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The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  6,466 Ratings  ·  222 Reviews
Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941) is rightly regarded as one of the founders of modern anthropology. This volume is the author's own abridgement of his great work, and was first published in 1922. It offers the thesis that man progresses from magic through religious belief to scientific thought.

Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941) is rightly regarded as one of the founder
Paperback, 768 pages
Published 1993 by Wordsworth Editions Ltd (first published 1890)
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Ari Have you tried project Gutenberg? The format won't be lovely but they do have at least one extensive version - whether it's abridged or not, I do not…moreHave you tried project Gutenberg? The format won't be lovely but they do have at least one extensive version - whether it's abridged or not, I do not know.(less)
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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 more 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 c
Nick Black
Mar 23, 2008 Nick Black rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 boo
peiman-mir5 rezakhani
دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتاب از 69 فصل تشکیل شده است که به موضوعاتی در خصوصِ مذهب و جادو و برخی از رسومات و قوانینِ مردمانِ باستان و حتی پس از آن پرداخته است و البته اشاراتی به داستان های اساتیری (اساطیری) نیز نموده است... که به هرحال کنکاش و پژوهشی که «جیمز فریزر» بریتانیایی انجام داده است، قابل ستایش است
دوستانِ اهلِ پژوهشی که قصد دارند تا این کتاب را به زبانِ اصلی بخوانند، میتوانند از لینکِ زیر استفاده کنند
Cassandra Kay Silva
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 amou ...more
Michael J.J. Tiffany
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 more 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 ...more
Jul 03, 2013 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're going to learn about anything "occult", then, this is where to start. Forget all those other cheap, juvenile occult books, based on a poor and feeble-minded outlook on anything Pagan. Once you read this book, you will understand why.

Instead of just thinking you can be "pagan", why don't you learn about the where and how of modern and historical pagan's genesis.

After you have read this book, 80% of every other modern pagan book will equate to children playing with words.

The pace is equ
Oct 26, 2010 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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:
Ahmed Almawali
Nov 01, 2014 Ahmed Almawali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
قبلَ كل شئ لم تلبث اللسانُ وأنا أقرأُ هذا الكتاب أن تشكرَ وتحمدَ اللهَ على نعمةِ الإسلام حيث وضوح تصور الحياة والكون.

الغصن الذهبي من الكتب التي حيرتني كثيرا في اختيار الترجمة التي اقرأها، فتوفر لي في نفس الوقت ترجمتان: ترجمة دار كلمة بيد محمد زياد، وترجمة الهيئة المصرية للتأليف بيد أحمد أبوزيد، وفي النهاية رجحت لي كفة ترجمة دار كلمة لأنها مشوقة أكثر وتزينها الرسوم، ولكن عندما انتصفت رأيت ترجمة أحمد أبوزيد ورفاقه أجمل وأكثر وضوحا وإبرازا للمقصود، على الرغم أن الترجمات العربية بعمومها ملخصة ومختصر
Oct 03, 2012 Laural rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Golden Bough is no doubt an exercise in patience. To be clear, I have not finished this book, and will not for many years. This book takes time to digest and fully understand, but once that time is taken to contemplate it, literally everything that can be seen in the world opens up to the insights that are provided. Expecting to read this book once, without careful pause and effort, is akin to attempting to understand the enlightenment of the ages in an afternoon. I can see how many parts of ...more
Oct 14, 2011 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this, like many people, because I know how influential it was. I studied English in college, and this book always kept cropping up. So I thought to myself, maybe if I read this, I'll have a greater understanding of Modernist writers.


How to describe this? 850 pages of poorly argued drivel. The only part worth reading is the section on sympathetic magic. That part at least actually seems to be going somewhere and actually makes sense. It's an interesting and intelligent way of thin
Dec 15, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book Description
A classic study of the beliefs and institutions of mankind, and the progress through magic and religion to scientific thought, The Golden Bough has a unique status in modern anthropology and literature. First published in 1890, The Golden Bough was eventually issued in a twelve-volume edition (1906-15) which was abridged in 1922 by the author and his wife. That abridgement has never been reconsidered for a modern audience. In it some of the more controversial passages were droppe
Dec 02, 2008 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
As Albert Einstein is to physics, Charles Darwin to biology, Karl Marx to social theory and Sigmund Freud to psychology, so is Sir James G. Frazer to anthropology. The Golden Bough is an ambitious work in which Frazer works with field reports describing superstitions and practices, and theorizes that the folk rituals he discusses can be traced back to ancient times and an annual event in the forest at Nemi. From a contemporary point of view, it can be argued that Frazer’s approach is reductive, ...more
Sep 18, 2012 C30net rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
کتاب حدود هشتصد و پنجاه ست، تقریبن 50 صفحه اضافات مبتذله داره از اخر
اصل کتاب که خدا بیامرز جیمز جرج فریزر نوشته 12 جلده که این خلاصه ی اون 12 جلده
ظاهرن اون کتاب اصلی الان توی پروژه گوتنبرگ در دسترسه، البته به لطف دولت فخیمه فیلتره
فعلن که رسیدیم پایان فصل اول (صفه هشتاد و دو) میتونم بگم برعکس اون چیزی که فکر میکردم، هیجان هم داره
و چیزی رو که خودم همیشه فکر میکردم باشه ظاهرن قراره در این کتاب بهش پرداخته بشه
که ترجمه شده همآمیزی
اینجوری که من فهمیدم یعنی آیین و آداب و رسومی که از مذهبی به
Aug 03, 2007 Luke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic, groundbreaking piece of comparative mythology and anthropology. It's influenced Jung, Campbell, T.S. Eliot and even Apocalypse Now.

It's a bit dated, particularly in its sticking to the "primitive savage" evolves into "sophisticated civilization" model, but alot of the basic principals are still very sound.

Frazer starts a single incident, a Latin ritual of a King of the Forest, who is ritually killed and replaced by his successor.

He uses this a launching pad for a far reaching, glob
Jan 09, 2010 Vanessa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i didn't actually finish this. i valiantly read on to page 368 until the repetition, racism, imperialism and sexism wore me down. every time, after several pages of examples, JGF said something like, 'a few more examples will suffice to prove...', i wanted to stab myself in the neck.

the content is actually very interesting (although i bummed to hear that a lot of it has been discredited) and just thinking about how he organised all this information blows my mind, but, see paragraph one.

a huge we
Apr 06, 2008 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pseudo-intellectual horses' rear ends.
How I could possibly have highlighted so much of this book and yet not actually read it is a pure freakin' mystery.
Bob Nichols
Sep 18, 2013 Bob Nichols rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an abridgment of a much larger work by Frazer that compiles, categorizes and interprets the belief systems of very old cultures. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the extensive listing of examples that Frazer provides unless these are viewed as attempts by these cultures to understand and control nature through magical practices. These practices for Frazer appear to manifest deeper structures surrounding human need and fear. In short, Frazer writes, they reflect "the essential similiaritie ...more
F.G. Cottam
Nov 25, 2009 F.G. Cottam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant and disturbing distillation of Frazer's much longer and doggedly scholarly original work. I've come across it late (the edition I've got is dated 1978). I bought it second hand four years ago at Ventnor Rare Books on the Isle of Wight and have only just got around to reading it. If anything, the illustrations make the text all the more shocking. Reading about belief systems where human sacrifice was commonplace is one thing - seeing those sacrifices depicted in contemporary a ...more
It's a really profound and interesting study of the origins of mythology and religion.
Since it's extensively referenced as being a great influence on the early 20th century literature, I just had to read it.
I strongly recommend it to everybody who is interested in the origins of modern literature and poetry, since it explains a lot of themes and motives that were developed by the major modernist writers.
Jan 27, 2011 Saikat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a great favour done to mankind when Frazer and his wife chose to condense the original twelve volumes into one volume; even the single volume appears so repetitive one can only imagine the ordeal that s/he that tries to read all the twelve has to undergo.

That said, I believe that Frazer's work (twelve volumes or one) is an immense contribution to the realm of anthropology - though one may not agree with all its contentions, it undoubtedly provides one structured framework for the entirety
It's important to bear in mind that this book is almost 100 years old, and therefore some of the author's attitudes are . . . narrow-minded, to say the least. However, Frazer is more open than usual for his time, I think, and his look at folkloric and religious customs is exhaustive. (I read the abridged version, which was over 800 pages long and meandered widely through numerous cultures, so I can only imagine what the unabridged Golden Bough is like.) He ties a great many disparate ideas toget ...more
Sep 27, 2009 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The classic book of comparative mythology. Between this and Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces," I came to realize the universality of belief in the dead and reborn demigod at the heart of nearly all the world's religions.

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Welwyn Katz
As with so many of my scholarly books on mythology and comparative studies of myths and legends, I read them in an ongoing sort of way. They are great resources for writers who like to mix myth into their ordinary fiction. This one is a bit more "story-like" than e.g. Graves' The White Goddess and so it's a lot easier to read. It's still not easy. I'm not a scholar of mythology, but I love to know about it. Maybe if I live to be 96 and my eyesight and brains hold out...
Jan 24, 2010 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
This book is swarming with folklore, mythology and animistic ritual examples. Pretty much the entire book is dedicated to short explanations of ritual practices from all over the globe. What it lacks is much in the way of a linear, coherent argument or point.
This is a book, like one of Borges's favorite conceits, with a secret meaning underneath its stated one. Explicitly, Frazer's aim is to "explain" the mysterious tradition of the priest of the sacred grove of Diana at the lake of Nemi, who gained his post by stealing a "golden bough" from the grove and killing the current priest, taking his place, until killed in his turn by the next contender. Frazer recounts and then dismisses the explanations in the classical sources, saying they are clearly a ...more
Sep 21, 2014 Chelsea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was torn when rating this book.

On one hand this is a great book if you want to have at hand a resource for descriptions of rituals. In one volume you have a collection of rituals across cultures and description of their processes. On the other hand, pretty much every single conclusion that Frazer comes to is total conjecture. It is not something to base your reasoning or research on. After all, if you've done any research on Frazer you'd know that he was what you might call an 'armchair anthr
Sep 14, 2012 Olga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O lucrare enorma despre gandirea magica si religioasa a societatilor vechi si a celor necivilizate care abunda in ritualuri si taboouri de tot felul. Frazer, autorul le categorizeaza in magia homeopatica si contagioasa.

Magia homeopatica consta in idea ca asemanatorul lucreaza similar originalului. Exemplu clasic ar fi papusa woodoo - papusa reprezinta un oarecare rau si orice rau facut papusei va afecta originalul.

Magia contagioasa ar fi ca obiecte sau persoane atinse de alt lucru sau persoana
Jun 03, 2015 Bruce marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
OK, I've got a confession here. I've owned this book for 30 years. It's travelled with me during that time, and I've attempted to read it at least a half-dozen times, but I never get more than a dozen pages in before being distracted by brighter, shinier objects.
I have no doubt that reading this work would open my eyes and raise my awareness of multiple influences and arcane sources that flit on the edges of my consciousness, but wonder if I have simply missed the boat. It's been a long time si
Arpi Gulgulyan
Feb 06, 2014 Arpi Gulgulyan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Սա այն գրքերից չէ, որ կարդացվում է մեկ շնչով, գիրքը ինքը կարծես բաժանվաժ է հատվածների, որոնք առաջին հայացքից իրար հետ ոչ մի կապ չունեն, սակայն վերջում դառնում են մեկ ամբողջական համակարգի մասնիկներ, առանց որոնց իմացության չէր հաջողվի ընկալել այն ավելի մեծ ու համապարփակ գաղափարը, որը հեղինակը ուզում էր փոխանցեր ընթերցողին: Ինքս գիրքը ընթերցել եմ մոտ վեց տարի պարբերական դադարներով, սակայն յուրաքանչյուր առանձին ենթագլուխ իսկապես հաճույքով եմ ընթերցել, իմաստավորել և իմս դարձրել, ամեն ենթագլուխն ընթեր ...more
So I really shouldn't be marking this as "read", because I only read about half of it in a college Comparative Religions class. I'd like to go back and read it in full. It's a wonderfully dense, comprehensive, textbook-like thing chronicling all of religion. Vastly influential for not only academics such as Freud, Durkheim, Eliade, et al, but also fiction writers such as Gaddis, Eliot, Lawrence, and countless fantasy authors.
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Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion.
More about James George Frazer...

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“Small minds cannot grasp great ideas; to their narrow comprehension, their purblind vision, nothing seems really great and important but themselves.” 36 likes
“By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life. Thus defined, religion consists of two elements, a theoretical and a practical, namely, a belief in powers higher than man and an attempt to propitiate or please them. Of the two, belief clearly comes first, since we must believe in the existence of a divine being before we can attempt to please him. But unless the belief leads to a corresponding practice, it is not a religion but merely a theology; in the language of St. James, “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” In other words, no man is religious who does not govern his conduct in some measure by the fear or love of God. On the other hand, mere practice, divested of all religious belief, is also not religion. Two men may behave in exactly the same way, and yet one of them may be religious and the other not. If the one acts from the love or fear of God, he is religious; if the other acts from the love or fear of man, he is moral or immoral according as his behaviour comports or conflicts with the general good.” 10 likes
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