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Wicca: A Syncretic Faith

By Sable Aradia

[Snip] A syncretic religion is one that combines different spiritual beliefs and faiths to create something new. We in North America primarily know about them through the faiths that brewed in Central and South America, combining elements of Christianity and other faiths; often ones that are much older and more “primitive-feeling.” Voodoo came from a complex cauldron of Catholicism, the Yoruba faith, and, depending on region, some First Nations beliefs; Santeria came from a blending of Catholicism, West African faiths, and Central and South American indigenous healing practices. There’s a multitude of syncretic faiths that come out of the region due to the mixing of cultural influences of indigenous peoples uncomfortably blended with forcibly transplanted African-descended populations and Europeans, enough to keep an anthropologist busy for lifetimes.

But syncretism is hardly a new phenomenon. The truth is that religion is like any other human idea, and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Most existing religions came from, or were influenced strongly by, other religions or philosophies. Arguably, early Christianity could be defined as a syncretic faith that originated from a blending of Judaism, Greek philosophy, and a mixture of mystery cults of the ancient world. Judaism may, itself, have originated in Egyptian monotheism merging with the faith(s) of the Mesopotamian region, and later was likely altered by Zoroastrianism. Roman religion was strongly influenced by Greek religion. Sufism, which is a practice of Muslim mysticism that has been around likely since there has been Islam, has syncretic elements of Pantheism and Panentheism in much of its historical and present-day practice. Many First Nations religious movements have combined traditional First Nations beliefs with Christian beliefs. And there are a host of modern faith movements that are syncretic.

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