1st Edition

A Century of James Frazer’s The Golden Bough Shaking the Tree, Breaking the Bough

Edited By Stephanie Lynn Budin, Caroline J. Tully Copyright 2025
    360 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This multidisciplinary volume examines the ongoing effects of James G. Frazer’s The Golden Bough in modern Humanities and its wide-ranging influence across studies of ancient religions, literature, historiography and reception studies.

    It begins by exploring the life and times of Frazer himself and the writing of The Golden Bough in its cultural milieu. The volume then goes on to cover a wide range of topics, including: ancient Near Eastern religion and culture; Minoan religion and in particular the origins of notions of Minoan matriarchy; Frazer’s influence on the study of Graeco-Roman religion and magic; Frazer’s influence on modern Pagan religions; and the effects of Frazer’s works in modern culture and scholarship generally. Chapters examine how modern academia – and beyond – continues to be influenced by the otherwise discredited theories in The Golden Bough, ideas such as Sacred Marriage and the incessant Fertility of Everything. The book demonstrates how scholarship within the Humanities as well as practitioners of alternative religions and the common public remain under the thrall of Frazer over one hundred years since the publication of the abridged edition of The Golden Bough, and what we must do to shake off that influence. 

    A Century of James Frazer’s The Golden Bough is of interest to scholars and students from a wide range of disciplines, including Ancient History, History of Religion, Comparative Religion, Classical Studies, Archaeology, Historiography, Anthropology, Folklore, and Reception Studies.

    List of Figures

    List of Contributors

    Editors’ Introduction


    1. The Golden Bough: setting the scene – Tim Parkin

    2. Sir James Frazer and The Golden Bough – Ronald Hutton

    3. “Off With His Head!”: Wilhelm Mannhardt’s Wald- und Feldkulte at the Roots of The Golden Bough - Frederico Delgado Rosa

    4. The Golden Bough and the Press – Julia Phillips

    5. Hypothesis as Theory: The Golden Bough and the Obstinate Nostrums in Religious Studies and the Humanities – Ryan C. Chester

    Ancient Near East

    6. Ištar’s Sexual Agency in Akkadian Love Literature – Martti Nissinen

    7. Dying and Rising Gods in Ancient Mesopotamian Religion and the Frazerian Paradigm of Fertility Religion – JoAnn Scurlock

    8. The Fads that Drive Us: From Frazer, Freud, and Foucault to Butler and Connell – Stephanie Lynn Budin

    9. The Hebrew Bible Scapegoat: Complicating a Frazerian Typology – Caroline Ward-Smith

    Aegean and Classical

    10. Embracing the Goddess: Evans and the Minoan feminine divine – Christine Morris

    11. Guess Who’s Back, Back Again? Graeber and Wengrow’s Resurrection of Minoan Matriarchy in ‘The Dawn of Everything’ – Stephen O’Brien

    12. Same same, but different: Frazer’s Sympathetic Law of Similarity and the study of Greco-Roman defixiones – Saskia Moorrees

    13. Reading about Nymphs and Roman Soldiers with and without Frazer – Isabel Köster

    Pagan Studies

    14. Surviving Frazerisms: twenty-first century Witchcraft and the eternal return – Helen Cornish

    15. Moon and Huntress: Frazer’s Arician Diana in Italian-American Witchcraft – Caroline J. Tully

    16. Lilith from Demoness to Mother Goddess: a Frazerian legacy in French Luciferian Wicca? – Vanessa Toupin-Lavallée

    17. Contemporary Tree Lore and the Ancient Worship of Trees: The Contributions of James Frazer in the Contemporary Study of Religion and Ecology – Ive Brissman

    The Modern World

    18. Derivative and Associative Popular Frazerism: A Cultural Complex at Work in Late Modern Europe – Alessandro Testa

    19. Frazer and the Magical Oath – Fritz Lampe


    20. Diana’s Mirror: The Reflective Surface of Frazer’s The Golden Bough – Robert Fraser



    Stephanie Lynn Budin is an ancient historian specializing in Greece and the Near East. She has published numerous books and articles on sex, gender, mythology, religion, and iconography, including Freewomen, Patriarchal Authority, and the Accusation of Prostitution (Routledge 2021) and Artemis (Routledge 2016). She considers herself to be the world expert on non-existent prostitution.

    Caroline J. Tully is an archaeologist and curator. Her research interests include religion and ritual in the Bronze and Iron Age Mediterranean, Reception of the Ancient World, and Contemporary Paganisms. She is the author of many articles on ancient religion as well as the book The Cultic Life of Trees in the Prehistoric Aegean, Levant, Egypt, and Cyprus (Peeters Publishers), and she is curator of the exhibit “Amor et Mors: Vessels for the Beautiful Body in Life and Death” at the Ian Potter Museum of Art.