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am 16. Januar 2015
"The Golden Bough: A study in Magic and Religion" erschien erstmals 1890, damals in zwei Bänden. Zwischen 1906 und 1915 erschien die dritte Auflage, die es dann immerhin auf zwölf Bände brachte. Mir liegt seit vielen Jahren eine gekürzte Fassung von "The Golden Bough" vor, die 1959 erschienen ist. Ich schätze Sir George Frazers Werk sehr. Wie kaum ein zweiter Forscher spezialisiert er sich nicht auf ein eng begrenztes Spezialgebiet, sondern schafft ein unglaublich wertvolles, Grenzen sprngendes Opus. Er stellt Vergleiche an, weist faszinierende Parallelen zwischen vermeintlich unterschiedlichen Kulturen auf und eröffnet uns Lesern einen Pfad zu den Geheimnissen der Menschheit. Die Kindle-Ausgabe ist mir schon sehr ans Herz gewachsen, allein schon wegen der Suchfunktion, die sich immer wieder als sehr hilfreich erweist! Sie ist für jeden, der sich für die Wurzeln des Menschseins interessiert, eine wertvolle Hilfe! Sir Frazers Opus hat bis heute keinen Nachfolger gefunden, der mit "The Golden Bough" verglichen werden dürfte!
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am 27. Juni 2000
If you are the type of person whose spirit gravitates to the simple (not simplistic, but simple)answers to some of the most complex and seemingly unrelated questions, and those answers desired consist of the type philosphers, poets and artists/scientists have been looking for (with varied success) for millenia, then you just might enjoy this book. Camile Paglia's SEXUAL PERSONAE, heavily indebted to this and the major works of Freud by her own proud admission, is what led me to this pretty staggering work for its time. It is relatively easy to make someone's brain hurt with a lot of scholar talk, where one is saying nothing; this book is great because it is *sensational*, in the truest sense of the word. This is one of the first of the many books about religion and the history of man that put my stomach up in knots, as it simultaneously gave me the power to look beyond the fabrication of ancient Greek philosophical society and Judeo-Christian heritage as the summit of man's knowledge. (Not that that was ever a problem for me consciously, but unconsciously I doubt anyone without reading a book like this has moved beyond it.) This is one of the books that made a new approach to the understanding of man and a paradigm shift as to how we have mentally, emotionally and spiritually developed not only possible, but inevitable.
What could keep this monument from receiving five stars will be fairly obvious to any reader: the prejudices of his time. It is actually hard to look at what he says objectively in that context; before him I doubt anyone put two and two together to come up with what he did during a time when his racism and trivialization of non-Euopean peoples, and for more than the past fifty plus years after him, anyone who has read his work has had that tempered by the embarrasing revalations of Nietsche and Freud. That, along with the egocentrism of Victorian Europe that he projects onto ancient and prehistoric man, serves to keep the book from being perfect (and are sometimes annoying), but do not serve to really take away its importance and incredible effect.
If you are a Joseph Cambell fan, you will be powerfully challenged by this book. Frazer was not attempting to come up with the same conclusions for myth and ritual that Campbell, though influenced by him, was. But you will love it, and respect it highly because of it. In a way, where Campbell seems to say "this is what it all means," Frazer says "this is what it all IS," letting the wonder of unexpected knowledge allow you to come to your own conclusions. This book will start you on a great spiritual journey if you never read anything of its kind before, and this edition is a very good one to have.
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am 18. Juni 1998
Frazer's classic "The Golden Bough" may justifiably be called the foundation that modern anthropology is based on. While it has been discredited in some areas since it's 1st publication, it has stood the test of time remarkably well. It's still the best book I know of to explain the origins of magical & religious thought to a new student of comparative religions. I would especially suggest it to anyone interested in mythology, supernatural magic or religion, especially any of the modern neo-pagan religions. More than one critic has said that it should be required reading for everyone.
Originally, Frazer sought to explain the strange custom at an Italian sacred grove near the city of Aricia. He wanted to know why it was custom there for a priest of Diana to continually guard a sacred tree with his life. Why was it required that this pagan priest murder anyone who dares to break a branch from the tree & why were so many willing to risk their lives to do so? What power did this broken branch have that made it a symbol of the priests own coming death? Why could the priest only be relieved of his position by being ritually murdered & who in their right mind would strive to take his place?
What Frazer discovered in his search for answers went well beyond what he expected to find. He very quickly found himself surrounded by ancient pagan beliefs & magic rituals that were as old as mankind & just as widespread. He slowly reveals to us, by way of hundreds of examples, that ancient or primitive man was bound up in a never ending web of taboos & restrictions that regulated his existence here on earth. Every move, spoken word or even thought could swing the powers of the divine for or against pagan man. Every action was bound by religious code & any mistake could invoke supernatural retribution. The entire world, it seemed, was a reflection of the mystic other world that pagan man worshipped & everything here was symbolic of something there.
While studying this idea Frazer covers many other perplexing questions about culture & belief that have affected our lives. For example, he explains the origins of many of our holidays. He reveals the original symbolism & meaning of the Christmas tree & mistletoe & tells us what they represent. He explains the pagan origins of Halloween & why it's necessary to placate the spirits who visit your home that night. He solves the question of why Easter isn't a fixed holiday but is instead linked to the Spring Equinox & just what colored eggs have to do with anything. In short he covers just about every known superstition or tradition & relates it back to it's pagan beliefs.
What emerges from this collection of superstition & folktales isn't a chaotic mess of mumbo-jumbo but is instead a fully expounded religious system. Frazer shows again & again that these traditional customs & continuations of ancient rites are the basis for a religious system pre-dating any of our own. We find that in this system man can not stand apart from nature or the world. Nor can he commit any action without it's usual equal but opposite reaction. Eventually, we learn of the powerful but frightening association between a king's fertility & his lands well-being. Lastly, we learn that it's not always "good to be king" & just what sort of horrible price one must pay to be "king for a day".
But more than all of this Frazer is commenting on our own times & our own beliefs. "The Golden Bough" isn't simply about ancient pagan religious ideas for their own sake. The book provides & explains these ideas so we can see how they are still in operation even today. Primitive pagan beliefs & symbolism are with us daily, besides the obvious Christmas tree & Easter eggs. Behind his exhaustive examples & explanations of mystic or secret magic rituals Frazer is actually commenting on our own Judeo-Christian religions. A careful reading between the lines reveals what Frazer was afraid to state bluntly in 1890. That idea is that all religions, even our own, are based on the same basic pagan ideas of "sympathetic" & "contagious" magic. Despite advancements in science & knowledge & even despite spiritual advancements in religion & philosophy, we're still trying to comprehend the divine with the same tools our ancestors used thousands of years ago.
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am 13. Oktober 1998
The Golden Bough is indeed a seminal work of early anthropology/folklore studies. However it's no longer held in high esteem in these fields, and for good reason. The major problem with Frazer is his source use. He took citations grossly out of context and made no effort to determine how reliable they were.
Moreoever he took myth literally, assuming that it was a distorted memory of actual events. If Pagan myths involved kings dying, then once upon a time Pagans must really have sacrificed their kings. By this 'logic', Christianity used to involve ritual cannibalism, since during the Eucharist believers eat the blood and body of Christ.
The holiday information is extremely poor, too. Like many 19th century folklorists, Frazer assumed that any "pagan-looking" customs were indeed pre-Christian. He did *no* research in the history of the holidays, and as a result the Golden Bough contains grievous amounts of misinformation. (I say this as a medievalist who's done significant amounts of research myself.)
For example, Frazer was responsible for the tenacious myth that Halloween is a Christianized version of the Celtic Samhain, introduced by the Celtic Church. If you check early Irish martyrologies, you'll find that the Celtic Church actually celebrated All Saints in April, not on Samhain. The October 31st date came from England and/or Germany, not the Celtic Church, making the connection between Samhain and Halloween somewhat obscure. Frazer assumes that Christmas trees are an ancient Pagan custom, when any historical research would reveal that the earliest mention of this custom comes from 16th century Germany.
The Golden Bough has had a tremendous impact on Neo-Paganism and many of the theories are inspiring. For that, for its poetry, I give it credit. But it's not a reliable work on Pagan history -- I'd give Ronald Hutton's _Stations of the Sun_ a much, *much* higher grade for that.
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am 6. August 1998
The Golden Bough is a classic in the truest sense of the word. Well-written, compendious in its scholarship, profound in its influence, shocking in its implications, Frazer has penned one of mankind's great unread books. With the works of Darwin and Hubble, Frazer's hefty tome quietly demolishes traditional notions of the world and our place within it. His introductory study of magic in primitive societies, many sadly vanished in the intervening century, is fascinating reading for anyone interested in Wicca, the New Age, or the Occult. Frazer's scope then expands voluminously, to include such topics as totemism, divine kingship, tree worship, and, most significantly, dying and reviving gods. Without ever mentioning Jesus specifically, Frazer places him squarely in the midst of a long procession of resurrected Middle Eastern gods that include Osiris, Tammuz, Dionysus, and Attis, demonstrating amply that the Christ myth is a fairly typical example of the primitive religio! us beliefs characteristic of that locale and period. While hardly a quick read (Frazer's dignified style does require some self-acclimatization after the passage of nine undignified decades), The Golden Bough rewards both the careful sequential reading and the occasional random foray. Frazer's many thousands of examples of odd and provocative customs remain fascinating even as scholarly interpretation of their significance evolves. All in all, a book of which no genuine intellectual, and certainly no born-again Christian, can afford to be ignorant.
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am 3. April 2000
The Golden Bough is a remarkable and inspiring book. Although some of the evidence presented is outdated, it remains a seminal work for its rigorous scientific approach, as well as for the depth and insight the author puts in his analysis. Frazer uses the wealth of material presented in the book to reveal some of the deepest - and sometimes disquieting - aspects of the human character. This is essential reading for all who want to explore human nature and the tyes existing between present day civilisation and the world of our ancestors. Even today, the book retains the originality and freshness of approach that have contributed to make it a classic ever since its first publication.
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am 27. September 1999
The unabridged version tends to get a little bit long winded and boring in some sections (although others are extremely intriguing), but I found the book to be extremely inspirational and mind-opening in that it makes you look at customs and religions in ways you never thought of before. He compares certain folk customs that are common around the world and discusses possible psychological or sociological reasons for them. It stimulates an interest in comparitive religion and broadens the mind to different ways of viewing the world.
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am 12. November 1998
This is NOT the foundation of modern anthropology. The reader from Oregon is absolutely right. It was considered a great work but is no longer held in such esteem. The idea that societies progressed from magic to religion is outdated. As Mary Douglas said, Frazer led comparative religion into a blind alley. Read something written in the last century if you want a real anthropological veiw.
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am 9. Juli 1999
It is an amazing book for people like me and you and the writer is also absolutely fascinating in his analysis of mankind.
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