Yes, you need to know about Animism as it helps understand a
core (even if now a small part) of almost all religious thinking.”
Interconnectedness of religious thinking Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, and Paganism and Beyond
So, it all starts in a general way with Animism (theoretical belief in supernatural powers/spirits), then this is physically expressed in or with Totemism (theoretical belief in mythical relationship with powers/spirits through a totem item), which then enlists a full-time specific person to do this worship and believed interacting Shamanism (theoretical belief in access and influence with spirits through ritual), and then there is the further employing of myths and gods added to all the above giving you Paganism (often a lot more nature-based than most current top world religions, thus hinting to their close link to more ancient religious thinking it stems from). My hypothesis is expressed with an explanation of the building of a theatrical house (modern religions development). Sky Burials: Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, and Paganism
* “totemist” Believe in spirit-filled life and/or afterlife can be attached to or be expressed in things or objects (you are a hidden totemist/Totemism: an approximately 50,000-year-old belief system (though it may be older as there is evidence of what looks like a Stone Snake in South Africa which may be the “first human worship” dating to around 70,000 years ago) (possibly extending to or from Neanderthals Likewise a number of archeologists propose that Middle Paleolithic societies — such as that of the Neanderthals — may also have practiced the earliest form of totemism or animal worship in addition to their (presumably religious) burial of the dead. Emil Bächler in particular suggests (based on archeological evidence from Middle Paleolithic caves) that a widespread Neanderthal bear-cult existed. Animal cults in the following Upper Paleolithic period — such as the bear cult — may have had their origins in these hypothetical Middle Paleolithic animal cults. Animal worship during the Upper Paleolithic intertwined with hunting rites. For instance, archeological evidence from art and bear remains reveals that the bear cult apparently had involved a type of sacrificial bear ceremonialism in which a bear was shot with arrows and then was finished off by a shot in the lungs and ritualistically buried near a clay bear statue covered by a bear fur, with the skull and the body of the bear buried separately. 100,000 to 50,000 years ago – Increased use of red ochre at several Middle Stone Age sites in Africa. Red Ochre is thought to have played an important role in ritual. 42,000 years ago – Ritual burial of a man at Lake Mungo in Australia. The body is sprinkled with copious amounts of red ochre. 40,000 years ago – Upper Paleolithic begins in Europe. An abundance of fossil evidence includes elaborate burials of the dead, Venus figurines (depiction of female) and cave art also involving red ochre. Aurignacian figurines have been found depicting faunal representations of the time period associated with now-extinct mammals, including mammoths, rhinoceros, and Tarpan, along with anthropomorphized depictions that may be interpreted as some of the earliest evidence of religion. Many 35,000-year-old animal figurines were discovered in the Vogelherd Cave in Germany. One of the horses, amongst six tiny mammoth and horse ivory figures found previously at Vogelherd, was sculpted as skillfully as any piece found throughout the Upper Paleolithic. The production of ivory beads for body ornamentation was also important during the Aurignacian. There is a notable absence of painted caves, however, which begin to appear within the Solutrean. Venus figurines are thought to represent fertility. The cave paintings at Chauvet and Lascaux are believed to represent religious thought. The oldest cave art is found in the Cave of El Castillo in Spain, in early Aurignacian dated at around 40,000 years, the time when it is believed that homo sapiens migrated to Europe from Africa. The paintings are mainly of deer. The next oldest cave paintings are found in the Chauvet Cave in France, dating to around 37,000 to 33,500 years ago and the second from 31,000 to 28,000 years ago with most of the black drawings dating to the earlier period. Chauvet Cave appears to have been used by humans during two distinct periods: the Aurignacian and the Gravettian. Most of the artwork dates to the earlier, Aurignacian, era (30,000 to 32,000 years ago). The later Gravettian occupation, which occurred 25,000 to 27,000 years agoThe paintings feature a larger variety of wild animals, such as lions, panthers, bears and hyenas. It’s strange to think that these animals were roaming around France at that time. There are no examples of complete human figures in these cave paintings. ref, ref, ref, ref, ref
What is a god, as most so-called god claims sound like hidden animist inspiring Anthropomorphism conclusions/confusions about the nature of reality? Are you asking me if magic exists? I am not a hidden animist. If so, well my answer as an ignostic atheist is, first prove the actuality of simple magic before you try to ask anyone about the possibility of some supreme magic.
- Numerous Aboriginal stone tools were found in gravel sediments in Castlereagh, Sydney, Australia. At first, when these results were new they were controversial, more recently dating of the same strata has revised and corroborated these dates.
- Start of the Mousterian Pluvial in North Africa.
- Earliest evidence of modern humans found in Europe, in Southern Italy.
- Ornaments and skeletal remains of modern humans, at Ksar Akil in Lebanon,
- Denisova hominins live in the Altai Mountains (Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan)
- First human inhabitants in Perth, Australia, as evidenced by archaeological findings on the Upper Swan River.
- During this time period, Melbourne, Australia was occupied by hunter-gatherers.
- Early cultural center in the Swabian Alps, earliest figurative art (Venus of Hohle Fels), beginning of the Aurignacian.
- The first flutes appear in Germany.
- Lion-Human created from Hohlenstein-Stadel. It is now in Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany.
- Most of the giant vertebrates and megafauna in Australia became extinct, around the time of the arrival of humans
- Examples of cave art in Spain are dated from around 40,000 BP, making them the oldest examples of art yet discovered in Europe. Scientists theorize that the paintings may have been made by Neanderthals, rather than by homo sapiens. (BBC) (Science)
- Wall painting with horses, rhinoceroses, and aurochs is made at Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, Ardéche gorge, France. Discovered in December 1994.
- Archaeological studies support a human presence in the Chek Lap Kok area (now Hong Kong International Airport) from 35,000 to 39,000 years ago.
- Zar, Yataghyeri, Damjili, and Taghlar caves in Azerbaijan.
- The first evidence of people inhabiting Japan.
- Kostenki XVII, a layer of the Kostenki (Kostyonki) site, on the middle Don River, was occupied by the early upper paleolithic Spitsyn culture.
- First ground stone tools appear in Japan.
- End of the Mousterian Pluvial in North Africa.
- The area of Sydney was occupied by Aboriginal Australians during this time period, as evidenced by radiocarbon dating. In an archaeological dig in Parramatta, Western Sydney, it was found that the Aboriginals used charcoal, stone tools, and possible ancient campfires.
- First human settlement in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.
- Last eruption of the Ciomadul volcano in Romania.
- Venus of Dolní Věstonice (Czech Republic). It is the oldest known ceramic in the world.
- The Red Lady of Paviland lived around 29,000–26,000 years ago. Recent evidence has come to light that he was a tribal chief.
- Human settlement in Beijing, China dates from about 27,000 to 10,000 years ago.
- Start of the second Mousterian Pluvial in North Africa.
- Venus of Petřkovice is created at Petřkovice in Ostrava, Czech Republic. It is now in Archeological Institute, Brno.
- Last Glacial Maximum: Venus of Brassempouy, Grotte du Pape, Brassempouy, Landes, France, created. It is now at Musée des Antiquités Nationales, Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
- Venus of Willendorf, Austria, created. It is now at the Natural History Museum, Vienna.
- Artifacts suggest early human activity occurred at some point in Canberra, Australia. Archaeological evidence of settlement in the region includes inhabited rock shelters, rock art, burial places, camps and quarry sites, and stone tools and arrangements.
- End of the second Mousterian Pluvial in North Africa.
- Last Glacial Maximum. Mean sea levels are believed to be 110 to 120 meters (360 to 390 ft) lower than at present, with the direct implication that many coastal and lower riverine valley archaeological sites of interest are today under water.
- Spotted Horses, Pech Merle cave, Dordogne, France are painted. Discovered in December, 1994.
- Ibex-headed spear-thrower, from Le Mas-d’Azil, Ariège, France, is made. It is now at Musée de la Préhistoire, Le Mas d’Azil.
- Mammoth-bone village in Mezhyrich, Ukraine is inhabited.
- Spotted human hands are painted at Pech Merle cave, Dordogne, France. Discovered in December 1994.
- Oldest Dryas stadial.
- Hall of Bulls at Lascaux in France is painted. Discovered in 1940. Closed to the public in 1963.
- Bird-Headed man with bison and Rhinoceros, Lascaux, is painted.
- Lamp with ibex design, from La Mouthe cave, Dordogne, France, is made. It is now at Musée des Antiquités Nationales, Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
- Paintings in Cosquer Cave are made, where the cave mouth is now under water at Cap Margiou, France.
- Bølling interstadial.
- Bison, Le Tuc d’Audoubert, Ariège, France.
- Paleo-Indians move across North America, then southward through Central America.
- Pregnant woman and deer (?), from Laugerie-Basse, France was made. It is now at Musée des Antiquités Nationales, St.-Germain-en-Laye.
- Older Dryas stadial, Allerød interstadial.
- Paleo-Indians searched for big game near what is now the Hovenweep National Monument.
- Bison, on the ceiling of a cave at Altamira, Spain, is painted. Discovered in 1879. Accepted as authentic in 1902.
- Domestication of Reindeer.
- First evidence of human settlement in Argentina.
- The Arlington Springs Man dies on the island of Santa Rosa, off the coast of California, United States.
- Human remains deposited in caves which are now located off the coast of Yucatán, Mexico.
- Creswellian culture settlement on Hengistbury Head, England, dates from around this year.
Behavioral modernity *moderen Humans/humanirty*
Behavioral modernity is a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguishes current Homo sapiens from other anatomically modern humans, hominins, and primates. Although often debated, most scholars agree that modern human behavior can be characterized by abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior (e.g., art, ornamentation, music), exploitation of large game, and blade technology, among others. Underlying these behaviors and technological innovations are cognitive and cultural foundations that have been documented experimentally and ethnographically. Some of these human universal patterns are a cumulative cultural adaptation, social norms, language, cooperative breeding, and extensive help and cooperation beyond close kin. These traits have been viewed as largely responsible for the human replacement of Neanderthals, along with the climatic conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum, and the peopling of the rest of the world. Arising from differences in the archaeological record, a debate continues as to whether anatomically modern humans were behaviorally modern as well. There are many theories on the evolution of behavioral modernity. These generally fall into two camps: gradualist and cognitive approaches. The Later Upper Paleolithic Model refers to the idea that modern human behavior arose through cognitive, genetic changes abruptly around 40,000–50,000 years ago. Other models focus on how modern human behavior may have arisen through gradual steps; the archaeological signatures of such behavior only appearing through demographic or subsistence-based changes. Shea (2011) outlines a variety of problems with this concept, arguing instead for “behavioral variability”, which, according to the author, better describes the archaeological record. The use of trait lists, according to Shea (2011), runs the risk of taphonomic bias, where some sites may yield more artifacts than others despite similar populations; as well, trait lists can be ambiguous in how behaviors may be empirically recognized in the archaeological record. Shea (2011) in particular cautions that population pressure, cultural change, or optimality models, like those in human behavioral ecology, might better predict changes in tool types or subsistence strategies than a change from “archaic” to “modern” behavior. Some researchers argue that a greater emphasis should be placed on identifying only those artifacts which are unquestionably, or purely, symbolic as a metric for modern human behavior. In order to classify what traits should be included in modern human behavior, it is necessary to define behaviors that are universal among living human groups. Some examples of these human universals are abstract thought, planning, trade, cooperative labor, body decoration, control and use of fire. Along with these traits, humans possess a heavy reliance on social learning. This cumulative cultural change or cultural “ratchet” separates human culture from social learning in animals. As well, a reliance on social learning may be responsible in part for humans’ rapid adaptation to many environments outside of Africa. Since cultural universals are found in all cultures including some of the most isolated indigenous groups, these traits must have evolved or have been invented in Africa prior to the exodus. Archaeologically a number of empirical traits have been used as indicators of modern human behavior. While these are often debated a few are generally agreed upon. Archaeological evidence of behavioral modernity are:
- figurative art (cave paintings, petroglyphs, dendroglyphs, figurines)
- systematic use of pigment (such as ochre) and jewelry for decoration or self-ornamentation
- Using bone material for tools
- Transport of resources over long distances
- Blade technology
- Diversity, standardization, and regionally distinct artifacts
- Composite tools Ref
Animism entails the belief that “all living things have a soul”, and thus a central concern of animist thought surrounds how animals can be eaten or otherwise used for humans’ subsistence needs. The actions of non-human animals are viewed as “intentional, planned and purposive” and they are understood to be persons because they are both alive and communicate with others. In animist world-views, non-human animals are understood to participate in kinship systems and ceremonies with humans, as well as having their own kinship systems and ceremonies. Harvey cited an example of an animist understanding of animal behaviour that occurred at a powwow held by the Conne River Mi’kmaq in 1996; an eagle flew over the proceedings, circling over the central drum group. The assembled participants called out kitpu (“eagle”), conveying welcome to the bird and expressing pleasure at its beauty, and they later articulated the view that the eagle’s actions reflected its approval of the event and the Mi’kmaq’s return to traditional spiritual practices. Some animists also view plant and fungi life as persons and interact with them accordingly. The most common encounter between humans and these plant and fungi persons is with the former’s collection of the latter for food, and for animists this interaction typically has to be carried out respectfully. Harvey cited the example of Maori communities in New Zealand, who often offer karakia invocations to sweet potatoes as they dig the latter up; while doing so there is an awareness of a kinship relationship between the Maori and the sweet potatoes, with both understood as having arrived in Aotearoa together in the same canoes. In other instances, animists believe that interaction with plant and fungi persons can result in the communication of things unknown or even otherwise unknowable. Among some modern Pagans, for instance, relationships are cultivated with specific trees, who are understood to bestow knowledge or physical gifts, such as flowers, sap, or wood that can be used as firewood or to fashion into a wand; in return, these Pagans give offerings to the tree itself, which can come in the form of libations of mead or ale, a drop of blood from a finger, or a strand of wool. Various animistic cultures also comprehend as stones as persons. Discussing ethnographic work conducted among the Ojibwe, Harvey noted that their society generally conceived of stones as being inanimate, but with two notable exceptions: the stones of the Bell Rocks and those stones which are situated beneath trees struck by lightning, which were understood to have become Thunderers themselves. The Ojibwe conceived of weather as being capable of having personhood, with storms being conceived of as persons known as ‘Thunderers’ whose sounds conveyed communications and who engaged in seasonal conflict over the lakes and forests, throwing lightning at lake monsters. Wind, similarly, can be conceived as a person in animistic thought. The importance of place is also a recurring element of animism, with some places being understood to be persons in their own right. Animism can also entail relationships being established with non-corporeal spirit entities. Animism is largely due to such ethnolinguistic and cultural discrepancies, opinion has differed on whether animism refers to an ancestral mode of experience common to indigenous peoples around the world, or to a full-fledged religion in its own right. The currently accepted definition of animism was only developed in the late 19th century by Sir Edward Tylor, who created it as “one of anthropology‘s earliest concepts, if not the first”. Animism encompasses the beliefs that all material phenomena have agency, that there exists no hard and fast distinction between the spiritual and physical (or material) world and that soul or spirit or sentience exists not only in humans but also in other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows. Animism thus rejects Cartesian dualism. Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names or metaphors in mythology. Some members of the non-tribal world also consider themselves animists (such as author Daniel Quinn, sculptor Lawson Oyekan and many contemporary Pagans). Earlier anthropological perspectives – since termed the “old animism” – were concerned with knowledge surrounding what is alive and what factors make something alive. The “old animism” assumed that animists were individuals who were unable to understand the difference between persons and things. Critics of the “old animism” have accused it of preserving “colonialist and dualist worldviews and rhetoric”. Many anthropologists ceased using the term “animism”, deeming it to be too close to early anthropological theory and religious polemic. However, the term had also been claimed by religious groups – namely indigenous communities and nature worshipers – who felt that it aptly described their own beliefs, and who in some cases actively identified as “animists”. It was thus readopted by various scholars, however, they began using the term in a different way, placing the focus on knowing how to behave toward other persons, some of whom aren’t human. As the religious studies scholar Graham Harvey stated, while the “old animist” definition had been problematic, the term “animism” was nevertheless “of considerable value as a critical, academic term for a style of religious and cultural relating to the world.” The “new animism” emerged largely from the publications of the anthropologist Irving Hallowell which were produced on the basis of his ethnographic research among the Ojibwe communities of Canada in the mid-20th century. For the Ojibwe encountered by Hallowell, personhood did not require human-likeness, but rather humans were perceived as being like other persons, who for instance included rock persons and bear persons. For the Ojibwe, these persons were each wilful beings who gained meaning and power through their interactions with others; through respectfully interacting with other persons, they themselves learned to “act as a person”. Hallowell’s approach to the understanding of Ojibwe personhood differed strongly from prior anthropological concepts of animism. He emphasized the need to challenge the modernist, Western perspectives of what a person is by entering into a dialogue with different worldwide-views. Hallowell’s approach influenced the work of anthropologist Nurit Bird-David, who produced a scholarly article reassessing the idea of animism in 1999. Seven comments from other academics were provided in the journal, debating Bird-David’s ideas. More recently post-modern anthropologists are increasingly engaging with the concept of animism. Modernism is characterized by a Cartesian subject-object dualism that divides the subjective from the objective, and culture from nature; in this view, Animism is the inverse of scientism, and hence inherently invalid. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour, these anthropologists question these modernist assumptions, and theorize that all societies continue to “animate” the world around them, and not just as a Tylorian survival of primitive thought. Rather, the instrumental reason characteristic of modernity is limited to our “professional subcultures,” which allows us to treat the world as a detached mechanical object in a delimited sphere of activity. We, like animists, also continue to create personal relationships with elements of the so-called objective world, whether pets, cars or teddy-bears, who we recognize as subjects. As such, these entities are “approached as communicative subjects rather than the inert objects perceived by modernists.” These approaches are careful to avoid the modernist assumptions that the environment consists dichotomously of a physical world distinct from humans, and from modernist conceptions of the person as composed dualistically as body and soul. Nurit Bird-David argues that “Positivistic ideas about the meaning of ‘nature’, ‘life’ and ‘personhood’ misdirected these previous attempts to understand the local concepts. Classical theoreticians (it is argued) attributed their own modernist ideas of self to ‘primitive peoples’ while asserting that the ‘primitive peoples’ read their idea of self into others!” She argues that animism is a “relational epistemology”, and not a Tylorian failure of primitive reasoning. That is, self-identity among animists is based on their relationships with others, rather than some distinctive feature of the self. Instead of focusing on the essentialized, modernist self (the “individual”), persons are viewed as bundles of social relationships (“dividuals”), some of which are with “superpersons” (i.e. non-humans). Guthrie expressed criticism of Bird-David’s attitude toward animism, believing that it promulgated the view that “the world is in large measure whatever our local imagination makes it”. This, he felt, would result in anthropology abandoning “the scientific project”. Tim Ingold, like Bird-David, argues that animists do not see themselves as separate from their environment: “Hunter-gatherers do not, as a rule, approach their environment as an external world of nature that has to be ‘grasped’ intellectually … Indeed the separation of mind and nature has no place in their thought and practice.” Willerslev extends the argument by noting that animists reject this Cartesian dualism, and that the animist self-identifies with the world, “feeling at once within and apart from it so that the two glide ceaselessly in and out of each other in a sealed circuit.” The animist hunter is thus aware of himself as a human hunter, but, through mimicry is able to assume the viewpoint, senses, and sensibilities of his prey, to be one with it. Shamanism, in this view, is an everyday attempt to influence spirits of ancestors and animals by mirroring their behaviors as the hunter does his prey. Cultural ecologist and philosopher David Abram articulates and elaborates an intensely ethical and ecological form of animism grounded in the phenomenology of sensory experience. In his books Becoming Animal and The Spell of the Sensuous, Abram suggests that material things are never entirely passive in our direct experience, holding rather that perceived things actively “solicit our attention” or “call our focus,” coaxing the perceiving body into an ongoing participation with those things. In the absence of intervening technologies, sensory experience is inherently animistic, disclosing a material field that is animate and self-organizing from the get-go. Drawing upon contemporary cognitive and natural science, as well as upon the perspectival worldviews of diverse indigenous, oral cultures, Abram proposes a richly pluralist and story-based cosmology, in which matter is alive through and through. Such an ontology is in close accord, he suggests, with our spontaneous perceptual experience; it would draw us back to our senses and to the primacy of the sensuous terrain, enjoining a more respectful and ethical relation to the more-than-human community of animals, plants, soils, mountains, waters, and weather-patterns that materially sustains us. In contrast to a long-standing tendency in the Western social sciences, which commonly provide rational explanations of animistic experience, Abram develops an animistic account of reason itself. He holds that civilized reason is sustained only by an intensely animistic participation between human beings and their own written signs. Indeed, as soon as we turn our gaze toward the alphabetic letters written on a page or a screen, these letters speak to us—we ‘see what they say’—much as ancient trees and gushing streams and lichen-encrusted boulders once spoke to our oral ancestors. Hence reading is an intensely concentrated form of animism, one that effectively eclipses all of the other, older, more spontaneous forms of participation in which we once engaged. “To tell the story in this manner—to provide an animistic account of reason, rather than the other way around—is to imply that animism is the wider and more inclusive term and that oral, mimetic modes of experience still underlie, and support, all our literate and technological modes of reflection. When reflection’s rootedness in such bodily, participatory modes of experience is entirely unacknowledged or unconscious, reflective reason becomes dysfunctional, unintentionally destroying the corporeal, sensuous world that sustains it.” The religious studies scholar Graham Harvey defined animism as the belief “that the world is full of persons, only some of whom are human, and that life is always lived in relationship with others”. He added that it is, therefore “concerned with learning how to be a good person in respectful relationships with other persons”. Graham Harvey, in his 2013 Handbook of Contemporary Animism, identifies the animist perspective in line with Martin Buber’s “I-thou” as opposed to “I-it”. In such, Harvey says, the Animist takes an I-thou approach to relating to his world, where objects and animals are treated as a “thou” rather than as an “it”. However, there is ongoing disagreement (and no general consensus) as to whether animism is merely a singular, broadly encompassing religious belief or a worldview in and of itself, comprising many diverse mythologies found worldwide in many diverse cultures. This also raises a controversy regarding the ethical claims animism may or may not make: whether animism ignores questions of ethics altogether or, by endowing various non-human elements of nature with spirituality or personhood, in fact, promotes a complex ecological ethics. Animist beliefs can also be expressed through artwork. For instance, among the Maori communities of New Zealand, there is an acknowledgment that creating art through carving wood or stone entails violence against the wood or stone person and that the persons who are damaged therefore have to be placated and respected during the process; any excess or waste from the creation of the artwork is returned to the land, while the artwork itself is treated with particular respect. Harvey, therefore, argued that the creation of art among the Maori was not about creating an inanimate object for display, but rather a transformation of different persons within a relationship. Ref
In many animistic worldviews, the human being is often regarded as on a roughly equal footing with other animals, plants, and natural forces.
A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. According to Mircea Eliade, shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment. Abram, however, articulates a less supernatural and much more ecological understanding of the shaman’s role than that propounded by Eliade. Drawing upon his own field research in Indonesia, Nepal, and the Americas, Abram suggests that in animistic cultures, the shaman functions primarily as an intermediary between the human community and the more-than-human community of active agencies — the local animals, plants, and landforms (mountains, rivers, forests, winds and weather patterns, all of whom are felt to have their own specific sentience). Hence the shaman’s ability to heal individual instances of dis-ease (or imbalance) within the human community is a by-product of her/his more continual practice of balancing the reciprocity between the human community and the wider collective of animate beings in which that community is embedded. Animism is not just the same as pantheism, although the two are sometimes confused. Some religions are both pantheistic and animistic. One of the main differences is that while animists believe everything to be spiritual in nature, they do not necessarily see the spiritual nature of everything in existence as being united (monism), the way pantheists do. As a result, animism puts more emphasis on the uniqueness of each individual soul. In pantheism, everything shares the same spiritual essence, rather than having distinct spirits and/or souls. But here are some Examples:
- Mun, (also calledMunismor Bongthingism) is the traditional polytheistic, animist, shamanistic, and syncretic religion of the Lepcha people.
- The New Age movement commonly demonstrates animistic traits in asserting the existence of nature spirits.
- Some Neopagan groups, including Eco-Pagans, describe themselves as animists, meaning that they respect the diverse community of living beings and spirits with whom humans share the world/cosmos. Ref
Spiritual Contours of the Contemporary Pagan Worldview (only the part on Animism is added here)
by Dr. Dennis D. Carpenter
“Animism and Spiritism”
According to Runes (1983), animism is defined as “the view that souls are attached to all things either as their inner principle of spontaneity or activity, or as their dwellers; the doctrine that Nature is inhabited by various grades of spirits” (p. 28). In other words, animism refers to “the attribution of a living soul to inanimate objects and natural phenomenon” (Simpson & Weiner, 1989, p. 478). Spiritism reflects the characteristics of animism, but adds an element of communicability in that ancestral or other spirits can communicate with humans (Runes, 1983). Another term related to animism is hylozoism which refers to “the conception of nature as alive or animated, of reality as alive” (Runes, p. 149). Consistent with these definitions and closely related to the concept of immanence, Pagans view all of Nature as alive and imbued with spiritual energy. In addition, communication is said to be possible between humans and various aspects, or spirits, of the animated natural world. Over the years, I have heard these concepts revealed in a number of ways by Pagans including communication with plants and trees, working with power animals and other Nature spirits, connecting with the powers of place, working with ancestor spirits, and connecting with the Spirit World. Reflected in these practices are the beliefs that Nature is alive, that various aspects of Nature maintain an autonomous sense of spirit or consciousness, and that communication can occur between humans and these aspects of Nature. According to Fox (1989b), “the Wiccan Religion is animistic in that every human, tree, animal, stream, rock, and other forms of Nature are seen to have a Divine Spirit within” (p. 1). Fox went on to say that “many Wiccans have personal communication and friendships with various animals, plants, and other lifeforms” (p. 1). Adler (1986) noted that the animistic worldview of the premodern world which did not conceive of a separation between “animate” and “inanimate” provides the inspiration for the reanimation of Nature by contemporary Pagans. Fox (1990) offered her perspectives which further describe an interconnected and animistic worldview: “I am a Pagan. I am a part of the whole of Nature. The Rocks, the Animals, the Plants, the Elements, and the Stars are my relatives. Other humans are my sisters and brothers, whatever their races, colors, genders, ages, nationalities, religions, lifestyles. The Earth is my Mother and the Sun is my Father. I am a part of this large family of Nature, not the master of it. I have my own special part to play and I seek to play that part to the best of my ability. I seek to live in harmony with others in the family of Nature, treating others with respect, not abuse” (p. 44). Consistent with the view of all Nature as alive, Pagans revere the Earth as a living being, often referring to the Earth as Mother Earth (Fox, 1989, 1990) or Gaia (also spelled Gaea), after the primordial Greek Earth Goddess (Farrar & Farrar, 1987). Lovelock (1979) also referred to this Greek Goddess in using the term “Gaia Hypothesis” to refer to the interconnectedness of all life on Earth and to the Earth’s ecosphere exhibiting the behavior of a single living organism through self-regulation. Sheldrake (1990) expanded on the animistic nature of this “living Earth concept” to include the whole universe: “The organismic or holistic philosophy of nature which has grown up over the last sixty years is a new form of animism. It implicitly or explicitly regards all nature as alive. The universe as a whole is a developing organism, and so are the galaxies, solar systems, and biospheres within it, including the Earth” (p. 125). Such perceptions of the Earth and all of Nature as alive constitutes a fundamental component of the worldview of Pagans which many believe fosters a sense of compassion and obligation to save the environment. Ref
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