James Frazer retold ancient myths in The Golden Bough in such a way that he re-intepreted them, renewed them and thus ended up creating a new version of the myth. A homogenized version that has been packaged and marketed ever since. Essentially, Frazer showed that when we observe Easter or Halloween, we walk in the ghostly footsteps of men who worshiped plants and murdered kings….
James Frazer revealed that primitive peoples sometimes believe that their safety and even that of the world is bound up with the life of one of these god-men or human incarnations of the divinity. Naturally, therefore, they take the utmost care of his life, out of a regard for their own. But no amount of care and precaution will prevent the man-god from growing old and feeble and at last dying. . . . There is only one way of averting these dangers. The man-god must be killed as soon as he shows symptoms that his powers are beginning to fail, and his soul must be transferred to a newer, fresher version of a successor before its shelf life expires; an impairment by the threatened decay by loss of talent or looks. Eternal youth and its magical qualities must be maintained at all costs.
Not to touch the earth
Not to see the sun
Nothing left to do, but
Run, run, run
House upon the hill
Moon is lying still
Shadows of the trees
Witnessing the wild breeze
C’mon baby run with me
Let’s run ….( Not to Touch the Earth, The Doors)
Puckett:The riddle that Frazer was attempting to solve in The Golden Bough was the question of the succession of the priesthood of Diana at Nemi. Citing Strabo, Frazer outlines the rule for attaining this perilous office, “A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or craftier” . By comparing this ritual murder to customs from around the world , Frazer concludes that the priest of Diana at Nemi was a “divine king.”…
…The divine king was the archetype that Frazer deduced from his interpretation of cross-cultural customs of actual or symbolic ritual regicide. According to Frazer, the divine king was a representative of the Dying and Rising God, another archetypal construct which Frazer devised from the myths of the Syrian Adonis (or Tammuz), the Phrygian Attis, and the Egyptian Osiris. Frazer concludes that the King of the Wood was a representative of the Roman god Virbius, the consort of Diana, and interprets Virbius as a Dying and Rising God in the mould of Adonis, Attis, and Osiris. In retelling the myths and explaining the rituals associated with Adonis, Attis, and Osiris, Frazer reinterprets them within the context of his archetypal Dying and Rising God, brushing aside their particular cultural contexts and their differences…( Robert Nolan Puckett)
The question Frazer asked was why was the divine king of the grove always killed by his successor? Hence he arrived at the myths of sacrifice and resurrection of a god, a ritual enactment of the natural miracle performed by the spring of every year. The god is killed in order that he may be renewed, and by his renewal guarantee that of the earth whose powers he embodies. So it was with the Greek Adonis, the Egyptian Osiris, the Phrygian Attis, and, also implied within this framework , is the founder of Christianity.
…The mansion is warm, at the top of the hill
Rich are the rooms and the comforts there
Red are the arms of luxuriant chairs
And you won’t know a thing till you get inside
Dead president’s corpse in the driver’s car
The engine runs on glue and tar
Come on along, not goin’ very far
To the East to meet the Czar… ( The Doors)
However, why did the challenger for the priesthood of Nemi have first to pluck a branch from a sacred tree, and why was this associated in classical tradition with the golden bough carried by Virgil’s hero Aeneas to preserve him on his journey through the kingdom of the dead? Why a golden bough? Frazer found this in the myth of Balder, the god of oak who could be killed only by a piece of mistletoe. Frazer finds mistletoe regarded in the primitive world as the life or external soul of the tree to which it clings.
Furthermore, Balder’s body, to perform its work of renewal, had first to be consumed by fire; the legend of the phoenix is a variant of the same idea. Fire symbolized the rays of the reviving sun. The color and legendary significance of mistletoe, the golden light of fire and the sun, linked for Frazer the golden bough of Nemi with the fire festivals performed by the peasantry all over Europe at times of solstice and equinox. All elements of fertility and renewal fell into their places in the rite of the sacred grove; the riddle’s solution was complete.
…Some outlaws lived by the side of a lake
The minister’s daughter’s in love with the snake
Who lives in a well by the side of the road
Wake up, girl, we’re almost home
We should see the gates by mornin’
We should be inside the evenin’
Sun, sun, sun
Burn, burn, burn
Soon, soon, soon
Moon, moon, moon
I will get you
I am the Lizard King
I can do anything ( The Doors )
Frazer argues that this cycle leads to a magical theory — that humans could control the progression of the seasons and the fertility of the earth. However, Frazer argues an evolution from magic to religion (and ultimately from religion to science). At this point, humans realized that they had no control over these natural phenomena. Instead, They now pictured to themselves the growth and decay of vegetation, the birth and death of beings, of gods and goddesses, who were born and died, who married and begot children, on the pattern of human life.
Thus the old magical theory of the seasons was displaced, or rather supplemented, by a religious theory. For although men now attributes the annual cycle of change primarily to corresponding changes in their deities, they still thought that by performing such magical rites they could aid the god who was the principle of life, in his struggle with the opposing principle of death. They imagined that they could recruit his failing energies and even raise him from the dead. … ( Puckett )
…Frazer, in applying this scheme to ideas of magic and science, validates science because it is based on the causality principle, and discredits magic because it is based on the “false” principles of resemblance and contiguity.It [magic] is a false science… If my analysis of the magician’s logic is correct, its two great principles turn out to be merely two different misapplications of the association of ideas. Homeopathic magic is founded on the association of ideas by similarity: contagious magic is founded in the association of ideas by contiguity. Homeopathic magic commits the mistake of assuming that things which resemble each other are the same: contagious magic commits the mistake of assuming that things which have once been in contact with each other are always in contact .
Here we can see that Frazer’s subscribes to modernist materialistic scientific paradigms. Frazer also emphasizes the evolution of thought from magic through religion to modern science , as was noted in Chapter III. For Frazer, science is the culmination of the history of human thought, and has completely replaced the need for magic and religion, which, according to his intellectualist theory, are simply false explanations of the world.( Puckett)