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The golden bough by James George Frazer - (1922) PDF ebook

The golden bough; a study in magic and religion 

The golden bough


Excerpt:

When I first set myself to solve the problem more than thirty years ago, I thought that the solution could be propounded very briefly, but I soon found that to render it probable or even intelligible it was necessary to discuss certain more general questions, some of which had hardly been broached before. 

In successive editions the discussion of these and kindred topics has occupied more and more space, the inquiry has branched out in more and more directions until the two volumes of the original work have expanded into twelve. 

Meantime a wish has often been expressed that the book should be issued in a more compendious form. This abridgment is an attempt to meet the wish and thereby to bring the work within the range of a wider circle of readers. While the bulk of the book has been greatly reduced, I have endeavored to retain its leading principles, together with an amount of evidence sufficient to illustrate them clearly. 

The language of the original has also for the most part been preserved, though here and there the exposition has been somewhat condensed. In order to keep as much of the text as possible I have sacrificed all the notes and with them all exact references to my authorities. Readers who desire to ascertain the source of any particular statement must therefore consult the larger work, which is fully documented and provided with a complete bibliography.

Whether the explanation which I have offered of the institution is correct or not must be left to the future to determine. I shall always be ready to abandon it if a better can be suggested. 
Meantime in committing the book in its new form to the judgment of the public I desire to guard against a misapprehension of its scope which appears to be still rife, though I have sought to correct it before now. 

If in the present work I have dwelt at some length on the worship of trees, it is not, I trust, because I exaggerate its importance in the history of religion, still less because I would deduce from it a whole system of mythology; it is simply because I could not ignore the subject is attempting to explain the significance of a priest who bore the title of King of the Wood, and one of whose titles to the office was the plucking of a bough — the Golden Bough — from a tree in the sacred grove.


 I am so far from regarding the reverence for trees as of supreme importance for the evolution of religion that I consider it to have been altogether subordinate to other factors, and in particular to the fear of the human dead, which, on the whole,

 I believe it to have been probably the most powerful force in the making of primitive religion. I hope that after this explicit disclaimer I shall no longer be taxed with embracing a system of mythology which I look upon not merely as false but as preposterous and absurd. 

But I am too familiar with the hydra of the error to expect that by lopping off one of the monster's heads I can prevent another, or even the same, from sprouting again. I can only trust the candor and intelligence of my readers to rectify this serious misconception of my views by comparison with my own express declaration.



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