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Joseph Campbell
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The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology (The Masks of God #1)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  3,307 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
The primitive roots of the mythology of the world are examined in light of the most recent discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, and psychology.
Paperback, 504 pages
Published September 1st 1959 by Penguin (first published 1959)
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Mary I've been trying to read all 4 MOG books for a few years now, but I skip from book to book and can never read it all the way through. I'd love to be…moreI've been trying to read all 4 MOG books for a few years now, but I skip from book to book and can never read it all the way through. I'd love to be in a reading group that can discuss the chapters and helpful related readings. Right now i am reading Primitive Mythology with the Golden Bough and Ovid Metamorphosis because he uses those books a lot for reference and they are both beautiful reads. Also I am reading World Mythology which breaks down all mythology of all different cultures and tells the stories/breaks them down. I have found that MOG is a series that needs supplemental reading to get the most understanding out of it. Creative is my favorite.(less)
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Barnaby Thieme
I wish I could like Campbell's Masks of God series more than I do. I keep having the same experience -- I pick one up and read 15 pages that are magnificent, electrifying, and truly brilliant in their scope and perspicacity.

Then the long digressions accumulate and I start to lose the line of his analysis. He leaps hither and yon without much coherence or organization. It's almost as if he's a collector with an impressive set of artifacts, and he's hardly done showing you one before he's showing
...more
Nandakishore Varma
These are the books which introduced me to Joseph Campbell - the single most serious influence in my intellectual life.

These books are exhaustive, but maybe because of that reason, not as readable as his other books. In this first volume, Campbell takes us to the very origin of myth, before it became institutionalised as religion.
Danielle Jorgenson Akanat
This was one of the best books on mythology I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I only say it is "one of the" because I've started reading some others of Campbell's that are just as awesome. I've been a fan of mythology for as long as I can remember but this was the first time I was able to read a book by someone who shares my enthusiasm with the topic. I was enthralled by his re-tellings and his explanations. I was going to read all three of Masks of God Volumes but I decided to hold off on ...more
Holly Lindquist
Joseph Campbell was a veritable demigod of comparative mythology. He was brilliant at discovering connections in seemingly unrelated myths across the globe, illuminating the ways in which beliefs moved from culture to culture over thousands of years.

However: If you haven't read Campbell before I suggest you take The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Masks of God Lite) out for a spin first. It's only one book, and far less of a commitment. You'll be able to tell immediately if Campbell's dense & as
...more
Luke
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Staggering book. In a similar vein to Frazer's Golden Bough, an attempt to find underlying mechanisms to the various world mythologies.

Campbell examines the prevelence of some very specific motifs, across all varieties of unconnected cultures: Ghosts, "voodoo dolls", the power of hair/nail clippings of victims in magic, the use of totem figures in hunting societies, and birth/rebirth gods in planting cultures.

For myself, I was frustrated by some of the lengthy debate over whether Meso-American
...more
Margaret Langstaff
Re-reading. This is bk 1 of 4 vol work. I read the 1st time as a graduate student yrs ago and find myself drawn back to this 4 vol work every 10 yrs or so. Stunning, stoking, how one man could hold the sum total of world mythology and religious tradition in his head, chelate and analyze thru the lens of modern psychology and archeology, and tell us all abt it in a way that is accessible and makes sense.
Scott
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Campbell is an incredible source of knowledge and for the first 350 pages he really shows it, it's almost awe inspiring the way he links and dances between different schools of thought and cultures and how they naturally link metaphysically and literally.

This book isn't perfect though. Specifically his use of psychoanalysis in the Freudian vain which is sex obsessed and boring and really brings no insight, but he's a product of his time, so this isn't a real criticism but something that bothered
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Alex Obrigewitsch
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and promising opening to this four volume work, Primitive Mythology gets to work quickly, setting out its task and framing the importance of mythology, even (if not especially) for we who are of the time whose mythology is an absence of mythology. For despite centuries of philosophers and thinkers attempting to explicate Man as the rational animal, and the constructs based on the import and majesty of reason as the supreme aspect of human existence, it is myth that digs into the aby ...more
Michael
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In graduate school, when I asked my beloved mentor, Freudian/Lacanian David Wagenknecht about Carl Jung, his response was, "I dunno: a little too Joseph Campbell for me." There is no better or smarter human on earth than David and so I didn't read either Jung (who I worship) or Campbell (who I now really, really love) for many years. I think the wait was just fine for me (sorry Dave) but I know I will be reading at least Campbell's Masks of God for the rest of my life (and perhaps also his Skele ...more
Karson
Mar 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a goal to read all 4 of Campbell's Masks of God series, and i started in the beginning. I like other cultures myths. I like finding out what sustains other groups of people. What stories give them their identities. This is a book i could put down and pick back up again at any time and dip into any one of the chapters. Specifically the different cultures puberty rites where interesting to me in this book. As a 24 year old american male i am still trying to find out how to transition from b ...more
Katja Vartiainen
Well, it's again a repetitive review of Joseph Campbell's book- It's so good! I weirdly started from the last one of this series, and ended up reading the Primitive Mythology last. Detailed, funny, insightful, as always. Again Campbell deeply yet entertainingly pulls together all the threads. I found really interesting the history of the switch from feminine/matriarchal beliefs to patriarchal. It's worth to read for everybody. Also the myths of the serpent an the maiden in relation to the Christ ...more
Greg Collver
What Joseph Campbell lacks in objectivity he makes up for in his enthusiastic endorsement of his own personal myth, his unified psychological theory of myths. He stretches his interpretations of the myths so far that they fall apart. I am left incredulous. I would like to find a more objective work on historical and comparative mythology. One with a more clear and concise writing style.

I could only manage to make it half way through the first volume before I considered his work a waste of time.


Nancy Szul
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read every Joseph Campbell book I could get my hands on. He charismatically brings stuffy church teachings, zany mythology events or stories, historical events in cave man time, inner conflict and all the diverse religions in the world to one concept. Joseph explains the abstract so that the reader 'gets' the symbolism without having to interpret it; he shows one how to experience the real and points out when and why the masks go on. I just love his teachnigs~~~
sologdin
nothing schematic in this series (perhaps unlike the more famous texts), which concerns more the working out of historical particulars--though one might discern readily enough the monomyth thesis working in the background.

this volume concerns an antiquity that is barely evidenced, and tries to trace hunter-gather religion, the beliefs of late troglodytes, and other things found under upturned stones.
Christy
Feb 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
Like a lot of generalists, he probably overreaches, but still, there are riches here. I haven't anything like "finished" this book, or the others in the series, and don't expect to in my lifetime. But they will be an ongoing source of reference and inspiration.
Benjamin Bryan
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The material is verbose, dry, and dated at times; however, the detail is profound . . . a wealth of information. Recommended for anyone interested in mythology.
Dan Norton
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
This book is unquestionably a masterpiece of pre-historical research. Using archaeology, psychology, anthropology, and mythology, Joseph Campbell tracks the development of myths and religions as closely as realistically possible for pre-literate man.

I was fascinated by the development of planting societies myths and their associated imagery. The imagery of the serpent and the maiden repeats through almost every ancient belief system and continues to do so through most of the modern religions (Hi
...more
Giuliano Pongeluppe
Really interesting proposal by the author, but I don't think he accomplished.

The author spends too much time describing rituals and making assumptions with (what seems) little information. i.e.: they worshipped pigs, because the hunter in the mtyh was hunting a pig.

What really botter me, was the time jumps he does in his explanations. In the chapters about periods, he often goes back or forth in time to remember from where the myth comes or what it affected, but if you're not sharp about obscure
...more
C.G. Fewston
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology (1959) by Joseph Campbell is the first book of four in a massive attempt to connect the cultures and religions of the world.

Campbell begins this endeavor far back into history, well beyond the birth of language and later civilization by discussing the natural history of the gods and the psychology of myth. According to one view Campbell poses, "a functioning mythology can be defined as a corpus of culturally maintained sign stimuli fostering the development
...more
A. Kursat
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
kitap, sünnet, isa'nın dirilişi, insan ve hayvan kurbanı, ölüm ötesi ve yaratılış gibi mitlerin farklı coğrafyalarda nasıl sekil değiştiğini örneklerle anlatıyor.
Gabriele
All of the books in the Masks of God series are dense. They read like textbooks, rather than the kind of non-fiction novels in the In Cold Blood style that it seems like more "modern" nonfiction is written in. There is a ton of information here, and Campbell is presenting his research rather than telling us a story. This first volume focuses on what we know about the religious/mythological beliefs of (mostly) prehistorical cultures. Since many of them didn't leave written text behind, it's a lot ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Campbell is best known because of the PBS series The Power of Myth with Moyers that aired in 1988 and for his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces that influenced George Lucas of Star Wars fame and influential with many a writer, especially in speculative fiction. Primitive Mythology is the first part of his four-book series The Mask of God. This first book was published in 1959 and tried to incorporate then current findings in psychology (primarily Freudian and Jungian theories), archeology and ...more
Isaac Lambert-lin
A beautifully moving and poetic journey, to a time before time.

My second Joseph Campbell, after The Hero with a Thousand faces.

Here, we journey to the beginning of man and myth. Prepare to be wowed by stories of gory sacrifice, myths of toothed vaginas, the beginning of art, and connections of myth to psychology. Learn about the differences of a society based on the hunt versus those based on agriculture. Read this, and you'll have a more complete sense of your place, as a human, in society.

It's
...more
Jason Freeze
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can I say about the work of Joseph Campbell that has not already been said? Nothing really, but here is my take anyhow. In this book, Campbell makes a compelling argument for diffusionist theory as it pertains to mythology. Additionally, he utilizes Freudian and Jungian psychology as a tool to explain the nature and need for myth in humans. I found it astounding that the ties between the mythologies go back to pre-Homo Sapien species and circumnavigate the globe. Even more eye opening is th ...more
Marshall Cain
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first saw this book, I knew what I was getting into. I knew I was facing a man who knew what he was talking about, and wasn't going to spare any details for the sake of audience. So I stepped knee-deep in Campbell's world, and I came out soaked.

I learned a lot, and this is only volume 1 of 4. From his ideas on the origin of mythology in general, to his ideas on separate stories from around the world, I was never left without information to digest.

The only complaint I have is that it was s
...more
Paul
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2010.0924-2010.1222
Primitive Mythology is Campbell's first volume of The masks of God. This insightful, enjoyable, and slightly bizarre text is an interesting intersection of several disciplines, anthropology, history, phycology, and myth. The text is a bit dense in subject material and suffers (only slightly) from Campbell characteristic rambling. Several over arching theses seamed to be articulated late and not fully formed. At points I had to ask myself, what the point of given passages where
...more
Julie
Feb 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After plowing into Occidental Mythologies, I decided to backtrack to the first volume for an easier jog into the dense material. I have read and re-read the opening pages, which sound alternately beween poetry and textbook. Out of many passages I have underlined, here is my favorite description of why the book is important from the first page of the forward: "I can see no reason why anyone should suppose that in the future the same (spiritual) motifs already heard will not be sounding still--in ...more
Bill O'driscoll
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is the first Campbell I'd read, and because much of it is based on anthropology that was current when he wrote and revised it (both decades ago), I have to say I took some of his conclusions with a little salt. But the wealth of information here about ancient cultures from the paleolithic to the premodern is amazing. Great store of folk tales, crazy stuff about early kingdoms where the monarchs were ritually sacrificed. Fascinating analysis of famous cave art, like the ones from Lascaux. Ve ...more
Susan
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have re-watched and re-watched, and will continue to re-watch the PBS interviews with Bill Moyers. It's what drives me to keep trying to get through this book. But, sadly, I have not succeeded this time around. It's just too scholarly for me. I enjoy rifling through and falling upon Campbell's glorious and very real descriptions of mythologies surrounding creation and deity worship. But when it comes to reading the book straight through, uh uh, not this time. Maybe next time. I am sure I will ...more
B. Jay
Apr 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WHEW! This book took forever to read! As fascinating (and repulsive) Campbell's observations on primitive mythology are, I could only read a few pages at a time before falling asleep or putting it aside for easier entertainment. I won't deny that parts of this book were simply above and beyond my intellect and archeological education, but a textbook (even an extremely well-written textbook) is still a textbook. I can't recommend this book to anyone but those pursuing a study of these themes as a ...more
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20105
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythology professor, writer, and orator best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion.
More about Joseph Campbell...

Other Books in the Series

The Masks of God (4 books)
  • Oriental Mythology: The Masks of God
  • Occidental Mythology (The Masks of God, #3)
  • Creative Mythology
“Clearly, mythology is no toy for children. Nor is it a matter of archaic, merely scholarly concern, of no moment to modern men of action. For its symbols (whether in the tangible form of images or in the abstract form of ideas) touch and release the deepest centers of motivation, moving literate and illiterate alike, moving mobs, moving civilizations.” 17 likes
“The child's world is alert and alive, governed by rules of response and command, not by physical laws: a portentous continuum of consciousness, endowed with purpose and intent, either resistant or responsive to the child itself.

This infantile notion of a world governed by moral rather than physical laws, kept under control by a superordinated parental personality instead of impersonal physical forces, and oriented to the weal and woe of man, is an illusion that dominates men's thoughts all over the world.

The sense then, of this world as an undifferentiated continuum of simultaneously subjective and objective experience (Participation), which is all alive (Animism), and which was created by a superior being (Artificialism), may be said to constitute the frame of reference of all childhood experience no matter where in the world.

No small wonder then, that the above Three Principles are precisely those most represented in the mythologies and religious systems of the whole world.”
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