Religious syncretism exhibits blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions. This can occur for many reasons, and the latter scenario happens quite commonly in areas where multiple religious traditions exist in proximity and function actively in the culture, or when a culture is conquered, and the conquerors bring their religious beliefs with them, but do not succeed in entirely eradicating the old beliefs or, especially, practices.
Jenavira over at Essais has recently reviewed a book which includes the subject of religious syncretism. According to her review the author misses the mark.
But he never gets syncretism, never seems to be able to move beyond “but that's not how Christianity works” and “but that can't really be real,” even though he obviously really, really wants to.
On the flip side, Celestite from A Pagan Tapestry takes a pretty strong stance against the syncretism of Wicca and Christianity.
How can you possibly be honest in your beliefs and say that you believe in both?
I know it is hard for some people, but you cannot walk these two spiritual paths at the same time.
Okay, cue the shooting off of the mouth. On the one hand, I can almost understand the frustration of seeing someone supposedly "pervert" one's personal religion but I have to throw my lot in with the pro-syncretism side. For one thing, no religion is entirely "pure". There is no such thing as a religion that is not, at least in some part, influenced by others. And we all know that when a religion is influenced by another various things, traditions, ideas, etc., get "borrowed". Even if the influential aspects died out hundreds, or thousands, of years ago and their meanings have been largely forgotten they're still there.
While I'm not a Christian or a Wiccan I can empathize with the desire to mix the two. After all, many of the Christian holidays are pagan in origin and those same pagan holidays make up the eight festivals of modern Wicca. I can clearly envision a Wiccan celebrating Christmas. Hell, for a few years I considered myself Wiccan and did just that. Trying to convince others to keep the two completely seperate seems a little, well, desperate to me. It stinks of some deep and unresolved issues with Christianity that one might be trying to distance oneself from. (Not that I'm a psychoanalyst or anything, this is just the coinage of my brain, to mutilate Shakespeare.) And just to be clear let's not forget that Wicca itself is a syncretic religion which draws on Celtic traditions as well as Rosicrucian, O.T.O. and other paths. Wicca itself is a perfect example of religious syncretism.
Now let's forget about Wicca and Christianity for a moment and consider other syncretic religions. How 'bout Voodou? Yes, it's a religion, not just a practice for those three of you who don't already know that. And it's a beautiful mix of African, Roman Catholic and American Indian traditions. What about the blending of the ancient Greco-Roman pantheons? What about the deities borrowed from Roman provinces that became established figures in the Roman pantheon? Can you say Cybele? What about Jewitchery, Rastafari, etc., etc.? The list goes on and on ad infinitum.
My point is that railing against religious syncretism is pointless; it's like trying to break a dam with a toothpick. Its rich history goes back to the dawn of spirituality. In fact, syncretism makes up the larger part of religious studies. You can't have religion without some form of syncretism; that's what some people just don't seem to grasp. That's why I made this rant, er, post; I'm here to help.