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Sidoli, M. (1987). The Myth of Cain and Abel and its Roots in Infancy. Brit. J. Psychother., 3(4):297-304.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(4):297-304

The Myth of Cain and Abel and its Roots in Infancy

Mara Sidoli

2 And she again bare his brother Abel, and Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?

7 If thou doest well, shall thou not be accepted? and if thou does not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

The story of Cain and Abel is a myth in so far as it represents, in universally recognisable form, the conflicts experienced by the eldest child in relation to the birth of a baby sibling whom he/she feels the parents must prefer.

In the Bible the two brothers are described as very different: Cain the tiller of the ground, Abel the keeper of sheep. Cain seems to have felt that the difference in their natural endowments was the cause of the parental preference for Abel. And that because he did not possess the gifts Abel had to offer he would no longer he able to please his parent and obtain his love. Looked at from a psychological vertex God's preference for Abel's offering may be interpreted as a projection of Cain's jealousy and his feelings of rejection.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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