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Sir James George Frazer  (1854-1941)

 

Written and compiled by George Knowles.  

Sir James George Frazer was a leading Anthropologist, Folklorist and Classical Scholar.  A respected academic by his peers and colleagues he devoted much of his life researching the early history of mankind, on which he studied, wrote and theorized about the early magical thinking into religious thought.  His most famous book The Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion became an instant classic when first it was published in 1890.

James George Frazer was a Scotsman, born in Blythswood Square, Glasgow on the 1st January 1854.  He was the eldest of four children born by his father Daniel F. Frazer (1821–1900) and his mother Katherine Frazer, nee Bogle (d. 1899).  Katherine’s grandfather was George Bogle who is reported to have been Warren Hasting’ envoy to Tibet in 1774.  His father Daniel was a wealthy partner in the long-established firm of chemists Frazer and Green, he was also a devout follower of the Free Church of Scotland into whose doctrines James was raised.

In the mid-1860s his father Daniel purchased a new property at Helensburgh on the Gareloch.  James was enthralled with his new home and spent many hours after school roaming the Loch.  There surrounded by mountains and forests, the loch-breeze-wind rippling his shirt and blowing through his hair, he would listen to the faintly echoing bells of the church at Helensburgh.  James was so enchanted by the place that well into his middle years, he spent many of his holidays at Helensburgh.  Later he would associate the bells he first heard at Helensburgh with the “Bells of Lake Nemi” in his book:  The Golden Bough.

James was first educated at Springfield Academy and then enrolled at the Larchfield Academy in Helensburgh.  There he was tutored by his headmaster Alexander Mackenzie and excelled in Latin and Greek.  Later in 1869 he entered Glasgow University and there studied Latin under George Gilbert Ramsey, Rhetoric under John Veitch and Physics under Lord Kelvin (Sir William Thomson) the originator of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  James graduated from Glasgow University with a MA in 1874.

In 1874 James moved to Cambridge and began studying at Trinity Collage.  He graduated Cambridge with first-class honors in the Classics tripos in 1878, and due to a dissertation on Plato, was elected to a Title Alpha Fellowship in 1879.  Over the coming years his fellowship would be renewed three times, in 1885, 1890 and 1895.

He next moved on to London and there entered the Middle Temple studying Law.  This he did more to appease his father who felt he was wasting his talents on academic subjects and needed a working trade so to speak.  Four years later in 1882, James was called to the bar but never took up the practice.  Instead he chose to continue his preference for Philosophy and Anthropology.  He returned to Cambridge and embarked on a sustained program of research and writing, starting first with a translation and commentary on Paesanias, a Greek travel writer of the second century.  A work he finally finished with six volumes in 1898.

It was at Cambridge that James met and developed a friendship with the Scottish biblical scholar William Robertson Smith, who later became editor of the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  It was one of Smith’s works called Lectures on the Religion of the Semites (1889) that inspired James to consider applying comparative ethnographic methods to the study of ancient religions.  One of the methods James used in his research was to send out questionnaires to all Missionaries, Doctors and Administrators throughout the empire.  He requested information on the customs, habits and beliefs of all local inhabitants, a mammoth undertaking in those years.  His comparative study of the incoming information lead to his first book: Totemism (Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh, 1887).

Three years later in 1890 James published what would become his most celebrated work:  The Golden Bough (Macmillan).  This first edition was in two volumes and became an instant classical best seller.  He would later expand this book with two increasing editions.  The second edition in 1900 was in three volumes and the third edition in 1915 had twelve volumes.

James spent the next six years traveling extensively in Europe preparing to resume his work on Pausanias.  Starting in Greece he visited such places as, Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Ithome, Olympia, Helicon, Thebes, Aegion and Delphi before returning to Cambridge.  Back in Cambridge he met and married Elisabeth Johanna de Boys (nicknamed Lilly) on the 22nd April 1896.  Lilly was a daughter of Sigismund Adelsdorfer, a French merchant, and widow of Charles Baylee Grove, a master mariner with whom she had two children.  James, Lilly and her two growing daughters all lived together in Cambridge, although James constantly complained about the noise her daughter’s made.  Lilly however was a devoted wife and a French authority on the ethnology of the dance, she did much to promote his work in France, Germany and Italy, where later he became widely known.

In 1904 James studied Hebrew under the tutelage of Robert H. Kennett, then in 1908 was elected to the first Chair of Social Anthropology in Britain and based at the University of Liverpool.  James however never liked Liverpool and soon became disgruntled.  He disliked the noise and bustle of the large industrial city and longed for the tranquility, peace and quiet of the tended parks and gardens in Cambridge.  He returned to Cambridge a year later and continued his research and writings.  In 1914 at the start of the Great World War, James was knighted and became known as “Sir James”.

Sir James and Lady Frazer spend the war years sequester in a small flat in the Middle Temple, London to which Sir James’s nominal membership of the bar entitled him.  Lady Frazer devoted herself to guarding his peace, encouraging him to write and continue his researches.  During the post war years they traveled much of the continent together pursuing his research.  Then in 1930 while giving a speech at the annual dinner of the Royal Literary Fund, Sir James was suddenly struck down with blindness as his eyes filled with blood.

Despite this handicap, Sir James simply engaged secretaries and amanuenses to write his dictation and continued on with his work.  He maintained his unstinting out put until he died of natural causes on the 7th May 1941 at Fen Causeway in Cambridge.  Just a few hours later his devoted wife Lilly followed him from this world.  They were buried together side-by-side in St Giles’s Cemetery, Cambridge.

 

 

Final resting place of James Frazer and his wife Lilly

 

His book “The Golden Bough” greatly inspired the likes of Gerald B. Gardner and other early pioneers of the Wicca/ Witchcraft movement.  His depiction of Rex Nemorensis as the King of the woods and Diana as Queen of the Witches, formed the theology and basic structure of many eclectic traditions and groups practicing today.  While his books contain a storehouse of ethnographical information, academics and scholars of today while respecting his early work, now dismiss his findings and theories as belonging in the past, outdated by the current orientation of anthropology in light of new studies in Archaeology and History.

Sir James was a prolific writer through the course of his lifetime, not only of books but also as a translator of old manuscripts from Hebrew, Latin and Greek.  He also received many academic honor’s, including:  Fellow of the British Academy; Hon. Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; Doctor Honoris Causa of the Universities of Paris and Strasbourg; Associate Member of the Institut de France; Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur; Commander of the Order of Leopold (Belgium); Corresponding Member of the Prussian Academy of Science; and Extraordinary Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science.

A select bibliography:

TOTEMISM, 1887

THE GOLDEN BOUGH, 1890 (2 vols.)

TRANSLATION OF PAUSANIAS’S: DESCRIPTION OF GREECE, 1897.

GOLDEN BOUGH, SECOND EDITION, 1900 (3 vols.)

PAUSANIAS AND OTHER GREEK SKETCHES, 1900 (reissued as Studies in Greek Scenery, Legend and History, 1917)

LECTURE ON THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE KINGSHIP, 1905 (reissued as The Magical Origins of Kings, 1920

ADONIS, ATTIS, OSIRIS, 1906

PSYCHE'S TASK, 1909

TOTEMISM AND EXOGAMY, 1910 (4 vols.)

THE DYING GOD, 1911

THE MAGIC ART AND THE EVOLUTION OF KINGS, 1911 (2 vols.)

TABOO AND PERILS OF THE SOUL, 1911

Ed.: LETTERS OF WILLIAM COWPER, 1912

SPIRITS OF THE CORN AND OF THE WILD, 1912 (2 vols.)

THE SCAPEGOAT, 1913

BALDER THE BEAUTIFUL, 1913 (2 vols.)

GOLDEN BOUGH, 1911-1915 (12 vols. - abridged edition in 1922)

Ed.: ESSAYS OF JOSEPH ADDISON, 1915

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AND THE WORSHIP OF THE DEAD, 1913-24

FOLKLORE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, 1918 (3 vols.)

SIR ROGER DE COVERLY AND OTHER LITERARY PIECES, 1920

Ed. and transl.: The Library by Apollodorus, 1921 (2 vols.)

THE WORSHIP OF NATURE, 1926

THE GORGON'S HEAD AND OTHER LITERARY PIECES, 1927

Ed. and transl.: Fasti by Ovid, 1929 (5 vols.)

THE GROWTH OF PLATO'S IDEAL THEORY, 1930

GRAECIA ANTIQUA (compiled with A.W. Van Buren), 1930

MYTHS OF THE ORIGIN OF FIRE, 1930

GARNERED SHEAVES, 1931

THE FEAR OF THE DEAD IN PRIMITIVE RELIGION, 1933-36 (3 vols.)

CREATION AND EVOLUTION IN PRIMITIVE COSMOGONIES AND OTHER PIECES, 1935

AFTERMATH: A SUPPLEMENT TO THE GOLDEN BOUGH, 1936

TOTEMICA: A SUPPLEMENT TO TOTEMISM AND EXOGAMY, 1937

ANTHOLOGIA ANTHROPOLOGICA, 1938-39 (4 vols.)

MAGIC AND RELIGION, 1944

 

Sources:

Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft  - By Raven Grimassi

The Golden Bough  - By Oxford World's Classics

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press 2004

Who Was Who, A & C Black 1920–2008; online edn. Oxford University Press, Dec 2007

 

 

First published on the 23rd March 2001, updated 07th May 2009 © George Knowles

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Traditional Writings:

 

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Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColoursMagickal DaysStones and GemsElements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /

 

Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /

 

Other things of interest:

 

Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology)Esbats & Full MoonsLinks to Personal Friends & ResourcesWicca/Witchcraft ResourcesWhat's a spell?Circle Casting and Sacred Space /  Pentagram - PentacleMarks of a WitchThe Witches PowerThe Witches HatAn esoteric guide to visiting LondonSatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  /  Part 2 Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /  The History of ThanksgivingI have a Dream, the 1963 speach by civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King /  Auras by Graham Furnell - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

Sabbats and Rituals:

 

Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:  Samhain / YuleImbolcOstara /  BeltaneLithaLammasMabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron MagickMirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrowFoxFrog and ToadsGoat / HoneybeeKangarooLionOwlPhoenixRabbits and HaresRavenRobin RedbreastSheep SpiderSquirrelSwansWild Boar /  Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow /  Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  ElderAlso see:  The Willow Tree (Folk Music)

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

 Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:   / Apophyllite  / Amber AmethystAquamarineAragoniteAventurineBlack TourmalineBloodstoneCalciteCarnelianCelestiteCitrineChrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / FluoriteGarnet /  Hematite Herkimer DiamondLabradoriteLapis LazuliMalachiteMoonstoneObsidianOpalPyriteQuartz (Rock Crystal)Rose QuartzRubySeleniteSeraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodaliteSunstoneThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakeningThe Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murder by WitchcraftThe Fairy Witch of ClonmelA Battleship, U-boat, and a WitchThe Troll-Tear (A story for Children)Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-LanternThe Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the MageAgrippaAidan A. KellyAlbertus Magnus “Albert the Great”Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” Alison HarlowAmber KAnna Franklin /  Anodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey  / Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite Austin Osman SpareBiddy EarlyBridget ClearyCarl Llewellyn WeschckeCecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey LelandCharles Walton /  Christina Oakley Harrington /  Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) /   Dion FortuneDolores Aschroft-NowickiDorothy MorrisonDoreen ValienteEdward FitchEleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” /  Dr. John Dee and Edward KellyDr. Leo Louis Martello /  Eliphas LeviErnest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry /  Fiona Horne /  Friedrich von SpeeFrancis Barrett /  Gerald B. GardnerGavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gwydion PendderwenHans Holzer /  Helen DuncanHerman Slater "Horrible Herman" /  Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" MurrellJanet Farrar & Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne John George Hohman /  John GerardJohn Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJohannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von EckartshausenLaurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis Spence /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General”Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata /  Monique Wilson the “Queen of the WitchesMontague SummersNicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellersMrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-RavenheartOld Dorothy ClutterbuckOld George Pickingill /   Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsusPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip Emmons Isaac Bonewits Philip HeseltonRaymond BucklandReginald ScotRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /  Rudolf Steiner /  Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & DruidsSabrina - The Ink WitchScott CunninghamSelena FoxSilver Ravenwolf /  Sir Francis DashwoodSir James George FrazerS.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  StarhawkStewart FarrarSybil LeekTed AndrewsThe Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather /  Thomas AdyVera Chapman /  Victor Henry AndersonVivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest

 

 

Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)

 

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