The Golden Bough
First published in 1890, The Golden Bough is a study of magic and religion. The thesis concerns the ritual of Rex Nemorensis, the King of the Wood. Throughout the work are number of broad studies of the rituals and rites of various cultures. The work attempts to reach an overarching conclusion to explain the mysterious ritual at Nemi (the succession of the King of the Wood).
The King of the Wood
Rex Nemorensis follows a rite of succession to determine the next King of the Wood. Only those who are strong and vigilant are capable of keeping there place as King. They must defend their life from those who would challenge them and try to take their place. Otherwise a successor may be found who is able to both pluck a golden bough and kill the reigning King–such a person that succeeds at this task shall take reign as the next King of the Wood. The Golden Bough attributes various ideas as to why this ritual came to be.
During this broad view of cultures, rituals, and religions, many propositions are made about the evolution of beliefs concerning magic versus religion. One of the more fascinating sections discusses the concept of the Sacrifice King, a king sacrificed for the good of the kingdom, which happens to be one of the primary themes in Eureka Seven.
The Sacrifice King ideas are most prevalent and recognizable when the ritual of the Novak family is explained, but there are further influences of this theme in the anime. Other features found in The Golden Bough too leave their mark in the anime, the most noticeable showing through the Vodarac people and their beliefs.
Beyond the themes of The Golden Bough is the presence of the book itself in the anime. The book is seen in the possession of both Dewey and Holland Novak. Since the book has a physical appearance along side its metaphysical one, the book is certainly a very influential piece of the story.
As an investigation into the metaphysical side of this book’s influence there are two cases that immediately come to mind. Both are due to a lack of understanding which leads to actions founded on false knowledge. The foundation of belief in magic stems from misunderstanding. In many cases, it is not fully understanding the laws that govern the physical world that leads to the numerous misconceptions. To seek control of a chaotic world, beliefs take hold such as in magical rites and rituals that offer an illusion of control. This is a proposition found in The Golden Bough. The book goes on to demonstrate the evolution of such ideas surrounding magic and how those ideas could lead to a belief in those who possess supernatural power. In any case, the beliefs evolve around a seeking of control. In Eureka Seven we have the first case: the Novak ritual.
The Sacrifice King
The progression of ideas surrounding a magical sense of control leads to the belief in a person more capable than others of using those mystical powers. That person is the Magician King. This station usually bring power and authority, but if the belief in the supernatural power of this being exceeds a certain point… the Magician King now transcends the laws of normal men and women. Even their death, if not handled properly, can cause catastrophic events to unfold. With such dire consequences at hand, how shall the King’s death be handled? Introduce the Sacrifice King, a King who holds authority and power, but must in the end be sacrificed for the good of the people and stability of the world. If this supernaturally powerful being is killed properly through ritual, the consequences of their death devastating the world can be subverted.
Now consider the Novak family in Eureka Seven. This family has a “kingly lineage,” for it was them who led the humans back to Earth. They apparently held a high status and position of power. The planet though, is a hostile world with unexplained phenomena. For reasons of fear and misunderstanding, it became necessary to find some means to bring back control and safety. By not being able to explain the planet’s behavior with science, magic became a means of grasping for control. Thus we have the ritual of the Novak’s. In order to calm the planet, the Sacrifice King gives his life and blood through their death ritual. The belief has no proof of achieving its end. It is as similar as the cases of human sacrifice for the prosperity of crops discussed in The Golden Bough. It is a grasping of hope out of fear. What eventually brings an end to this belief is the “Science King” who is able to explain the causes behind the hitherto unknown catastrophes of the world. Adrock Thurston disproves the ritual and explains the processes which guide the planet.
The next case to consider in Eureka Seven concerns the Vodarac. The Vodarac worship the planet striving to communicate with the land and find peace. The main home of the Vodarac lies just outside of the Great Wall. It is here that a pivotal moment in the history of the world occurs. The Vodarac discovered a girl born of the land and in their ignorance of who or what she was, thought her a saint. They cared for her, but took strict measures to ensure not to taint her. No one speaks in front of the saint out of this difference. Caretakers serve in menial tasks such as preparing food and cleaning, but no more. This is an example of a theme from The Golden Bough. Not knowing about Coralians, nor knowing that this girl is in fact a human type Coralian, they have made assumptions of their own and built up false knowledge to placate themselves. In a similar vein to the Novak’s, the Vodarac wish to make peace with the planet and do not know how to proceed. Thus they put their hopes with the “saint” and follow strict rules and rituals with the hope that their wishes will be fulfilled. Well, by some fate or accident, a boy caretaker named Norb disobeys these rules and is able to openly speak with her. “Her smiles are only for me,” Norb says as he tells his story. Upon discovering that Norb and Sakuya have grown close, the Vodarac believe that Sakuya has chosen one to be the link between humanity and the land–to take their prayers to the land beyond the Great Wall. Unfortunately, Sakuya and Norb fail to breach the Zone past the Great Wall leaving Sakuya as a lotus blossom and Norb with a Compac drive embedded in his chest. This event will later become a degenerated belief among the Myodo sect of the Vodarac.
“They are the ones who follow the evil teachings.”
The Myodo sect’s teachings become dominant in the Vodarac while oppressing those who follow Norb’s teachings. They believe in a ritual that involves a person forcefully merging themselves with a compac drive in an attempt to bear the sins of the people to the land. They call those people saints and say that they have been born from this merging. In a festival called the Love Parade, a procession proceeds to the Great Wall and leads the “saint” to where they probably attempt to merge with a compac drive. As you can see, the Myodo’s beliefs are the result of Norb and Sakuya’s experience, but over time and misunderstanding have changed into something else entirely. How false beliefs take hold is also mentioned in The Golden Bough.
Essentially what we have is a continuing theme on how people cling to false beliefs to give a sense of control and stability in a chaotic world. When unexplained earthquakes rip apart cities and the world itself seems like a hostile being, it became necessary to find solace in either magic or religion. The case of the Novak family is one of magic: in the ritual killing of the Sacrifice King, they attempted to make peace with the planet. The case of the Vodarac is one of religion: they sought a means of communication with the planet and happened upon Sakuya. The Vodarac falsely deemed her as a kind of divine being whose purpose was to find a chosen Vodarac to become a link between humanity and the land. The land however is not divine, but simply the result of a merging between the Scub coral and the world. Because of the false knowledge created by the people in place of the truth, these two cases were able to take hold and provide their false hopes. It is interesting to see how ideas can shape around false beliefs while the actual reasons for events remain unknown.