Analysis of taboos as a basic principle of religious beliefs in the context of modern religious studies

Serhiy Titov


The article analyzes some definitions of a taboo, which are well-known in modern religious studies, and looks into a taboo generation mechanism (by the example of G. R. Stephenson's experiment with rhesus monkeys). The author considers that originally a taboo is a religious phenomenon and, proceeding from the above, systematizes the areas falling under its influence. Special attention is given to a number of prohibitions related to the sacred area. It is indicated that all the spheres of life in primitive societies are regulated by sacred taboos which replace law, ethics and religion. In civilized societies taboos are represented by verbalized forms of the sacred. The author asserts that any kind of a prohibition is of absolutely religious nature by its origin and draws a conclusion that the phenomenon of taboo is a particular case of a religious prohibition both in primitive societies and modern religious traditions. The novelty of the given research is an attempt to look for ontological grounds for taboo generation in terms of religious studies.


taboo; religious beliefs; archaic and modern cultures; taboo classification

Full Text:



Anisimov, A.F. 1966. Spiritual life of primitive society. Moscow-Leningrad, 243 p. (rus).

Boroday, Yu. M. 1996. Erotica - Death - Taboo: the tragedy of human consciousness. Gnosis, Russian Phenomenological Society, Moscow, 416 р. (rus).

Guseinov, A.A. 2007. Negative ethics. (Selected lectures of the University, issue 63) Publishing house SPbGUP, Available at: (Accessed: 05.05.2018).

Drobyshevsky, S. 2017. Remaining link. Book one: People. AST- CORPUS, Moscow, 592 p. (rus).

Girard, Rene. 2010. Violence and the sacred [Translat.] New literary review, Moscow, 448 p.

Makovsky, M.M. 2012. The phenomenon of the TABU in the traditions and in the language of the Indo-Europeans: The essence of form, development. Moscow, 280 p. (rus).

Markov, A. 2014. The evolution of man. Vol. 2. Monkeys, neurons and soul. AST Publishing, Moscow, 512 p. (rus).

Porshnev, B.F. 2006. On the beginning of human history (Problems of Paleopsychology). Fairy-V Publishing, Moscow, 640 p. (rus).

Fraser, J. 2014. Gold branch. New translations (study of magic and religion) [translat.] Academic Project, Moscow, 407 p. (rus).

Freud, S. 2008. Totem and the Taboo. Psychology of primitive culture and religion. Questions of society and the origin of religion. Firma STD Ltd, Moscow, 285-444 (rus).

Shternberg, L. 2012. Primitive religion in the light of ethnography: Studies, articles, lectures. The book house "Libro­com", Moscow, 92 p. (rus).

Strong, Anise K. 2005. Incest Laws and Absent Taboos in Roman Egypt. Available at: https: // Incest_Laws_and_Absent_Taboos_in_Roman_Egypt (Accessed: 30.04.2018).

Maestripieri, Dario, 2012. What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Human Behavior: From Facts to Fiction. Available at: (Accessed: 05.04.2018).

Encyclopaedia Britannica. Taboo Available at: (Accessed: 25.04.2018).

Stephenson, G. R. 1967. Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys. In: Starek, D., Schneider, R., and Kuhn, H. J. (eds.), Progress in Primatology, Stuttgart: Fischer, pp. 279-288.

Wagner, Roy. 2005. Taboo. In: Jones Lindsay [editor in chief]. Encyclopedia of religion (2nd ed.). Macmillan ReferenceUSA. Thomson Gale: 8947-8949.

Webster, Hutton. 1942. Taboo: A Sociological Study. Stanford, Calif., 393 p.

GOST Style Citations

1. Анисимов А.Ф. Духовная жизнь первобытного общества. М.-Л., 1966. 243 с.


2. Бородай Ю. М. Эротика - смерть - табу: трагедия человеческого сознания. М.: Гнозис, Русское феноменологическое общество, 1996. 416 с.


3. Гусейнов А. А. Негативная этика СПб.: Изд-во СПбГУП, 2007. (Избранные лекции Университета; вып. 63). URL: (дата обращения 05.05.2018).


4. Дробышевский С. Достающее звено. Книга первая: Люди. Москва: АСТ:CORPUS, 2017. 592 с.


5. Жирар Рене. Насилие и священное / пер. с франц. Г.Дашевского. Москва: Новое литературное обозрение, 2010. 448 с.


6. Маковский М.М. Феномен ТАБУ в традициях и в языке индоевропейцев: Сущность формы, развитие. Изд. 4-е. Москва: Книжный дом "Либриком", 2012. 280 с.


7. Марков А. Эволюция человека. В 2 кн. Кн. 2. Обезьяны, нейроны и душа. Москва: АСТ, 2014. 512 с.


8. Поршнев Б.Ф. О начале человеческой истории (Проблемы палеопсихологии). Москва: Фэри-В, 2006. 640 с.


9. Фрезер Дж. Золотая ветвь. Новые переводы (исследование магии и религии) / пер. с англ. - 2-е узд., ред. С.А. Токарева. Москва: Академический Проект, 2014. 407 с.


10. Фрейд З. Тотем и табу. Психология первобытной культуры и религии. Зигмунд Фрейд. Вопросы общества и происхождения религии. Москва: ООО "Фирма СТД", 2008. С. 285-444.


11. Штернберг Л.Я. Первобытная религия в свете этнографии: Исследования, статьи, лекции / сост. С.А. Ратнер-Штернгерг; под ред. Я.П. Алькора. Изд. 2-е. М.: Книжный дом "Либроком", 2012. 592 с.


12. Anise K. Strong. Incest Laws and Absent Taboos in Roman Egypt. URL: https: // Incest_Laws_and_Absent_Taboos_in_Roman_Egypt (дата обращения 30.04.2018)


13. Dario Maestripieri Ph.D. What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Human Behavior: From Facts to Fiction. URL: (дата обращения 05.04.2018).


14. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Taboo. URL: (дата обращения 25.06.2018).


15. Stephenson, G. R. Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys. In: Starek, D., Schneider, R., and Kuhn, H. J. (eds.), Progress in Primatology,Stuttgart: Fischer, 1967, pp. 279-288.


16. Wagner Roy. Taboo / Encyclopedia of religion / Lindsay Jones, editor in chief. 2nd ed. Macmillan Reference USA. Thomson Gale: 2005. p. 8947-8949


17. Webster Hutton. Taboo: A Sociological Study. Stanford, Calif., 1942. 393 p.