Religio-political concept that views a ruler as an incarnation, manifestation, mediator, or agent of the sacred. In some nonliterate societies, members view their rulers or chiefs as inheritors of the community's own magical power. The ruler may exercise this power either malevolently or benevolently, but he is usually responsible for influencing the weather and the land's fertility to ensure the harvest necessary for survival. In other societies, particularly those of ancient China, the Middle East, and South America, the ruler was identified with a particular god or as a god himself; in Japan, Peru (among the Inca), Mesopotamia, and the Greco-Roman world, the ruler was regarded as the son of a god. In either casewhether the ruler embodies his own magical power or that of the communitythe ruler protects the community from enemies and generally feeds and cares for his people. A third form of divine kingship, one practiced in Europe, is that of the ruler as mediator or executive agent of a god. In this form it is the institution of kingship, more than an individual ruler, that bears the mark of the sacred.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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