectively from the fate of his mortal frame (symbolically, the son, who dies), and identified with the principle that is ever reborn, the Being of all beings (the serpent father): whereupon, in the world where only sorrow and death had been se


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Attitudes Toward Death. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:22, October 24, 2014, from
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