Syncretism is the conciliation of different doctrines or different positions. Syncretism, in other words, implies the fusion of different elements that sometimes lack internal coherence. We can find it in different spheres. In cultural sphere, it is a result of the process that occurs when two or more peoples come into contact and the traditions of both peoples begin to mix. In some occasions, it is a forced assimilation of the culture that dominates. It is a way of trying to bring together different doctrines that previously had no coherence whatsoever. The concept has been used on many occasions by cultural anthropology to refer to culture clashes that for reasons of obligation are seen in the need to live together for a long period of time.


Related topics

Jainism, Sikhism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism

What is syncretism?

The word syncretism means or is related to the process by which different cultural or religious expressions are reconciled, mixed or amalgamated to create a new tradition. It is the fusion of different elements that do not have coherence or previous relationship.


The word syncretism comes from the Greek words συγκρητισμος (syncretismós), word that is composed by the prefix συν- (sin-) that we see present in synaesthesia, symbiosis or idiosyncrasy, this word is united to a word that can derive from the demonym “cretense”, for which we lean on the historical reference that Plutarch comments in the chapter of the “Fraternal Love” in his Moralities, that tells us that the cretense put aside their internal differences in periods of war; of the term κερας -ατος, which means horn, and if we see it from the point of view of war, it refers to the wings or army flanks, in each one of which was grouped a town or region, which united with its allies against the invaders; or more probably from the verb κεραννυμι, which meant to mix or melt, and from which the word ceramic derives.

Religious syncretism

Religious syncretism is a spontaneous process that arises as a consequence of cultural changes between different peoples. Many times, it occurs in an obligatory way, when there is an invasion of a certain place. It is a process that tries to overcome a cultural crisis caused by different religious traditions. In the same way, it can happen when two religions try to coexist in a harmonious way in the same community.

Cultural syncretism

Cultural syncretism, for example, is the result of the process that takes place when two or more towns come into contact and their traditions begin to mix. It refers to the process of transculturation and mixing that occurs with different cultures. In general terms, it refers to the way in which the mixture between Europe, especially Spain and Portugal, and the New World (America) took place.

Literary Syncretism

Literary syncretism is a phenomenon through which two or more morphosyntactic values have the ability to share the same form. It occurs when one form succeeds in assuming different functions in different ways. It may express two or more grammatical meanings that have different morphemes.

Infantile syncretism

Child syncretism is a definition that implies the impossibility of dissociating the parts that make up a whole. The child has a marked tendency to perceive things in a global way and by means of subjective schemes that in a given moment have particular interest for him; to find analogies between objects and facts without a previous analysis. The child’s reasoning is not deductive, so he reasons by intuition. It goes from premise to conclusion without having previously reasoned.


One of the clearest examples is given when the European conquerors managed to reach America, at that time there was a cultural syncretism from the encounter that occurred between the two peoples. In certain cases, it was more a forced assimilation of the dominant culture by the peoples who were being conquered, but who, despite the invasion, managed to maintain certain traits of their own.

Voodoo, in Haiti, is another great example of religious, because it combines African religious elements with the characteristics of the Caribbean peoples.

In America we also find a clear example of religious syncretism. Specifically, it is found in Guatemala, in the Catholic Church of Santo Tomás of Chichicastenango, where the symbols, ideas and beliefs of the Mayan religion are also permitted. Why? The explanation lies in the fact that, during the 19th century, what is known as the “Mayan Bible”, the manuscript of Popol Vuh, was found inside that temple on the part of the Catholic priest who worked there, who did not hesitate to read it to his parishioners and did not cause them any kind of discomfort.

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Syncretism. Recovered on 23 February, 2024, de Euston96:

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