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Folk Religions Worldwide Are Thriving Thanks To Women’s Leadership

By Cathy Lynn Grossman

In her Georgia home, Tammy Bloome says her rosary to Santa Muerte, a skull-faced version of the Grim Reaper in woman’s garb.

In Maryland, Sonia Doi gathers with her fellow spiritists — mostly women — to discuss the philosophical vision of reincarnation.

Folk religions such as Santa Muerte and spiritism are thriving around the world, often powered by women as followers — and leaders.

A new Pew Research study projecting the growth of world religions found that in 2010 about 405 million people (roughly 6 percent of the world’s population) identified with folk or traditional religions without formal creeds, sacred texts and institutional structures.

Unlike Christianity, Judaism and Islam, historically all led by men, or the philosophies of the East such as Buddhism where male scholars and monks dominate, folk religions — so close to village or tribe or ancestry — are often practiced and led by women.

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