Folk Christianity

Folk Christianity

Folk Christianity is composed of Christian ideas and practices outside the approval or authority of a religious establishment — Roman Catholic, Protestant, or other.

These ideas may arrive when the religious themes of conquered, colonized, or converted people are blended with Christian beliefs through a process of syncretism. Other folk Christian ideas — such as the superstitions surrounding the wearing of scapulars — may arise within fully-Christian communities and might represent circumstantial similarities to pre-Christian beliefs even more so than a continuation thereof.

Folk magic, tribal animism, and well known historical religions such as Judaism, Odinism, Lukumi, and Zoroastrianism have all combined with Christian beliefs to produce various instances of folk Christianity. Examples include the recital of Jewish Psalms for relief of pain by Catholics in Mexico, and the use of Catholic Holy Water as a cure for the ancient Mediterranean and pre-Christian folkloric belief in the Evil Eye in Italy, Sicily, Greece and Malta.

Often related to syncretism are the varieties of Catholicism practiced around the world. Practices that are identified by outside observers as "folk Catholicism" vary from place to place, and often vary as well from official Roman Catholic Church doctrine. Such practices occur everywhere that Catholicism is a major religion, not only in the often-cited cases of Latin America and the West Indies. Folk accommodations between orthodox Catholicism and local beliefs can be found in Gaelic Scotland, the Philippines, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Poland. (See also folk religion.)

Many common folk Catholic practices are local elaborations of Catholic custom, and do not contradict orthodox Catholic doctrine. The term used by the Catholic hierarchy for such practices is popular piety. Examples of such practices include compadrazgo in modern Latin America, which developed from standard medieval European Catholic practices that fell out of favor in Europe after the seventeenth century, and ritual pilgrimages in medieval and modern Europe. Modern folk Catholic beliefs and practices include miracle stories about priests in Ireland, stories about apparitions of the Virgin Mary and other saints in Spain, and folk practices surrounding vows to saints in Latin America and Europe. The church hierarchy takes a pragmatic stance towards popular piety, and may often declare Marian apparitions and similar miracles "worthy of belief" (e.g. Our Lady of Fatima), or will confirm the cult of local saints, without actually endorsing or recommending belief.

Other forms of folk Catholic practices are based on syncretism with non-Catholic beliefs and may involve the syncretism of Catholic saints and non-Christian deities. Some of these folk Catholic forms have come to be identified as separate religions, as is the case with Caribbean and Brazilian syncretisms between Catholicism and West African religions. The latter include Vodou, candomblé, espiritismo, macumba and santeria.Unlike the examples of "popular piety," these syncretic religions are generally rejected by the Catholic hierarchy.

Complex syncretisms between Catholic practice and indigenous or Native American belief systems are also common in Maya communities of Guatemala and Quechua communities of Peru, to give just two of many examples. Unlike the syncretic Afro-Catholic religions named above, these syncretisms are typically not named as separate religions. Rather, their practitioners generally regard themselves as "good Catholics" (Brintnall 1979; Allen 2002).

Catholicism in Asia, particularly in the Philippines, is also highly syncretic in nature. It has profound influences from the distinct indigenous cultures, Hindu culture and, to a lesser extent, Buddhist culture.

Other Folk Christianity

Like Catholicism, other branches of Christianity are prevalent with examples of folk Christianity. For example, the use of holy water as a magical curative by a Presbyterian in Scotland, a Russian Orthodox in Kazakhstan, or a Pentacostalist in Brazil would all be considered folk Christianity because although each belongs to a denomination that believes in the power of God to heal, none of these denominations supports the idea that holy water alone has healing properties.


*Allen, Catherine. "The Hold Life Has: Coca and Cultural Identity in an Andean Community." Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989; second edition, 2002.
*Badone, Ellen, ed. "Religious Orthodoxy and Popular Faith in European Society." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
*Bastide, Roger. "The African Religions of Brazil: Toward a Sociology of the Interpenetration of Civilizations." Trans. by Helen Sebba. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.
*Brintnal, Douglas. "Revolt against the Dead: The Modernization of a Mayan Community in the Highlands of Gatemala." New York: Gordon and Breach, 1979.
*Christian, William A., Jr. "Apparitions in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.
*Johnson, Paul Christopher. "Secrets, Gossip, and Gods: The Transformation of Brazilian Candomblé." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
*Nutini, Hugo. "Ritual Kinship: Ideological and Structural Integration of the Compadrazgo System in Rural Tlaxcala." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.
*Nutini, Hugo. "Todos Santos in Rural Tlaxcala: A Syncretic, Expressive, and Symbolic Analysis of the Cult of the Dead." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
*Taylor, Lawrence J. "Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics." Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995.

ee also

* Folk religion
* Christian mythology
* Benedicaria
* Hoodoo
* Santeria
* Palo Mayombe
* Voodoo
* Espiritismo

External links

* [ Folk Christianity in the Philippines]

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