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 Santeria, 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]

Examples of folk religionEdit

Appearances of religious figuresEdit

Main article: Perceptions of religious imagery in natural phenomena

Popular theophanies, and similar phenomena like Marian apparitions, originating outside the formal liturgy and hierarchy of the faiths in question.

Power or protective objectsEdit

Main article: Amulet

Protective qualities ascribed to religious objects like a particular copy of the Bible, Voodoo pouches, a crucifix, stones, crystals, eagle feathers, or any other "power" object.


Faith healingEdit

Main article: Faith healing

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 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

Further readingEdit

  • 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).

External linksEdit


de:Volksglaube hr:Pučke religije lb:Volleksglawen ja:民間信仰 no:Folketro nn:Folketru pl:Religie etniczne sv:Folktro zh:民间宗教