Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion” as Want to Read:
The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  6,877 Ratings  ·  241 Reviews
In 1890, James George Frazer began publishing The Golden Bough, his monumental study of myth, ritual, and religion, which would, by 1936, run to 13 volumes and establish him as a pioneer in the study of religion as an aspect of culture. This abridged edition, assembled in 1922, condenses this fundamental work to one readable volume that is still a source for modern anthrop ...more
Paperback, Abridged, 732 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Cosimo Classics (first published 1890)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Golden Bough, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Susan If you still haven't read it yet, just read a good abridged version. I'm pretty sure the Oxford abridgement contains all the relevant hypotheses.…moreIf you still haven't read it yet, just read a good abridged version. I'm pretty sure the Oxford abridgement contains all the relevant hypotheses. Frazer's various original editions will contain many more examples to support his various hypotheses and will make for extremely gruelling reading. The Oxford abridgement is wonderful stuff, but each argument is broken down into lots of smaller arguments, which are in turn supported by up to about a couple dozen examples - fatiguing to read. The unabridged editions will simply hammer the points home, or possibly be more of a compendium to dip into rather than something to read straight through.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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
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
Nick Black
Mar 23, 2008 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
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
Cassandra Kay Silva
Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, classics
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
Oct 26, 2010 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 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 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
Dec 15, 2007 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
Oct 14, 2011 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
Bob Nichols
Sep 18, 2013 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
Dec 02, 2008 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
F.G. Cottam
Nov 25, 2009 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
Sep 18, 2012 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 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 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 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.
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.
Oct 07, 2017 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
در مقدمه چنین نوشته شده:« ما دوست نداریم آثار بزرگمان را بخوانیم، اما آنها مارا، هر روز از زندگی ما را میخوانند. این ما نیستیم که ادبیات قرن بیستم را ساختهایم. ادبیات ما را ساختهاست. اگر میخواهیم خود را بهتر بشناسیم باید به ادبیات روی آوریم. ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: أخرى
كتاب ممتع في الأنثربولوجيا الاجتماعية ، وتطور الفكر البشري و التاريخ الإنساني. يسلط الضوء على عدد من المفاهيم المتجذرة في التاريخ الثقافي ل كثير من الشعوب البدائية . ركز فريزر على العادات الشعبية ( الفلكلور)، والعبادات الدينية، وأثر المعتقدات البشرية بتاريخها الممتد إلى يومنا هذا. سردت بأسلوب قصصي، مطعم بالفن البصري الساحر . و بنظرة فاحصة-عميقة داخل الأشياء .
Jan 27, 2011 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
Dec 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reference reread - Sept 6, 2017.

Okay. I actually have 2 copies of this book, same ISBN, but 2 different fronts. The chapter breakdowns are a tad different as well, which is why I've kept both.
Sep 27, 2009 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.

Like this review? yes 0 comments

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
Welwyn Wilton
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 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.

معرفی کتاب : شاخه زرین

شاخهٔ زرین به عنوان یکی از برجستهترین آثار جیمز فریزر که با شهرت جهانی یک پژوهش تطبیقی است که با رویکردی اجتماعی، با تکیه بر دو محور اسطوره و دین، به تحقیق در مبانی خرافهپرستی، ادیان ابتدایی و اعتقادات و مناسک مردمان اولیه میپردازد و در صدد اثبات این ادعاست که سیر اندیشهٔ انسانها برای توجیه وقایع زندگی و طبیعت پیرامونشان، و نیز برای گرهگشایی یا گریز از پیچیدگیهای حیات، چگونه ابتدا به جادو و خرافهها روی آورد و بعد از آن به دین گروید و سرانجام از دین به علم متمایل گشت. او در
Robert Frecer
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An amazing read. This book was recommended to me after reading The White Goddess by Robert Graves and in comparing the two, Frazer is at once more informative and more dispassionate, if not as mystical as Graves. The study of ancient ritual is enchanting and describes the (forced) death and rebirth of the vegetation god in all his forms, all over the world, in exhaustive detail.
Skylar Burris
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
Frasier seems to depict religion as an evolutionary process, from primitive superstition and magic on to a more refined monotheism, finally culminating in enlightened scientific thought. We find Darwin in absolutely everything these days. The problem with such a depiction, however, is that the enlightened scientitificism and rationalism of modern times has created just as much (if not far more) terror than the primitive magicians and priests of old (giving us communism, Nazism, eugenics, etc.); ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Does this explain the origin of magic? 7 26 Jan 17, 2015 05:50AM  
Winter Reading Pr...: Online editions 1 9 Oct 03, 2013 06:47PM  
Giant Text... 5 41 Jul 05, 2013 08:32AM  
nyaze fori 1 9 Sep 16, 2011 02:08AM  
  • The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, Amended and Enlarged Edition
  • From Ritual to Romance
  • Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Bollingen)
  • Primitive Mythology
  • Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating  the Origins of Human Knowledge & Its Transmission Through Myth
  • Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions
  • Aradia: Gospel of the Witches
  • Tristes Tropiques
  • Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages
  • Patterns of Culture
  • The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype (Bollingen)
  • Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath
  • The Witches' Goddess
  • In the Dark Places of Wisdom
  • The Language of the Goddess
  • A History of Pagan Europe
Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion.
More about James George Frazer...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn: Life's Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Long Tail: Why the Future Is Selling Less of More
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Funny In Farsi: A Memoir Of Growing Up Iranian In America
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Fix Itself
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France
    $8.49 $1.99
  • Bad Boy
    $7.74 $1.99
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
    $4.99 $1.99
  • All Over But the Shoutin'
    $11.99 $2.99
  • WEIRD: Because Normal Isn't Working
    $6.99 $2.99
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness
    $5.99 $0.99
“Small minds cannot grasp great ideas; to their narrow comprehension, their purblind vision, nothing seems really great and important but themselves.” 42 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
More quotes…