Animism is a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features, or other entities of the natural environment.

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Latest Activity: Feb 11, 2018


by Alan G. Hefner and Virgilio Guimaraes

The term animism is derived from the Latin word anima meaning breath or soul. The belief of animism is probably one of man's oldest beliefs, with its origin most likely dating to the Paleolithic age. From its earliest beginnings it was a belief that a soul or spirit existed in every object, even if it was inanimate. In a future state this soul or spirit would exist as part of an immaterial soul. The spirit, therefore, was thought to be universal.

There has been sharp divisions of thought as to the original concept of animism held by primitive peoples. An British anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor in his "Primitive Culture" (1871) defined animism "as a general belief in spiritual beings and considered it 'a minimum definition of religion.'" He stated all religions from the simplest to the most complexed shared some sort of animistic belief. According to him primitive peoples, defined as those without a written tradition, believed the spirits or souls caused life in human beings. They pictured these souls as vapors or shadows going from one body to another. The souls not only passed between human beings but into, plants, animals and inanimate objects as well.

Tylor reasoned primitive man arrived at his animistic belief to help him explain the causes of sleep, dreams, and death. There naturally aroused a need to distinguish between an individual who was awake and one who was asleep, or an individual who lived and one who did not. Also there was a need to give a reason for the pictures some saw when they slept. The spirits were the early man's explanations.

Tylor was criticized by another British anthropologist Robert Ranulph Marett (1866-1943) who

was convinced that primitive man had not developed the intellectual to form even such simplistic explanations as Tylor proposed. Marett suggested early religion was more emotional and intuitional in origin. He theorized that early man recognized some inanimate objects because they had some particular characteristic or behaved in some unusual way which mysteriously made them seem alive. He believed early man treated all animate objects as having a life and will of their own, but they never distinguished the soul as separate from the body, and could enter or leave the body. Marett conceded early man possessed the belief of animism, but it developed from the idea that some objects seemed to be alive like man.

It is insignificant how men and women gained the belief that a spirit or soul resides in all objects it is historically evident that they did. Trees and plants were worshiped as totems or because of their usefulness and beauty. In many cultures certain trees and plants have been feared. In some ancient cultures "trees were generally regarded as maternal deities or forest spirits, to be respected even when their lives were sacrificed for human use (pagan woodcutters never felled a tree without first begging its forgiveness). Female tree spirits live on in myth and folklore as dryads, the Greek version of the tree-worshiping druid priestesses."

Plants and trees have been considered sacred by themselves because, as some have thought, they are home to certain spirits. Both the soma plant of India and the coca shrub of Peru are worshiped for the intoxicating properties of the products made from them. Field crops, thought to harbor spirits of infertility, has been honored by ancient tribesmen and peasants throughout Europe. Traces of these cults can still be found.

The above describes nature worshipers among which many occultists are numbered. They view life as being in everything, and everything, even man, supporting life. Life is sacred -- all life. "One of the foremost characteristics of Neo-Paganism (or occultism) is the return to the ancient idea that there is no distinction between the spiritual and material, sacred and secular." Everything is still one as it was to primitive man.

Animism may also be the unconscious fabrication of a spirit manifestation by the medium. It is not a fraud as the medium actually believes that he is channeling a spirit. It usually happens when the medium is put under pressure to attend a request or works in a spiritualistic circle where spirit phenomena are expected to occur. The spirit of the medium then fabricates a manifestation and it is interesting to notice that the medium´s body undergoes all the usual changes that happen in an actual spirit communication, such as altered breathing, contortions, and such procedures.

Discussion Forum

Feel free to introduce yourself here :)

Started by Liam Finnigan. Last reply by Dave Salyers Jun 16, 2015. 7 Replies

Hello folks.Just thought I'd make an attempt to start a group for Animists or anyone else interested in Animism.Feel free to drop in, and say hello!Continue

Spiritual Philosophies – Animism (From Latin anima, soul)

Started by elf ~Hesper Roald Witcher~. Last reply by Autumn Bridges Jan 11, 2014. 1 Reply

*To me, the world crackles and sparks with Spirit. The entire Universe is…Continue

Distinguishing spirit energy from individual spirits ("aka" vs. "akua")

Started by SkyJaguar. Last reply by SkyJaguar Oct 9, 2011. 2 Replies

The last thread posted by Braeden Wolfrik got me thinking about specific ethographic examples of animism, and I suddenly remembered a great book that I read that I should recommend to you all.  That…Continue

Tags: philosophy, Hawaii, Hawaiians, spirits, spirit

Example of Animism

Started by Lake. Last reply by SkyJaguar Aug 22, 2011. 1 Reply

Greetings to all,In the Ashanti Tribal customs, a drum crafter goes out into the forest and speaks with the spirit of a tree asking the spirit for permission to make a drum out of it.  If the spirit…Continue

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Comment by Cat Power on January 25, 2014 at 8:05pm

hi new here.  nice group  good to see others who percieve 

Comment by Adolpha Gavina on December 23, 2011 at 6:49am
Comment by Adolpha Gavina on November 18, 2011 at 11:45pm



Have a wonderful weekend Everyone!

Stay blessed and awesome,



Comment by Adolpha Gavina on September 22, 2011 at 2:01am
Comment by Adolpha Gavina on August 15, 2011 at 11:45pm

Have a great week All :o)
Comment by Adolpha Gavina on August 1, 2011 at 5:12am
Comment by steve hawkins on July 11, 2011 at 3:25am
It took a while to find this group, I got my first understanding of animism while researching feng shui 25 years ago and am currently looking at european animism.
Comment by RiverLight on April 20, 2010 at 12:00pm
I so agree, Calhanthirs Bre'gea.
The world would be in such better condition!
Comment by Calhanthirs Bre'gea on April 14, 2010 at 5:31pm
Pity this belief fell by the way side in favor of "______ doesn't think/feel! Don't worry about it!"
How much more would we try to fix before throwing away?
How less likely would we be to cut down a tree because 'it didn't go with the yard' ?
Comment by Beth Wildwood on September 21, 2009 at 5:43am
Thankyou for this group :)
I believea universal spirit is in everything and connects us all ..... :)

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