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Before Joseph Campbell Became The World S Most Famous Practitioner Of Comparative Mythology, There Was Sir James George Frazer The Golden Bough Was Originally Published In Two Volumes In , But Frazer Became So Enad Of His Topic That Over The Next Few Decades He Expanded The Work Sixfold, Then In Cut It All Down To A Single Thick Edition Suitable For Mass Distribution The Thesis On The Origins Of Magic And Religion That It Elaborates Will Be Long And Laborious, Frazer Warns Readers, But May Possess Something Of The Charm Of A Voyage Of Discovery, In Which We Shall Visit Many Strange Lands, With Strange Foreign Peoples, And Still Stranger Customs Chief Among Those Customs At Least As The Book Is Remembered In The Popular Imagination Is The Sacrificial Killing Of God Kings To Ensure Bountiful Harvests, Which Frazer Traces Through Several Cultures, Including In His Elaborations The Myths Of Adonis, Osiris, And Balder While Highly Influential In Its Day, The Golden Bough Has Come Under Harsh Critical Scrutiny In Subsequent Decades, With Many Of Its Descriptions Of Regional Folklore And Legends Deemed Less Than Reliable Further, Much Of Its Tone Is Rooted In A Philosophy Of Social Darwinism Sheer Cultural Imperialism, Really That Finds Its Most Explicit Form In Frazer S Rhetorical Question If In The Most Backward State Of Human Society Now Known To Us We Find Magic Thus Conspicuously Present And Religion Conspicuously Absent, May We Not Reasonably Conjecture That The Civilised Races Of The World Have Also At Some Period Of Their History Passed Through A Similar Intellectual Phase The Truly Civilized Races, He Goes On To Say Later, Though Not Particularly Loudly, Are The Ones Whose Minds Evolve Beyond Religious Belief To Embrace The Rational Structures Of Scientific Thought Frazer Was Much Too Genteel To State Plainly That Primitive Races Believe In Magic Because They Are Too Stupid And Backwards To Know Any Better Instead He Remarks That A Savage Hardly Conceives The Distinction Commonly Drawn By Advanced Peoples Between The Natural And The Supernatural And He Certainly Was Not About To Make Explicit The Logical Extension Of His Theories That Christian Legend, Dogma, And Ritual To Quote Robert Graves S Summation Of Frazer In The White Goddess Are The Refinement Of A Great Body Of Primitive And Barbarous Beliefs Whatever Modern Readers Have Come To Think Of The Book, However, Its Historical Significance And The Eloquence With Which Frazer Attempts To Develop What One Might Call A Unifying Theory Of Anthropology Cannot Be DeniedRon Hogan


10 thoughts on “The Golden Bough

  1. says:

    I read an abridged version of this some years ago that I picked up in a bookshop for a pound the output of a cheap publisher It was a slow and awkward read, possibly because of the abridgement, but the original was long and appeared in numerous editions each of which tended to get elaborate during Frazer s lifetime.The opening echoes Gibbon s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the British scholar in Italy looks over the landscape and allows a vision of the past, the product of their classical learning, to sweep over them In Frazer s case though this was not a vision of the City of Rome but of the myth of the King of the Grove at Nemi The practise at Nemi was that there was a priest of the Goddess Diana who became priest by killing the current occupant of the office in single combat, and who would then be the priest until they in turn were killed by a younger, stronger applicant for the role The priest was generally, maybe eventually always, an escaped slave, at least by the time that that the Classical writers were mentioning the practise a few years, however brief, as Priest of Diana were better than a long life of slavery.Frazer felt that the central idea of the cycle of eternal renewal was the foundational idea of religious and magical thinking manifesting itself from the most savage culture to Christianity The Christian connection was soft pedalled since one couldn t print that kind of thing in Victorian Britain, but by implication, Christ s death and resurrection was simply in his view just one repetition of the death and rebirth of the natural world, the symbolic or actual death of a ritual figure magically required to ensure the rebirth of seed crops every year.This Frazer set out to demonstrate by stock piling examples of this kind of myth from rural European corn kings and nineteenth century harvest songs to the cult celebration of the death of Adonis as well as everything in between In this way it still functions as a convenient treasure trove of myths, stories and beliefs irrespective of the validity of his thesis Having said that the choice and arrangement of his material is determined by his goals.What I found most interesting was the snippets from the disappearing culture of the Victorian British countryside Machines are all well and good, but they don t sing songs or trade their savings to buy the horseman s word off a stranger in an ale house view spoiler the horseman s word was a word, command or maybe a spell, that if you knew it would allow you absolute magical control over horses a useful thing to know in a horse powered countryside view spoiler anyhow handing over a few guineas for the horseman s word makes a change from selling your wife to a sailor for a few mugs of booze at a summer fair in the style of The Mayor of Casterbridge hide spoiler


  2. says:

    The Golden Bough A Study in Comparative Religion The Golden Bough A Study in Religion and Magic, James George FrazerThe Golden Bough A Study in Comparative Religion retitled The Golden Bough A Study in Magic and Religion in its second edition is a wide ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer The Golden Bough was first published in two volumes in 1890 in three volumes in 1900 and in twelve volumes in the third edition, published 1906 15 It has also been published in several different one volume abridgments The work was aimed at a wide literate audience raised on tales as told in such publications as Thomas Bulfinch s The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes 1855 The influence of The Golden Bough on contemporary European literature and thought was substantial 2005 1383 1384 861 9644162196 1386 1387 1388 1392 1394 1396 1397 1388 1100 9789642240142 19 1775 1851 1890 1900 1906 1915 1990


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    Influential without bound and ere breaking of ground, this is undeniably a major modern classic that reshaped its entire field Of course, most of Frazier s theses have been broadly discredited, but it s not like you re studying comparative mythology to build bridges with it although it s been proposed that unsold copies of Joseph Campbell, shredded to a fine mist, would provide high quality industrial weathering and cheap insulation suitable for the Third World.That having been said, this book is incredibly fucking long Longer than you think, and then twice as long again It was truly an ordeal to complete if you ve not the copious free time of an American high school student, you re probably better off scanning Harry Potter for the hidden Golden Dawn fertility rite references and mumbling lies when this book comes up at parties.Practice with papa dank mumble mumble mumble mumble Year King mumble mumble mumble mumble Religious Evolution mumble mumble mumble I m going to open a stinking apostrophe factory with Robert Burns whenever I get back to bonnie Scotland


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    AcknowledgementsIntroductionNote on the TextSelect BibliographyA Chronology of Sir James George Frazer The Golden Bough A Study in Magic and Religion Abridged Explanatory NotesIndex


  6. says:

    This is such an important work If you take it from the perspective of what it is, an anthology of rituals and belief systems found in religious and non religious cultures across the globe As some other readers have pointed out it is not linear, it is also not well coordinated in way of connecting points and making laying out statements about those points But what it is absolutely superb and unbeatable in, is its exhaustive amount of information I did read the full version, and the sheer amount of stories and references and ideas that are brought about in this book is so mind blowing The thing that makes it so worth reading is just how different this information is from what is generally given in this category He really just hammers out example after example from so many different cultures with so many different ideas that you can t help but make connections in your own mind even if the author does not do it explicitly for you Its fascinating information, and better yet it stories that you absolutely don t find elsewhere in this sort of study, and that is rare The stories about women even during start of menstruation are completely un expected and yet so vastly interesting Women being shut up in cages without even sunlight, women being hidden away in huts and buried under the sand Its so bizarre and yet so well referenced that you can help but be interested Usually with books on myths and magic they circumnavigate the same popular tales and same popular belief systems Frazer takes a bit of a different approach He looks at older cultures, he looks at cultures like the aboriginal tribes in Australia and island secluded sectors for his research He lets you draw the parallels mostly yourself If you are looking to be spoon fed ideas this may not be for you He really just gives it all to you and lets you at it yourself I also don t know if I was satisfied with the wrap up section and his ending of the work, BUT once again for the absolute thrill of enjoying new and interesting information he gets five stars from me.


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  8. says:

    Discovering The Golden Bough, and then Graves The White Goddess which owes a critically huge debt to the Golden Bough , was a life changing time for me that recast the stories I had vacuumed up at that age, from Greek myths to Kipling, as about something than their contents or even the authors intent It was first published over 100 years ago still, nothing can get a boy into that modernist, meta meta meta perspective on society like The Golden Bough Of course it s only fair that we turn the lens on Frazer and see much of the value of the book now as arising from what it can tell us about its own time and place In that sense it s worth reading just to understand Wittgenstein s references to it But man, when I was a kid, this book was like a drug All of humanity, it seemed to say, even the irrational parts especially the irrational parts was understandable and improvable , if you just studied it properly Ah, Victorian optimism.


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    One simply cannot, in my opinion, understand anything about the history and origins of religion and of society for the primitive social unit, the family, is primarily a religious unit without a thorough mastery of this book.In this context, a study of de Fustel Coulanges is also essential