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Syncretism in simple terms is a reconciliatory agent used to create a formidable and common ground among opposing forces. Majorly, opposing beliefs and practices espoused in various schools of thought are reconciled through the practice of Syncretism. Syncretism is heavily utilized in areas, where traditions that stand discrete like in theology and religion mythology need to be unified together. On a wider front, syncretism is commonly used in literature, music, arts and other avenues, where culture is displayed, not forgetting political syncretism, which gives a rather different meaning to normal understanding of syncretism (George, 85).
In the Caribbean Islands, syncretism has been used extensively in areas such as religion, food, music and language. In religion, syncretism has been phenomenon, and here it is regarded as a major determinant in the Creolization of Caribbean culture. The people of Caribbean Islands shared a dramatic history developing form two fronts, that is, from slave trade, which siphoned Africans into the Islands as slaves and also the European imperialism, where the Islands were colonized mostly by Spain, France, and Britain. The two fronts brought a dramatic influence in the Islands producing a fabricated society that blended different cultures; sand that is the Caribbean we see today. Such fabrication was imminent in the Rastafari movement in Jamaica, which merged different proportions of Bible information and teachings, Marcus Garvey’s movement, Hinduism philosophy and practices as well as Caribbean way of life (George, 87).
In Caribbean music, syncretism has not been left behind and countries, such as Jamaica are a classic representation of that effect, where African music is incorporated in the beats and music harmony in general. As a matter of fact, there are two kinds of African influence in Caribbean music, these are: neo-African and Euro/African blend music. Neo-African influence is absolutely African and through such influence, listeners are able to ascertain connections between modern day Caribbean music and Africa. For instance, the Jamaican reggae gives a lot of respect and recognition to Ethiopia and many reggae songs have been composed to that effect. On the other hand, Euro/Africa blend is a little tedious and difficult to identify in Caribbean music, but still this force resulting from Afro-Americans has deep roots in shaping Caribbean music industry (George, 79).
In Caribbean languages, syncretism influence cannot be underestimated and approximately thirty four languages can be linked to that effect. Syncretism has led to the recognition of four distinct official languages with European descent; these are Dutch, French, English and Spanish. Besides the four official languages, syncretism has created enough room for vernacular languages to be used within the Islands. These vernaculars, commonly known as languages for popular expression, include indigenous languages, which in essence are not wide spread compared to the official ones. Also in the domain are Indict languages, whose use is limited to particular states of the island. Critical in the domain Caribbean languages are the Creole languages, which are perfect products of syncretism between African and European languages. The effect of syncretism was further scaled by the so called plantation societies, whose membership derived from Africans and politically active Europeans. The association between the two dominant groups was phenomenon in developing a pact of new distinct vernacular languages, which up to date are popular among many Caribbean Islands (George, 90).
Espiritismo is another area, where syncretism has been phenomenon for many years. Espiritismo is a dominant religious practice that is synonymous with the citizens of Puerto Rico, both in their country as well as in the United States. As a matter of fact, Espiritismo is a perfectly composed belief system detailing orientations from different parts of the world. Making the syncretism of Espiritismo are the cultures from Columbia, Africa, Catholic, and European religious orientations all of which today define the entire make up of Espiritismo. Such syncretism in Espiritismo has been instrumental in giving answers to the Puerto Rican people, who turn to Espiritismo in complex situations that require spiritual and psycho-analytic answers. A robust influence of syncretism on Espiritismo is traced to the historical development of Espiritismo in general. Indeed, this is attributed to a French educator by the name Denizard Rivail, who interestingly changed his name, thanks to the claimed prophetic revelation of his stature as a priest in those previous generations. His ever growing interest in complicated issues that warranted psychical and metaphysical interpretations formed the basis of his meetings and dialogue with some metaphysical beings (Olmos and Lizabeth, 18).
The effect of syncretism on Espiritismo can also be attributed to the increased access and availability of mediunship books in the Caribbean countries, which led to the incorporation of basic spiritual concepts into Puerto Rico’s new found belief system. Through such intermarriages between spiritualism and Espiritismo, exchanges in ideas and practices took central stage and the resultant effect was a more harmonized Espiritismo that gave precedence to many cultures and belief systems around the world (Olmos and Lizabeth, 23).
Espiritismo as a religious movement in Puerto Rico had to undergo complete setbacks in its growth. Such heinous problems were more serious in the early periods, when it was springing up. As a consequence, people who professed this religious belief or were caught by the government authorities worshipping under the umbrella of Espiritismo were subjected to the punitive punishments. The Catholic Church bagging on their influence in Puerto Rico, extended hostility towards Espiritismo adherents and they ensured that they ostracized them (Olmos and Lizabeth, 23).
Remarkably, deterrents and draw backs never played to the disadvantage of the movement as it widened its wings and became a dominant belief system in the country. As a result of this spread, the movement inevitably divided its wings into two: the first group was dominated by the middle class group and the second group dominated by the lower class group. The first group was instrumental in the general development of Puerto Rico, and being dominated by a middle income group that had enough education, they utilized strategies developed by Kardecian to enhance overall development of their country. Therefore, it is right to conclude that political changes in the island worked on the side of Espiritismo as the setbacks hardened the followers, who worked hard to spread it throughout the nation (Olmos and Lizabeth, 25).
A classical example of syncretism in North America is represented by the millenarian movement, which happened in the 19th century. For instance, the Ghost Dance Movement invented by a prophet Tayibo in the North-Western Nevada. Tayibo was an Indian descent and had spent a lot of time working in the ranch hand and through this; he was able to gather superficial understanding of European-American Cultures. Under his radical movement, he began his teaching in 1869 strongly claiming of the impending new society structure in America. Critical in his vision was the revelation that Non-Indians would be consumed by a disastrous earthquake and all Indians, including those dead, would resurrect to inherit the wealth left behind. This dubious revelation had a remarkable influence and regions from Sierra Nevada Mountains to North and Central California became prisoners of the movement. Through Indian syncretism in Ghost Dance Movement, particular dancing styles and ways of worship were developed to be followed by the followers as this would hasten the radical occurrence of the catastrophe. Hence, through this movement, critical influence of syncretism can be found, which up to date are still recognized in North-America (Olmos and Lizabeth, 49).