“There is no environment ‘out there’ separate from us. The environment is embedded in us. We are as much a part of our surroundings as the trees and birds and fish, the sky, water, and rocks.” ~ David Suzuki
I consider myself to be a modern Pagan Animist. I believe there is divine energy all around us; infusing everything we see and cannot see. Science is beginning to study, define, and acknowledge that what many pagans and spiritualists have felt for a long time (like in this article...or this one). Many followers of various pagan traditions and folk superstition utilize the natural energies we believe exist around us in our everyday lives. From the charge in the air foretelling a coming storm, to the bright sunny day putting some pep in your step; the energy of a crowd swaying your mood, to the soothing calm of nature meditation, it all coalesces into the ultimate pagan belief of magick.
Dating back to the Paleolithic Age, Animism encompasses the beliefs, 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 could additionally attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names or metaphors in mythology, giving a possible background to spell casting and the tradition of witches renaming themselves when coming into their practice.
Spiritual Practices that include Animism
- Indigenous tribes all over the globe (including but not limited to Native American spirituality)
- Most organized religions included forms of Animism in their early forms, even if the monotheistic religions cited the source of the spiritual energy to be their god
Many anthropologists believe Animism is the root of religion. Yes, you read that right, Animism is not a religion. Animism is the primal foundation of all religion. Some paths, like Buddhists, live by very strict guidelines to not negatively impact the spirits of the world around them, like being strict pacifists and vegan. Other spiritual paths, like many Native American and Pagan faiths, believe that death is a part of life and as long as proper respect and gratitude are given, things like hunting and battle are acceptable or even required (NORSE VIEWS OF BATTLE).
I, personally, fall more in line with the latter group. I try to live as sustainable/eco-friendly life as possible. I believe in knowledge, self-sufficiency, and preparedness. But I will also walk through a mall and enjoy a steak dinner. What is important to me is that I acknowledge the universal divine that surrounds and infuses the world around me. I see the breathtaking beauty in a butterfly’s wing as much as the sight of the Milky Way in the sky. They hold equal magick for me.
Not all pagans are animists and not all animists are pagan. There is no true modern accepted definition of either animism or paganism. Technically, pagans are polytheistic, where animists don’t necessarily believe in any kind of ultimate divine. This is where the line becomes murky for me. I don’t know if I believe there is an ultimate divine force out there. I do believe in the power of the natural world around me. I will call upon defined gods and goddesses to aid my focus when working magick. Do I believe in the absolute presence of Athena? No, but using the long-accepted ties to strategy and wisdom that exist and are believed many others will give more energy and focus to my magick.
Do you include Animism in your practice? Tell me how!