On the term “Syncretism”

Hello all,

I’m sharing this thread from Twitter as a conversation-starter. Bordeaux criticises “syncretism” as the only term used for combo-religion, and proposes a couple of synonyms with slightly different nuances – so that we can use more than one word to discuss this phenomeon, approaching it from different angles and with a different kind of emphasis.

I’m pretty sure I learnt the term “syncretism” from the Cauldron back in the day. I want to emphasise that the intent isn’t to criticise or start a fight, more like…because this is a term used a lot here, I thought it might interest people as it interested me :) and be a conversation starter.

What do we all think? Are these alternative angles/words useful? Are there other synonyms for “syncretism” which you use, and why (or in what contexts) do you prefer them?

(Somewhat unrelated, but I was talking on my personal tumblr last night about complex/contradictory genders (like agender lesbian or genderqueer man), and that we could understand them in two different ways:

  • The first being like a cake, with separate ingredients mixed into a new whole where you can no longer see the original ingredients
  • the second being like, a pile of different coloured tissue paper, glass or acetate tossed on top of each other, creating a wholly new colour in the center, but with the original colours all visible at the fringes, and existing in a definite Order; one of my friends suggested the layers of a musical piece, and that works nicely too, where there’s a complete new thing in the center but you can pick out the differences between the bass line and harmony too.

I mention that because it feels relevant to looking at syncretic/hybridised/creole deities and religions, in terms of whether…the outcome is a kind of cake, or a pile of layered (but partially see-through) coloured glass.)

Over to you!

Message Board: Join in our discussion.