The term popular belief can be found in the German humanities since the late 18th century. He is often interchangeably used to occupy pejorative term superstition, ie based on a pagan or occult perceived beliefs and actions. Other authors refer to popular belief, the so-called popular piety, so the Church's magisterium not foreseen but sanctioned or condoned faith practices. In the course of the ongoing discussion about the term and its suitability also definitions have been attempted which should include all of the manifestations of a regionally widespread belief neutral and comprehensive; defined as the Dictionary of German folklore from 1936 popular belief as "that which on the outside and supernatural world keeps the people especially in terms of true."
The concept is like folk song and folk spirit of the many compound words to the people, who found through the work of Johann Gottfried Herder widespread. For Herder, however, the word is not for the character of a people, but as a kind of human universal: So he accepts the idea of the immortality of the soul " as a general popular belief on earth, the only thing that distinguishes humans in death by the beast ", and Christianity as a " folk belief [ ... ] who made all nations a people." from Herder's idea that it just showed in general, untouched by the Enlightenment rural population, the characteristic peculiarities of a people in its pure form, the appropriation passes of the term by German Romanticism ago. Thus Friedrich Carl von Savigny made clear, the founder of the historical school of law in 1814 in his pamphlet From profession of our time, his legal opinion with the famous phrase that all law
" Only by custom and popular faith, is then generated by jurisprudence, so anywhere by internal silently -operating powers, not by the arbitrary will of a legislator. "
The " popular belief " is, therefore, all that always feels the people in silent agreement as lawful.
A negative connotation the word carries the work of Jacob Grimm, which may be due to the strict Protestant worldview that other worldviews against allowed to apply only little understanding him. So he used in his Deutsche Mythologie " folk belief " distinction next to " superstition " for magical practices, in which he saw the relics of a pre-Christian Germanic imagination. In German dictionary is initially performed in Herder 's sense, popular belief call living in volke notions about the relationship of man to the world and God; the volksthümliche form of religion; and generally any truly keep [ ... ], which is reflected in the volke: ( Christianity ). In a narrower sense, however, it denotes the perceptions, are of ancient, pagan grösztentheils time and are referred to by rationalism than they believe.
In folklore, the discussion about the terminology in the 19th and 20th centuries continued. On one hand, avoided many folklorists increasingly the term " superstition, " as it carries a pejorative connotation and thus pronounce a value judgment that verunmögliche an objective description. This discussion was the title of a choice of the most ambitious ethnographic projects of the 20th century ahead, the Encyclopaedia of German superstition ( 1927-1942 ). In the preface, the editors expressed their view that the term popular belief them " annoying " appears,
" Because the" popular belief " we must understand the full scope of religious activities and feelings of the people, his conception and design of Christianity, at least in the same degree as before and in addition to Christian rudiments, which has retained it. In the" folk beliefs " seem us the Christian components occupy a far broader and more significant extent than in the so-called " superstitions. " "
On the other hand, seemed to many the term magical practices or actions that were competing or contrary to the claim of the Christian faith as the true " folk beliefs " problematic. In today's ethnographic research, the term has for the herein described boundary area between ecclesiastical and magical belief, however, enforced " popular piety " increasingly.