Folk religion

Folk religion

Folk religion consists of ethnic or regional religious customs under the umbrella of an organized religion, but outside of official doctrine and practices.[1] Don Yoder has defined "folk religion" as "the totality of all those views and practices of religion that exist among the people apart from and alongside the strictly theological and liturgical forms of the official religion."[2]

The term "folk religion" is generally held to encompass two related but separate subjects. The first is the religious dimension of folk culture, or the folk-cultural dimensions of religion. The second refers to the study of syncretisms between two cultures with different stages of formal expression, such as the melange of African folk beliefs and Roman Catholicism that led to the development of Vodun and Santería, and similar mixtures of formal religions with folk cultures.[3]

Chinese folk religion, Folk Christianity, Folk Hinduism, and Folk Islam are examples of folk religion associated with major religions. There is sometimes tension between the practice of folk religion and the formally taught doctrines and teachings of a faith.[citation needed] In other cases, practices that originated in folk religion are adopted as part of the official religion.[citation needed] The term is also used, especially by the clergy of the faiths involved, to describe the desire of people who otherwise infrequently attend religious worship, do not belong to a church or similar religious society, and who have not made a formal profession of faith in a particular creed, to have religious weddings or funerals, or (among Christians) to have their children baptised.[1]

Aspects of many, but not all, folk religions include:


Folk Christianity

Botánicas such as this one in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts sell religious goods such as statues of saints and candles decorated with prayers alongside folk medicine and amulets.

Folk Christianity is defined differently by various scholars. Definitions include "the Christianity practiced by a conquered people;"[4] Christianity as most people live it – a term used to "overcome the division of beliefs into Orthodox and unorthodox;"[5] Christianity as impacted by superstition as practiced by certain geographical Christian groups;[6] Christianity defined "in cultural terms without reference to the theologies and histories."[7]

Folk Islam

Folk Islam is an umbrella term used to collectively describe the native folk beliefs, superstitions, and practices of various cultures blended with Islam.[8] Folk Islam has been described as the Islam of the "urban poor, country people, and tribes",[9] in contrast to orthodox or "High" Islam.[10]

Folk Islam may include:

Folk Hinduism

The case of Folk Hinduism lies slightly different from "Folk Islam" or "Folk Christianity", as the term Hinduism itself was coined in the 19th century as an umbrella term for all folk religion practiced in India. But today, "Folk Hinduism" (also Indian Folk Religion or Popular Hinduism) may still be distinguished from "high" forms of Hindu philosophy, or mystical or ascetic forms. Folk Hinduism is emphatically polytheistic.

See also


  1. ^ a b Bowman, Marion (2004). "Chapter 1: Phenomenology, Fieldwork, and Folk Religion". In Sutcliffe, Steven. Religion: empirical studies. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0754641589. 
  2. ^ Yoder, Don (Januuary 1974). "Toward a Definition of Folk Religion". Western Folklore 33 (1): 1–15. 
  3. ^ Don Yoder, "Toward a Definition of Folk Religion", above
  4. ^ Brown, Peter Robert Lamont (2003). The rise of Western Christendom. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003. ISBN 0631221387, p. 341. Last accessed July 2009.
  5. ^ Rock, Stella (2007). Popular religion in Russia. Routledge ISBN 0415317711, p. 11. Last accessed July 2009.
  6. ^ Snape, Michael Francis (2003). The Church of England in industrialising society. Boydell Press, ISBN 1843830140, p. 45. Last accessed July 2009
  7. ^ Corduan, Winfried (1998). Neighboring faiths: a Christian introduction to world religions. InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0830815244, p. 37. Last accessed July 2009.
  8. ^ Cook, Chris (2009). Spirituality and Psychiatry. RCPsych Publications. p. 242. ISBN 978-1904671718. 
  9. ^ Ridgeon, Lloyd (2003). Major World Religions: From Their Origins To The Present. Routledge. p. 280. ISBN 978-0415297967. 
  10. ^ Malešević, Siniša et al. (2007). Ernest Gellner and Contemporary Social Thought. Cambridge University Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0521709415. 
  11. ^ Masud, Muhammad Khalid et al. (2009). Islam and Modernity: Key Issues and Debates. Edinburgh University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0748637935. 
  12. ^ Makris, J. P. (2006). Islam in the Middle East: A Living Tradition. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 49. ISBN 978-1405116039. 
  13. ^ Chelkowski, Peter J. et al. (1988). Ideology and Power in the Middle East: Studies in Honor of George Lenczowski. Duke University Press. p. 286. ISBN 978-0822307815. 
  14. ^ Hinde, Robert (2009). Why Gods Persist: A Scientific Approach to Religion. Routledge. p. 99. ISBN 978-0415497619. 
  15. ^ Hefner, Robert W. et al. (1997). Islam In an Era of Nation-States: Politics and Religious Renewal in Muslim Southeast Asia. University of Hawaii Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0824819576. 
  16. ^ Khan, I. K. (2006). Islam in Modern Asia. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd.. p. 281. ISBN 978-8175330948. 

Further reading

  • Thomas, Keith (1971). Religion and the Decline of Magic. Studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. ISBN 0297002201. 
  • Nepstad, Sharon Erickson (1996). "Popular Religion, Protest, and Revolt: The Emergence of Political Insurgency in the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran Churches of the 1960s–80s". In Smith, Christian. Disruptive Religion: The Force of Faith in Social Movement Activism. New York: Routledge. pp. 105–124. ISBN 0415914051. 
  • Nash, June (1996). "Religious Rituals of Resistance and Class Consciousness in Bolivian Tin-Mining Communities". In Smith, Christian. Disruptive Religion: The Force of Faith in Social Movement Activism. New York: Routledge. pp. 87–104. ISBN 0415914051. 
  • Gorshunova . Olga V.(2008). Svjashennye derevja Khodzhi Barora…, ( Sacred Trees of Khodzhi Baror: Phytolatry and the Cult of Female Deity in Central Asia) in Etnoragraficheskoe Obozrenie, n° 1, pp. 71–82. ISSN 0869-5415. (Russian).
  • 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 Guatemala. 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.
  • Vineeta Sinha, Problematizing Received Categories: Revisiting ‘Folk Hinduism’ and ‘Sanskritization’, Current Sociology, Vol. 54, No. 1, 98-111 (2006)
  • Vineeta Sinha, Persistence of ‘Folk Hinduism’ in Malaysia and Singapore, Australian Religion Studies Review Vol. 18 No. 2 (Nov 2005):211-234
  • Stuart H. Blackburn, Inside the Drama-House: Rama Stories and Shadow Puppets in South India, UCP (1996), ch. 3: " Ambivalent Accommodations: Bhakti and Folk Hinduism".
  • Stuart H. Blackburn, Death and Deification: Folk Cults in Hinduism, History of Religions (1985).
  • David N. Gellner, Hinduism. None, one or many?, Social Anthropology (2004), 12: 367-371 Cambridge University

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