Home » Le Rameau dor, tome 1 by James George Frazer
Le Rameau dor, tome 1 James George Frazer

Le Rameau dor, tome 1

James George Frazer

Published July 7th 1998
ISBN : 9782221088463
Mass Market Paperback
1004 pages
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 About the Book 

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 Frazers lifetime.The opening echoes Gibbons 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 classical learning, to sweep over them. In Frazers case though this was not a vision of the City of Rome but of the myth of the King of the Grove at Nemi. The practise at Nemi was that there was a priest of the Goddess Diana who became priest by killing the current occupant of the office in single combat, and who would then be the priest until they in turn were killed by a younger, stronger applicant for the role. The priest was generally, maybe always an escaped slave, at least by the time that that the Classical writers were mentioning the practise - a few years, however brief, as Priest of Diana were better than a long life of slavery.Frazer felt that the central idea of the cycle of renewal was the foundational idea of religious and magical thinking manifesting itself from the most savage culture to Christianity. The Christian connection was soft pedalled since one couldnt print that kind of thing in Victorian Britain, but by implication Christs death and resurrection was simply in his view just one more repetition of the death and rebirth of the natural world, the symbolic or actual death of a ritual figure magically required to ensure the rebirth of seed crops every year.This Frazer set out to demonstrate by stock piling examples of this kind of myth from rural European corn kings and nineteenth century harvest songs to the cult celebration of the death of Adonis as well as everything in between. In this way it still functions as a convenient treasure trove of myths, stories and beliefs irrespective of the validity of his thesis. Having said that the choice and arrangement of his material is determined by his goals.What I found most interesting was the snippets from the disappearing culture of the Victorian British countryside. Machines are all well and good, but they dont sing songs or trade their savings to buy the horsemans word off a stranger in an ale house (view spoiler)[ the horsemans word was a word, command or maybe a spell, that if you knew it would allow you absolute magical control over horses - a useful thing to know in a horse-powered countryside (view spoiler)[ anyhow handing over a few guineas for the horsemans word makes a change from selling your wife to a sailor for a few mugs of booze at a summer fair in the style of The Mayor of Casterbridge (hide spoiler)]