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Scapegoating is a process by which blame for an in-group's misfortunes is transferred to a “goat”: a person, animal, inanimate object, or an out-group, which is then eliminated. Through it the in-group “escapes” from its woes and is rejuvenated. The term itself is derived from the central rite in the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur, described in the Bible (Leviticus 16). In this, a priest confesses the sins of Israel over the head of a goat, which is then led outside the city gates to wander in exile, carrying with it those sins.

Comparable ceremonies have been reported elsewhere. Ancient Babylonians celebrated an annual kippuru, involving the transfer of guilt onto, and subsequent murder of, a so-called Year King, followed by an orgy in celebration ...

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