The Sacrifice Theory and The Oedipus
as the origin for routine circumcision.
Both sacrifice and the castration complex (or the Oedipus complex)
are still widely believed to be the origins of routine circumcision
and used as arguments for discontinuing this practice in the modern
world. There are many sensible reasons against routine circumcision,
the theories on sacrifice and castration lead to even more irrational
thinking on the subject and thus need to be clearly negated
TO TEACH OEDIPUS A LESSON
The Oedipus complex describes how the boy child covets his mother,
however he is in conflict because he fears his father`s retribution:
cutting off his penis. The theory is that when the child grows to man
he re-senses these feelings, and resolves the eternal conflict symbolically
by circumcision of his male offspring.
Is it psychologists or our barbaric forefathers who are incapable
of even the simplest steps of awareness and intelligence as regards
male anatomy? The operation exposes the glans, forming the flaccid
penis in a way which emulates the erect state and thus indicating a
readiness for sexual intercourse (Hastings, Bryk, Ploss). It
is inconceivable that such a measure would be used to diminish or punish
any element of sexual competition.
Bryk discusses the Oedipus
theory in depth
THE SACRIFICE THEORY
Though routine circumcison may be seen as a great ignorance from
the viewpoint of modern medical attitudes, the idea that it was introduced
for sacrificial purposes by mutilating young boys is a ridiculous one.
Astoundingly, as recently as the Sept/Oct 1994 edition of the British
Journal of Sexual Medicine, JP Warren FRCP Physician. and J Bigelow
PhD Psychologist argue for:-
"The sacrificial origin of circumcision"
"The origins of circumcision are lost in antiquity... No doubt
human sacrifice was widespread, and it seems likely that substitutes
for this practice included the sacrifice of domestic animals and mutilations
of the human body, of which circumcision is just one example...
... An important aspect of sacrifice is the shedding of blood, and
circumcision is a notoriously bloody operation,...
Another aspect of sacrifice is that the object which is forfeited
should be valuable. The greater the value of the object sacrificed,
the more worthy the sacrifice. This should make us wonder what are
the value and function of the prepuce. If it were just a useless
flap of skin, it would not be much of a sacrifice,... This makes
it an ideal sacrificial object, as the circumcised male is able to
function normally in society and to procreate, but suffers permanent
impairment of sexual enjoyment and bears a visible, life-long reminder
of his sacrifice." (27)
THE SACRIFICE THEORY NEGATED
Circumcision was not a substitute for human sacrifice because routine
circumcision developed previous to ritual sacrifice.
The Encyclopedia Brittanica says - "Blood sacrifice is linked...
with the cultures... of the cultivators" (37).
Practices involving blood sacrifice developed among the cultivating
peoples, because they had an understanding of fertility. They believed
that by sacrificing they were renewing life.
As any origins connected with fertility have been conclusively rebutted by anthropological sources since
the 1930s and as the thought associations from fertility to sacrifice
are one step more abstract, then sacrifice could not have been among
the original motives for the introduction of the routine practice.
So much to the facts, as I understand them - now I wish to speculate
I believe the subject deserves greater clarity because so often mutilation
and sacrifice are brought into the modern argument against routine
infant circumcision and while I agree with the intention, this line
of reasoning confuses common sense and is thus counter productive.
(It is also an interesting subject, if anyone wishes to discuss the
following, please write)
Firstly, for the peoples who performed it, sacrifice was treated
with great respect and as the highest expression of their cultural
thoughts and perspectives. On the other hand most mutilations (as we
would define them) were considered by the folks who performed them
as enhancing the beauty and/or social acceptability of the individual.
When those motivated by the modern medical disgrace of routine infant
circumcision, compare RIC with sacrifice as a mutilation, then I believe
they are associating with the prisoners who were sacrificed by conquering
tribes. and in this sense we could talk of sacrificing someone by mutilating
him - but then one could imagine removing the penis, but to remove
the foreskin and encourage a state which many men feel is preferable,
this would be fully illogical.
Sacrifice could have involved his fingers. his ears, his penis,
- but why his foreskin? which form of self denial could motivate an
operation which forms his penis to emulate the erect member, a state
which many men choose and are happy with. The element of having lost
something appears only to be evident subjectively among a few people
- the distinguishing lines are so unclear that I doubt any God would
fulfill any wish in exchange for such a token - it appears inconceivable
that natural peoples would introduce such an indistinct measure to
demonstrate or induce anything at all.
Lets reconsider: Sacrifice as a form of self-denial - as pennance
(out of guilt) or used to be pleasing to Gods and ancestors, impress
lovers etc.; must exist as a very basic motivation - we can date a
concept of the supernatural previous to fertility: (that aborigenes
understand procreation in terms of a spirit child is evidence of this).
- Could one of the natural peoples have circumcised himself as a form
of self sacrifice, I see no reason why not! - I see removing painful
foreskins as a far more obvious and dynamic urge - but yes, I would
agree that circumcision could have been first performed for sacrificial
reasons - but this refers only to this first operation. As above, the
results being more pleasing than showing a mark of any loss, thus the
sacrificial thought would lose its substance and would motivate no
similar operation on kith and kin.
Purely out of interest are there any other sacrifical practices
which were practiced routinely on every member of a tribe? - (apart
from taxation :-)
Are cultural sacrificial practices the projection of self denial?
Bryk discusses Sacrifice
in far greater depth