Animism

Definition of Animism, what is?

The term animism is derived from the Latin word anima meaning breath or soul.

When was founded and where did it originate

The belief of animism is probably one of man’s oldest beliefs, with its origin most likely dating to the Paleolithic age. It is also a form of religion. The place of origin and when it start and the founder is not known.

From its earliest beginnings it was a belief that a soul or spirit existed in every object, animals plants and others, even if it was inanimate. In a future state this soul or spirits would exist as part of an immaterial soul. The spirits, therefore, was thought to be universal.

The animist is someone who believe or pertain to the doctrine of animism. There are many animists in north american but also in other regions.

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 beliefs 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 humans but into, plants, animals and inanimate objects as well.

 

Tylor and animistic basic and major beliefs

what do followers of animism belief?

Tylor was an animist, he 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). Marett 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 spirits or souls reside 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 animism 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.

Meaning of Animism

To define Animism and animist we have to consider both old and new definitions. The previous was referred to the old Animism and animists.

There is a new meaning of animism . Its origin is the publications of Irving Hallowell an anthropologist. It is a religious word which is the opposite of science.

In some old cultures the word animism was also used as the anima of animals.

 

Animism and Psychology

Animism in psychology may also be the unconscious fabrication of a spirit manifestation by the medium.

Animism 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.

by Alan G. Hefner and Virgilio Guimaraes


Sources: 1, 2, 9, 27, 28, 68.