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Introduction to Mythology


 

Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941)

 

Who does not know Turner's picture of the Golden Bough? The scene, suffused with the golden glow of imagination in which the divine mind of Turner steeped and transfigured even the fairest natural landscape, is a dream-like vision of the little woodland lake of Nemi, "Diana's Mirror," as it was called by the ancients. No one who has seen that calm water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban hills, can ever forget it. The two characteristic Italian villages which slumber on its banks, and the equally Italian palazzo whose terraced gardens descend steeply to the lake, hardly break the stillness and even the solitariness of the scene. Dian herself might still linger by this lonely shore, still haunt these woodlands wild.

James George Frazer, The Golden Bough (1890 Edition), Chapter I, Page 1

 

Sir James Frazer The Golden Bough by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1834)

 

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Scottish Social Anthropologist and Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge

 

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Studied myth and religion of both ancient and contemporary cultures

 

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Information was mostly obtained from ancient Greek writers, particularly Pausanias, and from completed questionnaires received from missionaries and officials throughout the British Empire

 

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Frazer believed that the central theme of most ancient religions concerned the worship and periodic sacrifice of a solar deity, who usually underwent a mystical marriage to a goddess of the earth, died at harvest time, and was reincarnated in the spring. Frazer regarded the Christ story in Christianity to be just another example of this scheme.

 

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Frazer concluded that human belief systems about the world progressed through three stages:

 

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1) primitive animism and magic,

 

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2) replaced by religion, and

 

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3) finally replaced by the findings of science.

 

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Principal Book: The Golden Bough (in 12 volumes published 1906-1915, abridged version 1922)

 

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This book was a primary data source for Wiccans and Neo-Pagans in reconstructing the ancient rituals and ceremonies

 

 


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