Frazer, Sir James George

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Frazer, Sir James George

Frazer, Sir James George, 1854–1941, Scottish classicist and anthropologist, b. Glasgow, educated at the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge. He is known especially for his masterpiece, The Golden Bough, published originally in two volumes (1890); in later editions it was enlarged to 13 volumes. A monumental study in comparative folklore, magic, and religion, it showed parallels between the rites and beliefs of early cultures and those of Christianity. The work had a great impact on the early 20th cent., its influence extending to psychology and literature. An abridged one-volume edition was published by the author in 1923. A new one-volume version, cut and annotated by T. H. Gaster, appeared in 1959 as The New Golden Bough. Frazer's other writings include Totemism and Exogamy (1910) and its supplement, Totemica (1937); The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead (3 vol., 1913–24); Folklore in the Old Testament (1919, abr. ed. 1923); and Anthologia Anthropologica, ed. by R. A. Downie (4 vol., 1938–39).


See studies by R. A. Downie (1940), B. Malinowski (in A Scientific Theory of Culture, 1944, repr. 1960), J. B. Vickery (1973), and R. Ackerman (1987).

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Frazer, Sir James George (1854-1941)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Best known as author of the twelve-volume The Golden Bough, first published in 1890, Sir James George Frazer was a British anthropologist, folklorist and classical scholar. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on January 1, 1854. He attended Glasgow University and then Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming a fellow of that college in 1879.

Frazer's interest in comparative religion grew as a result of his association with W. Robertson Smith at Cambridge. At the age of 36, Frazer published the twelvevolume work, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, which was his theory of religious and magical development. His distinction between magic and religion has greatly influenced anthropological thought since that time.

The Golden Bough was reissued in 1907 and then appeared in a one-volume abridged version in 1922 and in a two-volume paperback in 1957. The wealth of information contained in the work is constantly utilized by Witches and Pagans.

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