Frazer as euhemerist: The case of Osiris

Robert A. Segal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Frazer’s theory of religion and of myth and ritual is confusing in many ways, especially for euhemerism. In a further confusion, Frazer actually presents two versions of myth-ritualism and fails to disentangle them. In the first version, the myth provides the biography of the god of vegetation, and the ritual enacts it. In Frazer’s second version of myth-ritualism, the king is central. Yet Osiris alone is considered by J. G. Frazer to have been a king as well as a god: Reigning as a king on earth, Osiris reclaimed the Egyptians from savagery, gave them laws, and taught them to worship the gods. When Frazer turns to the myths of his other main gods of vegetation, he does not have the convenience of an annual event to tout. Many others have actually tied Jesus to Osiris. But Frazer is more struck by the thematic similarities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuhemerism and Its Uses
Subtitle of host publicationThe Mortal Gods
EditorsSyrithe Pugh
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781000356588
ISBN (Print)9780367556990
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2021


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