Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Frazer and "The Golden Bough"

After today's class, I kept wondering why Frazer would use the "golden bough" from Vergil's "Aeneid" as his title for his analysis of religion, magic, and science.
The Sibyl tells Aeneas in Book 6 to seek the golden bough, which is sacred to Proserpina (Persephone), the queen of the underworld. His acquisition of the golden bough allows Aeneas to travel through the underworld safely to meet his father, Anchises. I think it is interesting that the Golden Bough connects to the Sibyl, who is a prophetess similar to Madame Sostris in Eliot's "The Wasteland."
Perhaps Frazer calls his work "The Golden Bough" to link the mysterious talisman type object symbolizing life in midst of death with his ideas of magic and religion. In Book 6, Vergil creates an epic simile comparing the golden bough to mistletoe, considered a magical plant because in the dead of winter when everything else appeared dead, mistletoe still flourished. The “golden bough" that still flourishes may stand for magic, since Frazer discusses the infallible nature of magic in the excerpt we read today. Or perhaps the “golden bough” represents something else. What do you all think?


Chloe said...

I think Julia makes an excellent point in connecting the golden bough to the infallible nature of magic. Unfortunately, I haven't had the pleasure of reading the Aeneid. However, based on Julia's analysis, I can definitely see how the golden bough symbolizes life in the midst of death (despite the wasteland's completely morbid tone). I feel that the golden bough could potentially signify the cooperation between religion and magic. When i think of a bough, I think of a single branch stretching out of a tree. The idea of this branch, reaching beyond its foundation of life, makes me think that religion is perhaps a "reaching" aspect of its foundational tree of magic.

the lyreblog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C-Sted said...

I think that the golden bough symbolically combines two of Frazer's main interests - fertility myths and magical "formulas". As Julia said, the golden bough is connected with mistletoe, a Roman symbol for perpetual growth and potency. However, the golden bough is also a "key" of sorts to the underworld. In order for Aeneas to reach Dis (the underworld), he was given specific tasks to carry out by the Sibyl. These tasks correspond to a magical rite of sorts. If Frazer's theory is correct, such rites point to the magical ceremony underlying more advanced religious thought.

Anonymous said...

simply dropping by to say hello