criticism of the golden bough

The demon is charged to bring her. by the name that is fearful and terrible; by the name that will make the earth, hearing it, to open; by the name which when they hear it will make the gods tremble; by the name in which the rivers and the rocks burst when they hear…. For Graf, quoting Marcel Mauss, “any abnormal interest in the sacred can lead to the suspicion of magic.”. The episode (which Graf does not mention) is thus an ambiguous one, as magical encounters often are. Alone on the roof of his house at night, grasping his protective talismans, dressed sometimes as a corpse, or with the body of a slaughtered animal (cats were especially popular), the sorcerer struggled to raise a dead man from the grave to act as his servant, or to make his own shadow into a devoted attendant, or to win the passionate love of a woman, who (doubtless) lay ignorantly asleep in her bed. Helen, like Medea, is the sort of person (exotic, glamorous, traveled) who might well be expected to have in her suitcase some exotic things of that kind. Magic is a nocturnal and solitary occupation. Apuleius composed his speech during the second century CE. We may not be so far from the world of Sherlock Holmes, where there is no magic but people can be killed by poisons from Sumatra and the Amazon jungle: poisons impressively declared to be “unknown to medical science.”. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941). In the nineteenth century he had a vogue, especially in Britain and Germany, as the embodiment of a refined and beautiful countryside, pastoral and even mystical. Men had been casting spells long before that kind of language began to be heard. His cult was introduced to Attica in response to a particular vision. What we do find in sources from the Roman period is such instructions as the following, in a Greek papyrus of the fourth century CE: Make two dolls, one male, the other female. Save 50% off the regular rate and 75% off the cover price and receive a free 2021 calendar! My own reading of the many erotic spells that survive from the ancient world suggests that Graf, like many other modern scholars, thinks too much, and too exclusively, of power, control, and the ideology of society. With learning that is impressive but lightly worn, he follows the varied fortunes of the god from early Greece to the present day. And above all: so many of the texts simply do not give that sort of cultured and disinterested impression. magic/religion contrast…restored to honor by the Frazerian triad already prefigured in Plato…. In the West it might seem that science has achieved a definitive ascendancy; the old assumption that the real causes of events were to be sought on the religious plane is visibly fading away. That is perhaps a strange place to start. No less a person than Helen, back from Troy and living respectably with her husband Menelaus, knows what to do when the conversation turns maudlin and the people she is with start to cry. Even worse, because much better known and more influential, is Sir James Frazer, author of the celebrated Golden Bough (first published 1890), whom Graf discusses at some length. For some of them it may indeed have had an atmosphere rather like that of the great religions. A wounded man is treated by giving him rest, washing his body, preparing for him special food; we also croon an incantation over his wound; he recovers.

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