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70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, essential reading for the spiritual growth of Man!
Get the abridged Oxford World's Classics edition which includes Frazer's original speculation on the wholly ritual, and symbolic, nature of Christ's crucifixion and, overall, you'll digest a book that will speak to you in ways you never imagined a book could. A sweeping account, from the very dawn of recorded history to the relative present, of Mankind's beliefs,...
Published on 25 July 2006 by Marc John

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A seminal work
Mr Casaubon in "Middlemarch" famously is writing "The Key to All Mythologies". His researches become bogged down in an ever-increasing swamp of footnotes, cross-references and card-indexes. After his death, his young widow, who married him in awe of his stupendous scholarship, confirms what she had already begun to suspect; her late husband's work was unpublishable,...
Published on 12 Oct 2011 by Peasant


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70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, essential reading for the spiritual growth of Man!, 25 July 2006
By 
Marc John - See all my reviews
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Get the abridged Oxford World's Classics edition which includes Frazer's original speculation on the wholly ritual, and symbolic, nature of Christ's crucifixion and, overall, you'll digest a book that will speak to you in ways you never imagined a book could. A sweeping account, from the very dawn of recorded history to the relative present, of Mankind's beliefs, traditions and rituals, The Golden Bough propels you from the start into an epic true story of nothing less than Mankind's inexhaustable quest for an understanding of - and union with - the mysterious, divine powers that create and sustain the world's existence.

With this remarkable work, so brilliantly researched and weaved together, we learn that universal themes and common tribal practices have been adopted by Man throughout all of history, and across all the world's diverse cultures, suggesting that we really do operate from a "collective unconsciousness", as Swiss therapist Jung termed it.

What is strongly suggested from Frazer's starkly drawn postcards from the past is that the enactment of myth and ritual may actually have a real impact, both esoterically and exoterically, on actual life and nature. It's not all cosmetic or mere superstition. And, indeed, once we re-engage with these universal, deeply rooted ideas, we might even find a registering of their phenomena in our personal and collective psyche. Reading this book for these metaphysical side effects alone is worth the investment!

In an ideal, spiritually oriented world, this book would be read in primary schools world-wide as a vital companion to Darwinism, to teach children how modern religion is nothing more than a re-branding of old myths and rituals - with these religions, in turn, being grossly misinterepted as facts instead of symbols, and entrusted to the "teachings" of a corrupt, inept and hopelessly unenlightened church order. The best we can do in the absence of this book being compulsory reading in schools is to get a copy as soon as we hear about it as adults and let Frazer's genius do the rest. What are you waiting for?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CLASSIC, 26 Feb 2013
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This is a fundamental classic which every educated person should have read or ought to read. It is immensely interesting and important. I have just started to read it again so this review is a recollection of over thirty years ago when I first read it. It is an unexpected revelation of an unexplored area of Man's Cultural History. When I first read it all these years ago it was a well known work and widely read. My impression is that it is a forgotten masterpiece, neither popular nor widely read today which is a great pity. It is also a huge work so dont start until you have a vast amount of time to devote to reading it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for those interested in mythology, religion, paganism and anthropology in general, 15 Jan 2012
Long, repetitive, dated...and yet utterly gripping. When reading this book, it is tempting to believe that it holds the key to explaining all aspects of symbolic and ritualistic behaviour, from casual superstition to world religion.

Using the concept of sympathetic magic as a basis, Frazer outlines the origin of religion from its origins in 'primitive' animism and witchcraft. It takes a thematic approach, using a huge number of examples of particular ritualistic behaviour from cultures around the world, to illustrate the reasons behind common traits in world beliefs. The result is a comprehensive and convincing study that explains almost every kind of rite and ritual - even those that still pervade in modern times.

Despite its academic tone and (literally) weighty volume, Golden Bough is surprisingly easy reading. What's more, although it is sequential, once you have read the first section (which outlines the concept of sympathetic magic), it is possible to read the book from any section - and I guarantee that there is something to surprise and intrigue on every page.

On its downsides, the lack of citations or bibliography does mean that the reader has to trust that Frazer's accounts of world cultures (many of which are bizarre in the extreme) are genuine, and not fabrications invented merely to support his theories. From a stylistic perspective, I imagine many would find the book's typical structure (outline of theory -> huge number of anecdotal examples to support theory -> progression to next theory) rather laborious at times.

Despite this, I still found this book a very rewarding and inspiring work, and recommend as essential reading for anyone with an interest in mythology, religion and spirituality.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Towering work, 26 Mar 2010
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Spilsbury (UK, Liverpool) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Golden Bough (Paperback)
With an encyclopaedic knowledge, the diverse cultural practices of mans expression of spiritualism are laid out in astounding detail. thousands of Pagan, Christian and other religious customs and practices are described. The symbolism of the Yule log, the significance of the Bull in Greek mythology to its arrival in India as to sacred cow, to its transformation into the Pig by the time it reaches China centuries later! The siginificance of dances, burial customs, birth rites, and just about every conceivable cultural practice are covered in this book.
This is an indispensible guide to any anthropologist living with natives and teasing out abstruse and dying customs. Frazer has covered almost every society, and this book as a source for cross referencing of religious and spiritual cultural practices is unsurpassable by any modern author. A real classic that shows the common origins of man, through the commonality and diversity of his practices.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A seminal work, 12 Oct 2011
By 
Peasant (Deepest England) - See all my reviews
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Mr Casaubon in "Middlemarch" famously is writing "The Key to All Mythologies". His researches become bogged down in an ever-increasing swamp of footnotes, cross-references and card-indexes. After his death, his young widow, who married him in awe of his stupendous scholarship, confirms what she had already begun to suspect; her late husband's work was unpublishable, superceded and fundamentally lacking in real insight.

If James Frazer ever read George Eliot's novel, he presumably didn't feel a frisson of recognition. Today's reader might. When Frazer published, his book was considered to be a remarkable acheivement. He synthesised the major European myth cycles and from them extracted an ur-myth, a truth which transcended the boundaries of geography and language. Here was the core myth from which all that now remains has been derived.

Unfortunately Frazer's work doesn't stand the test of time; modern ways of looking at anthropology, mythology and pagan religious practice are different, and even the layman can see that in many places Frazer has lopped and hammered his source material to make it fit his thesis. There are great riches here, but one has to shift a lot of paydirt to get to them, and when one has read the book one is, (unless a serious student) unsure what is gold and what dross.

The book is immensely long and immensely complex. At times one's head reels trying to keep it all together. Long before you reach the end, you may, like me, have lost track of the beginning. Having said that, some people will still treasure the text; some will even take it all utterly seriously and consider themselves the recipients of a revealed truth. I am not one of them. I found it not dissimilar to "Lord of the Rings"; over-long, turgidly written, the plot too implausible, and none of the characters sympathetic. There is a moral here: if you didn't like "Lord of the Rings" you probably won't like this book. I'm not entirely averse to this kind of thing, mind you; I really enjoyed the equally improbable and far more bonkers The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, 7 April 2014
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This review is from: The Golden Bough (Kindle Edition)
Essential reading for everyone interested in the origins of religion.
(Dated and un-PC in many ways, of course.)
Read it before you die.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Should be on the A Level curriculum, 29 Jun 2014
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Mr. Alan Mcthredder "Alan McT" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golden Bough (Kindle Edition)
I first read this book 40 years ago and never forgot it. Never has the foundations of magic and religion been so demonstrated and understood even in later so called psychological works. You will end up identifying and understanding your own motives and surprise yourself with how primitive some of your actions are - even down to drinking a coffee brand because George Clooney does or buying a brand of dungarees for your child because Kate Middleton's kid had them on. And you think that's not the case this dungaree company sold out on the first day that a picture of Kate Middleton's baby was printed and have now stopped taking advanced orders! It is frightening but hugely informative to see how this nonsense affects all of us to a certain degree. Some of it is now dated and may have been superseded it was written a long time ago - but the vast bulk of this work is fascinating and totally relevant.If you are religious you may not feel very comfortable but be brave......
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3.0 out of 5 stars More a catalogue than a book, 23 Jun 2014
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Dr. W. H. Konarzewski "Dr W. H. Konarzewski" (Colchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golden Bough (Kindle Edition)
This is one of the great classics on ancient religion for historians and no one can doubt the volume of hard work that Sir James George Frazer put into the compilation. However, I did not find it easy reading and many of his observations seemed repetitive with too much detail. In my opinion it would be great if someone could rewrite this with some heavy editing, leaving in all the interesting bits and removing the rest. Perhaps a few comments from a more modern perspective would make it all the more readable. However it's free so I guess I shouldn't be too negative. Well worth a browse, but you'd need to be very dedicated to read the whole thing through.
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5.0 out of 5 stars endless exotic tomb, 26 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Golden Bough (Kindle Edition)
the best 'pick up-put down' book ever written! recommended for bathrooms everywhere! so much history, myth and religious info you can go back again and again, barbarous, hilarious and pitious human existance.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, 6 Mar 2014
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A classic that should be on every book shelf, this is a fascinating book that forms the basis of much thought and development today. It is still a reference book of worth.
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