In religious studies, an ethnic religion (or indigenous religion) is a religion associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic religions are often distinguished from universal religions which claim to not be limited in ethnic or national scope, such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Jainism. Ethnic religions are not only independent religions. Some localised denominations of global religions are practised solely by certain ethnic groups. For example, the Assyrians have a unique denominational structure of Christianity known as the Assyrian Church of the East.
A number of alternative terms have been used instead of "ethnic" or "indigenous" religions.
The term "primal religion" was coined by Andrew Walls in the University of Aberdeen in the 1970s to provide a focus on non-Western forms of religion as found in Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Terms such as "primal religion," "primitive religion," and "tribal religion" have been contested by Walls' student, Jim Cox, who argues that such terms suggest an undeveloped religion which can be seen as a preparation for conversion to Christianity. Cox prefers to use the term "indigenous religion."
Another term that is often used is "folk religion." While "ethnic religion" and "folk religion" have overlapping uses, the latter term implies "the appropriation of religious beliefs and practices at a popular level." The term "folk religion" can therefore be used to speak of Chinese and African indigenous religions, but can also refer to popular expressions of more multi-national and institutionalized religions such as Folk Christianity or Folk Islam.
Ethnic religions are distinctive in their relationship with a particular ethnic group and often in the shaping of one's solidarity with an ethnic identity. Some ethnic religions include Judaism of the Jews, Druze religion of the Druze, Alawism of Alawites, Alevism of the Alevites, Mandaeanism of the Mandaeans, Yazidism of the Yazidis, Chinese folk religion of the Han Chinese, Shinto of the Japanese, and A ƭat Roog of the Serer of Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania. Diasporic groups often maintain ethnic religions as a means of maintaining a distinct ethnic identity the role of African traditional religion and Afro-American religions among the African diaspora in the Americas.
Some ancient ethnic religions, such as those historically found in pre-modern Europe, have found new vitality in neopaganism. Moreover, non-ethnic religions such as Christianity have been known to assume ethnic traits to an extent that they serve a role as an important ethnic identity marker, a notable example of this is the Serbian "Saint-Savianism" of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Amamikyu (阿摩美久 or 阿摩彌姑, Okinawan: Amanchuu), or Amekushin-otome-ōankami (天久神乙女王御神), is the creation goddess of the Ryukyu Islands in the Ryukyuan religion.Bathouism
Bathouism (बाथौ) is the ethnic religion of the Bodo people or Kachari people. The name Bathou (Ba=five; thou=deep) in Bodo means five principles. The five principles are: bar (air), orr (fire), ha (earth), dwi (water) and okhrang (ether). The chief deity, called Bathoubwrai (bwarai: "the Elder")—omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent—is said to have created the five principles. Though there are other minor gods and goddesses, Bathoubwrai is considered the Supreme God. Bathoubwrai is unseen. The second most important deity is Mainao, the consort of Bathoubwrai, who is considered as the "protector of the rice fields".It is reported that Bathouism will be included in the Indian census.Dinka religion
Dinka mythology refers to the traditional religion and folk tales of the Dinka, or Muonyjang, ethnic group of South Sudan.European Congress of Ethnic Religions
The European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER) is an organisation for cooperation among associations that promote the ethnic religions of Europe
The primary goal of the ECER is the strengthening of pre-Christian ethnic religious traditions of Europe, emphasizing and fostering their ties with Neopagan movements with ethnic focuses which developed during the 1980s to 1990s.Hellenism (religion)
Hellenism (Greek: Ἑλληνισμός, Ἑllēnismós), the Hellenic ethnic religion (Ἑλληνικὴ ἐθνική θρησκεία), also commonly known as Hellenismos, Hellenic Polytheism, Dodekatheism (Δωδεκαθεϊσμός), or Olympianism (Ὀλυμπιανισμός), refers to various religious movements that revive or reconstruct ancient Greek religious practices, which have publicly emerged since the 1990s.
The Hellenic religion is a traditional religion and way of life, revolving around the Greek Gods, primarily focused on the Twelve Olympians, and embracing ancient Hellenic values and virtues.
In 2017, Hellenism was legally recognized as a "known religion" in Greece, granting it certain religious freedoms in that country, including the freedom to open houses of worship and for clergy to officiate weddings.Korean shamanism
Korean shamanism, also known as Shinism (Hangul 신교, Hanja 神敎; Shingyo or Shinkyo, "religion of the spirits/gods") or Shindo (Hangul: 신토; Hanja: 神道, "way of the spirits/gods") or Shinism or Muism, is the polytheistic and animistic ethnic religion of Korea which date back to prehistory and consist in the worship of gods (신 shin) and ancestors (조상 josang). When referring specifically to the shamanic practice (Hangul: 무속, Hanja: 巫俗; musog or musok), the term Muism (Hangul:무교, Hanja: 巫敎; Mugyo or Mukyo, "religion of the mu (shamans)") is used.The general word for "shaman" in Korean language is mu (Hangul: 무, Hanja: 巫). In contemporary terminology, they are called mudang (무당, 巫堂) if female or baksu if male, although other terms are used locally. The Korean word mu is synonymous of the Chinese word wu 巫, which defines both male and female shamans. The role of the mudang is to act as intermediary between the spirits or gods and humanity in order to solve hitches in the development of life, through the practice of gut rituals.Central to Korean shamanism is the belief in many different gods, supernatural beings and ancestor worship. The mu are described as chosen persons. (see: Korean mythology)
Muism is related to Chinese Wuism, Japanese Shinto and to the Siberian, Mongolian, and Manchurian shamanic traditions. According to some scholars, the Korean ancestral king and later mountain god Dangun is related to the north Asian sky god Tengri ("Heaven"). Hereditary shamans, who are typical of South Korea, are called tangol (당골) or tangur-ari, a word considered related to the Siberian word Tengri (gods or spirits). Mudang are similar to Japanese miko and Ryukyuan yuta. Korean shamanism has influenced some Korean new religions, such as Cheondoism and Jeungsanism, and some Christian churches in Korea make use of practices rooted in shamanism.Malaysian folk religion
Malaysian folk religion refers to the animistic and polytheistic beliefs and practices that are still held by many in the Islamic-majority country of Malaysia. Malaysian folk faith is practiced either openly or covertly depending on the type of rituals performed.
Some forms of belief are not recognised by the government as a religion for statistical purposes although such practices are not outlawed. There is a deep interaction between the Chinese folk religion of the large Malaysian Chinese population, and the indigenous Malaysian folk religion.Miao folk religion
Miao folk religion or Hmong folk religion is the common ethnic religion of Miao peoples, primarily consisting in the practice of kev dab qhuas (Hmongic: "worship of deities"). The religion is also called Hmongism by a Hmong American church established in 2012 to organise it among Hmong people in the United States.It has a pantheist theology, centered on worship of deities and progenitors of the Miao peoples. Throughout its history it has incorporated theoretical and ritual elements from Taoism, and broader Chinese religion, especially the emphasis on the pattern of the forces of the natural universe and the need of human life to be in accordance with these forces.Most Hmong continue to practice the traditional religion, although many Hmong in Asia have converted to Buddhism or have mixed it with Buddhism, and many Hmong Americans and Hmong Australians have adopted Christianity or Buddhism.Mo (religion)
Mo or Moism (Chinese: 摩教; pinyin: Mó jiào), occasionally called Zhuang Shigongism (Chinese: 壮族师公教; pinyin: Zhuàngzú shīgōng jiào; literally: 'Zhuang Ancestral Father Religion'), is the religion of most Zhuang people, the largest ethnic minority of China. It has a large presence in Guangxi. While it has a supreme god, the creator Bu Luotuo (布洛陀), numerous other deities are venerated as well. It has a three-element-theory (sky, earth and water). Mo is animistic, teaching that spirits are present in everything.Mo developed from prehistoric beliefs of the Zhuang people; it also has similarities to Chinese folk religion, and has developed similar doctrines to Buddhism and Taoism, in the process of competition with the influence of these religions on Zhuang culture. The Cultural Revolution of China weakened Mo, though the religion has undergone a revival since the 1980s. Moism varies from region to region.Mun (religion)
Mun or Munism (also called Bongthingism) is the traditional polytheistic, animist, shamanistic, and syncretic religion of the Lepcha people. It predates the seventh century Lepcha conversion to Lamaistic Buddhism, and since that time, the Lepcha have practiced it together with Buddhism. Since the arrival of Christian missionaries in the nineteenth century, Mun traditions have been followed alongside that religion as well. The traditional religion permits incorporation of Buddha and Jesus Christ as deities, depending on household beliefs.The exonym "Mun" derives from the traditional belief in spirits called mun or mung. Together with bongthing (also bungthing or bóngthíng), mun comprise a central element in the religion. These terms are also used to describe the shaman priesthood that officiates the respective spirits.The Mun religion and its priesthood are in decline. Conversion to other religions is attributed to economic pressure, as traditional practices are immensely expensive to the ordinary practitioner. It has, however, regained interest among Lepcha as ecological encroachment becomes a growing concern. The environment is so deeply intertwined with Mun beliefs that religious leaders have offered direct opposition to development in areas including the Rathong Chu and Teesta Rivers.National god
National gods are a class of guardian divinities or deities whose special concern is the safety and well-being of an ethnic group (nation), and of that group's leaders. This is contrasted with other guardian figures such as family gods responsible for the well-being of individual clans or professions, or personal gods who are responsible for the well-being of individuals. These guardian roles augment the functions that a divinity might otherwise have (wisdom, health, war, and so on).Pemena
Pemena is a tribal religion of Karo people of Indonesia. Pemena means the first or the beginning. Pemena is regarded as the first religion of Karo people. One of the doctrines of Pemena is the concept of Dibata.Religion in Mongolia
Religion in Mongolia has been traditionally dominated by the schools of Mongolian Buddhism and by Mongolian shamanism, the ethnic religion of the Mongols. Historically, through their Mongol Empire the Mongols were exposed to the influences of Christianity (Nestorianism and Catholicism) and Islam, although these religions never came to dominate. During the socialist period of the Mongolian People's Republic (1924-1992) all religions were suppressed, but with the transition to the parliamentary republic in the 1990s there has been a general revival of faiths.
According to the national census of 2010, 53% of the Mongolians identify as Buddhists, 38.6% as not religious, 3% as Muslims (predominantly of Kazakh ethnicity), 2.9% as followers of the Mongol shamanic tradition, 2.2% as Christians, and 0.4% as followers of other religions. Other sources estimate that a significantly higher proportion of the population follows the Mongol ethnic religion (18.6%).Sarnaism
Sarnaism or Sarna (local languages: Sarna Dhorom or Sarna Dharam, meaning "religion of the woods"), also known as Sariism (Sari Dharam, literally "sal tree religion") or Adiism (Adi Dharam, literally "original religion"), is the collective designation of the indigenous religions of the Adivasi populations of the states of Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, centred around the worship of nature represented by trees. Followers of these religions primarily belong to the Munda, Ho, Bhumij, Santal,Baiga and Khuruk ethnic groups.Scythian religion
Scythian religion refers to the mythology, ritual practices and beliefs of the Scythians, an ancient Iranian people who dominated Central Asia and the Pontic-Caspian steppe in Eastern Europe throughout Classical Antiquity. What little is known of the religion is drawn from the work of the 5th century Greek historian and ethnographer Herodotus. Scythian religion is assumed to have been related to the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian religion, and to have influenced later Slavic, Hungarian and Turkic mythologies, as well as some contemporary Eastern Iranian and Ossetian traditions.Tongan religion
Though it is no longer practiced today, Tonga's ancient religion was practiced for over 2000 years. Missionaries arrived and persuaded King George Tupou I to convert to Christianity; he ordered and strictly enforced that all Tongans become Christian and no longer practice the ancient polytheistic religion with its supreme god Tangaloa.Uatsdin
Uatsdin (Ossetian: Уацдин), otherwise spelled Watsdin, also known as Assdin (Ассдин, "Ese-Faith"), or by the extended name Ætsæg Din (Æцæг Дин, literally "True Faith"; the same meaning of "Uatsdin", which is a word compound), and among Russians as Assianism (Russian: Ассианство, Assianstvo; alternative rendition of "Assdin"), is the modern neo-Pagan movement and religious organization of the same name founded in North Ossetia. Its followers consist primarily by the Ossetians (an Eastern Iranic, Alan-Samatian ethnic group inhabiting a homeland in the Caucasus that is split nowadays between two states: the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania within Russia, and the neighbouring state of South Ossetia). This religion has experienced an organised revival since the 1980s.In the Ossetian case, certain traditions of folk religion had survived with unbroken continuity, and were revived in rural areas. This contrasts, and interacts, with an urban and more intellectual movement which elaborated a systematic revival religion to overcome the crisis of identity of the Ossetian people, based in ethnic nationalism and opposition to both Russian and Georgian Orthodox Christianity, perceived as foreign, and opposed as well to the Islam professed by the neighboring Turkic and Caucasian ethnic groups and among a small minority of Ossetians. The major organisation among Ossetians is the Atsætæ organization (Ossetian: Ацæтæ; Russian: Асата, Asata) led by Daurbek Makeyev, based in North Ossetia–Alania.
The Uatsdin movement is active both in North and South Ossetia. Whilst there are no figures about religious demographics for South Ossetia, in North Ossetia–Alania about 29% of the population was practicing this ethnic folk-religion in 2012, according to a survey carried out in that year.Yao folk religion
Yao folk religion is the ethnic religion of the Yao people, a non-Sinitic ethnic group who reside in the Guangxi, Hunan and surrounding provinces of China. Their religion is profoundly intermingled with Taoism since the 13th century, so much that it is frequently defined as Yao Taoism (瑶族道教 Yáozú Dàojiào). In the 1980s it was found that the Yao clearly identified with the Chinese-language Taoist theological literature, seen as a prestigious statute of culture (文化 wénhuà).Yao folk religion was described by a Chinese scholar of the half of the 20th century as an example of deep "Taoisation" (道教化 Dàojiàohuà). Yao core theology and cosmology is Taoist; they worship the deities of canonical Taoism (above all the Three Pure Ones) as the principal deities, while lesser gods are those who pertain to their own indigenous pre-Taoisation religion.The reason of this tight identification of Yao religion and identity with Taoism is that in Yao society every male adult is initiated as a Taoist, and Yao Taoism is therefore a communal religion; this is in sharp contrast to Chinese Taoism, which is an order of priests disembedded from the common Chinese folk religion. A shared sense of Yao identity is based additionally on tracing their descent from the mythical ancestor Panhu.Zalmoxianism
Zalmoxianism or Zamolxianism is a Neopagan movement in Romania which promotes the rebuilding of an ethnic religion and spirituality of the Romanians through a process of reconnection to their ancient Dacian and Thracian roots. The religion takes its name from Zalmoxis or Zamolxe, at the same time the name of the primordial god and the archetype of the enlightened man in Paleo-Balkan mythology. Scholars Bakó and Hubbes (2011) have defined Zalmoxianism, like the other ethnic religious revivals of Europe, as a reconstructionist ethno-paganism.
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