A Surprise Readalong!

The other day when I posted about The Golden Thread, Cleo (who blogs over at Classical Carousel) said she had at first thought it was The Golden Bough and gotten all excited.  It turns out that both of us have wanted to read it for a long time, so we decided to have a readalong, and why not start right away?  So here it is, the Spontaneous Golden Bough Readalong, and anybody is welcome to join us, should they wish to read 800+ pages of  highly dodgy but entertaining anthropology.

We've decided on a schedule of 2-3 chapters a week; a chapter per day is too much, because some of them are very long.  So we've got some elasticity in case we run into some heavy-duty sections.  My copy has 69 chapters, which makes for some months of reading.  This is a pretty relaxed deal, and we aren't sure yet how often either of us will post.  I might go for every two weeks, if I have enough to say about it.  And my husband made an image for me, because I like images.

If you're not familiar with The Golden Bough, it's a very early work of armchair anthropology in which Frazer compared mythologies from all over the world and postulated that all religions spring from a common root of belief in a fertility solar god who dies and is reborn.  Everybody thought it was fabulous for a little while, it was a huge hit, but as anthropology matured, Frazer's theories were quickly shown to be speculative and not terribly relevant to reality.  However, The Golden Bough had an absolutely enormous influence on the literary and artistic world and is still worth reading today -- just not for learning about actual history and religion.  Check out the Wikipedia article for more details.

One result of Frazer's work was that Robert Graves took his theories and ran with them -- and wrote The White Goddess, which I read and posted on a few years ago. 

The original edition of The Golden Bough eventually ballooned to 12 volumes.  I don't think anybody ever reads it.  My copy is abridged, which makes it well over 800 pages, and is an American edition printed in 1951, with the actual copyright in 1922.  I think it's probably the one everybody does read.

I'm excited to have some accountability for this, because I've tried to read it before, but lost momentum.  But I really want to read it, so this is great.


  1. Wow. Impressive. Best of luck. I am at this moment trying to generate the mental energy to write about a novel where a solar fertility god(dess) dies and is reborn etc. etc.

  2. Spontaneous, is right! I'm glad we're jumping in quickly. I wonder if anyone will have the fortitude to join us? I'm so curious about this book now and looking forward to starting! Thanks for suggesting this!

  3. Oh I have this somewhere and like you, I started it many, many years ago, but fizzled out. Mine is a glossy illustrated version I think. I will hunt it out, but cannot promise anything right now. have started back at work recently and honestly don't know how I managed to fit everything in before (pre-Covid)!

    PS what do you think about the blogger stuff happening back stage? I like the new slick look and may even update my front page...! May even write a housekeeping post about it.

  4. Brona, I'm still trying to figure out some of the arcane symbols! :D I don't know, I'll have to play with it some more.

  5. When I first read this, I thought you were talking about the book!! :-D
    But yes, I'm still working my way around the new symbols in blogger too. The preview eye is a bit creepy. I just hope it makes it easier for non-blogspot folks to comment on our blogs....

    And I'm in!
    The Golden Bough Intro Post
    I think :-)


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