The Scapegoat

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Francisco Goya, “The Witches’ Sabbath”

Chapter 16, verses 20-22 of Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, speaks of the scapegoat ritual:

“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.”

New International Version

Rene Girard is famous for developing the concept of the scapegoat mechanism in philosophy. For him the Old Testament story described “the process of collective discharge.” In this…

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