The Golden Bough – James Frazer (1923)


The Golden Bough – James Frazer (1923)


Title: The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (Abridged edition)

Author: Sir James George Frazer

Publisher: Macmillan and Co, London, 1923.

Condition: Hardcover, decorative cloth. Good.. Slight fraying to edges of spine, and slight rubbing to cover. Uncut pages, with tanned and deckle edges. Slight foxing to prelims but text clean, binding tight. Abridged from the 12 vol edition. 756pp., app 9″ by 6″. A heavy book, overseas shipping will cost extra.


About the book (from Wikipedia):

The 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 (1854–1941). It was first published in two volumes in 1890; in three volumes in 1900; the third edition, published 1906–15, comprised twelve volumes.The influence of The Golden Bough on contemporary European literature and thought was substantial.

The Golden Bough attempts to define the shared elements of religious belief and scientific thought, discussing fertility rites, human sacrifice, the dying god, the scapegoat and many other symbols and practices whose influence has extended into twentieth-century culture. Its thesis is that old religions were fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king. Frazer proposed that mankind progresses from magic through religious belief to scientific thought.

The book scandalized the British public when first published, as it included the Christian story of Jesus and the Resurrection in its comparative study. Critics thought this treatment invited an agnostic reading of the Lamb of God as a relic of a pagan religion. For the third edition, Frazer placed his analysis of the Crucifixion in a speculative appendix; the discussion of Christianity was excluded from the single-volume abridged edition.

Despite the controversy the work generated, and its critical reception amongst other scholars, The Golden Bough inspired the creative literature of the period. The poet Robert Graves adapted Frazer’s concept of the dying king sacrificed for the good of the kingdom to the romantic idea of the poet’s suffering for the sake of his Muse-Goddess, as reflected in his book on poetry, rituals, and myths, The White Goddess (1948). William Butler Yeats refers to Frazer’s thesis in his poem “Sailing to Byzantium”. H. P. Lovecraft mentions the book in his short story “The Call of Cthulhu”. T. S. Eliot acknowledged indebtedness to Frazer in his first note to his poem The Waste Land. William Carlos Williams refers to it in Book Two, part two, of his extended poem in five books Paterson. Sigmund Freud, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, D. H. Lawrence, Aleister Crowley, Ezra Pound, William Gaddis, Mary Renault, Joseph Campbell, Roger Zelazny, Naomi Mitchison (in her The Corn King and the Spring Queen), and Camille Paglia, are some of the authors whose work shows the deep influence of The Golden Bough. Its literary ripples and references have given it continued life, even as its direct influence in anthropology has waned.