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Sources Of Data In The Golden Bough

1949 words - 8 pages

"The Golden Bough: A study in Religion and Magic"By: James George FrazerArea of interest: Sources of DataTo begin with, Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough: A Study in Religion and Magic is a famous landmark work of ethnography, anthropology and literary analysis regarding human, religious and cultural traditions.The Golden Bough was both scandalous and widely read when it was first published 1890, largely because it spoke frankly about the Christian tradition and compared it directly with other "pagan" practices. It has had a pervasive and lasting impact on the study of anthropology and the way science studies culture. The subject comes from Virgil's epic poem "The Aeneid" and J. M. W. Turner's painting of the Golden Bough which shows the Trojan hero, Aeneas after the sack of Troy has now set sail with a fleet containing the surviving citizens. Frazer begins with the depiction of Turner's painting of the Golden Bough, that depicts Aeneas who has come to Cumae to consult the Sibyl, a prophetess. She tells him he can only enter the underworld to meet the ghost of his father if he offers Proserpine a golden bough cut from a sacred tree. Turner shows Sibyl holding a sickle and the freshly cut bough, in front of lake Avernus, the legendary gateway to Underworld while the snake in the background hint at death and mysteries of the Underworld amidst the beauty of the landscape.Frazer then proceeds on with an opening scene that tells the tale of a strange rule of priesthood or rather the doomed priest of Nemi who roams around the grove of Diana at Aricia on the Italian coast with a sword in hand waiting to slain the unknown rival who will in turn murder him to become the priest and finally his successor. This in turn however shows us the upcoming focus on the persistence of ancient rituals in modern thought and religion. He first discusses magic and religion giving us a glimpse of the two kinds of magic- a) homeopathic magic that works through similarity b) contagious magic in which primitive humans believed that things once associated can never be separated in the ideal sense thereby citing various examples while describing them. Frazer however separates magic from religion for according to him magic is a crude, mistaken primitive science. Religion on the other hand is the product of its futility and belongs to a second stage of culture. Myths and rituals too have occupied a special position making Sir James Frazer "the most illustrious ancestor in the pedigree of ritualism". Further the Golden bough has also depicted the pictures of dying gods, fertility rites and divine kings. Frazer here seeks to explain that magic and religion stand in genealogical succession and religion is nothing but a refinement of the more primitive "magical" mentality.To move towards the sources of data in the Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer took help of the vast body of mythical and also anthropological material available in his day. He relied much on secondary sources of data...

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