chapter  9
26 Pages


The Sages provide elaborate details in respect of time and place regarding almost every aspect of daily living. Central to these rules are prohibitions concerning forbidden foods, the mixing and interbreeding of crops and livestock, or weaving and wearing garments of mixed flax and wool. Categories incorporating ideas such as the ‘prohibited’, ‘anomalous’ or ‘ambiguous’ generate a powerful symbolic message. Steiner argued that the concept of danger inherent in ideas of taboo and prohibitions relating to ritual pollution acted as a device for separating and classifying symbolic zones within society, reflecting the schemata on which the symbolic system itself was based:

Taboo is concerned (i) with all the social mechanisms of obedience which have ritual significance; (ii) with specific and restrictive behaviour in dangerous situations . . . taboo deals with the sociology of danger itself, for it is also concerned (iii) with the protection of individuals who are in danger, and (iv) with the protection of society from those endangered – and therefore dangerous – persons.