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Folk religion

Folk religion is a term used to describe a set of beliefs, superstitions and cultural practices transmitted from generation to generation, in addition to the formally stated creeds and beliefs of a codified major religion.

The term is also applied to the blending of folk practices with those of major religions, so that folk practices amongst people in Christian countries are called "Folk Christianity", in Islamic countries "Folk Islam", and so on.

Folk religion also can be thought of the practice of religion by lay people outside of the control of clergy or the supervision of theologians. There is occasionally tension between the practice of folk religion and the formally taught doctrines and teachings of a faith. For "folk religion" to be a meaningful category, there must be an institutional religion with a traditional teaching or professional clergy to contrast it against; in cultures that lack these things, it is difficult to speak of folk religion as a meaningful category.

Folk religion answers human needs for reassurance in times of trouble, and many of its rituals are aimed at mundane goals like seeking healing or averting misfortune. Many elements of folk religion stem from animistic or fetishistic practices, which is almost inevitable given its mundane goals and ritualistic nature. Folk religion also often aims at divination to foresee the future. The line is often blurry between the practice of folk religion and the practice of magic: see magic and religion.

In general, believers in these folk versions of a religion are usually not aware of any distinction between their folk practices and their official religion. No one consciously practices a folk religion or calls their own religious practices a folk religion. When awareness of the tension between folk religion and the formal creed of an institutional religion rises to conscious levels, and the folk religion successfully resists that tension, it is well on its way to becoming an institutional religion in its own right, and develops a body of doctrine of its own to justify its continued practice against the institutional opposition.


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