Monday, January 25, 2010

Aimless Reading: The F's, Part 22 (James Frazer)

The Golden Bough
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Frazer, James
The Golden Bough

Purchased at the now-defunct Niagara Falls Outlet Mall discount bookstore. I bought this simply to have around as a reference. I've never read the whole thing. I read parts of it in college, along with Jesse L. Weston's From Ritual to Romance. I was probably writing a paper on "The Wasteland," which mentions both by name in the footnotes. I remember reading Weston in the basement of the Fordham University library and I seem to remember having a hard time locating the Frazer. The library was old and outdated and I think they only had the 12-volume unabridged version, which I had no intention of reading. I think I skimmed through a few sections I thought were relevant before putting it back on the shelf.

from The Golden Bough

The custom of killing the god has now been proved to have been practised by peoples in the hunting, pastoral, and agricultural stages of society, and the various reasons for observing it have been explained. One aspect of the custom still remains to be noticed. The accumulated misfortunes and sins of the whole people are sometimes laid upon the dying god, who is supposed to bear them away for ever, leaving the people innocent and happy. The notion that we can transfer our guilt and pains and griefs to some other being who will bear them in our stead is familiar to the savage mind. It arises from a very obvious confusion between the physical and the mental. Because it is possible to transfer a load of wood, stones, or what not, from our own back to the back of another, the savage fancies that it is equally possible to transfer the burden of his pains and sins and sorrows to another, who will suffer them in his stead. Upon this idea he acts, and the result is an endless number of often very unamiable devices for putting off upon some one else the trouble which a man shrinks from bearing himself.

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