Have you ever found yourself immediately drawn to a very specific crystal in a store? Have you ever found yourself talking to your houseplants in the hope to revive them when they looked slightly wilted? Have you ever found yourself experiencing unparalleled peace at a very specific spot in nature making this spot one of your favorite places in the world? The reason for these feelings could be because of animism.
Animism is the belief that every single object, animal, plant, being, or place hosts a unique spiritual essence. It’s the belief that a living soul or spirit resides in each animate and inanimate object of this world, and through this soul and spiritual element, these objects are alive.
If you find yourself innately drawn to a place, a person, or an object, it may be far more than just an aesthetic attraction – it may be a spiritual attraction and a bond that draws you towards these objects. Let us delve further into the intriguing concept of animism.
From Where Did The Word ‘Animism’ Originate?
While the concept of animism dates back centuries and has been rooted deep within religious beliefs established thousands of years ago, the word animism originates from the Latin word anima which translates to ‘life’ or ‘soul’.
This definition further embodies the concept that every material object has a spiritual essence, or a life force, in its physical manifestation within this world.
Animism in Different Religions
Animism has found its roots in many beliefs and ancient religions, including African beliefs, Asian beliefs, and Eastern beliefs. In belief structures that are of Indian origins, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, the belief in animism is so strong that it encourages environmental and ecological conservation based on the fundamental premise of worshiping elements within nature.
Shamanism is another belief system that holds true to the concept of animism in that shamans are believed to freely move between the spiritual realm and the physical realm. Because they are the connection between the two realms, shamans can embody a spiritual being and heal physical ailments through spiritual guidance and restoration. With animism, this restoration can take place by the shaman rebalancing aspects of a person’s environment.
Animism and Pantheism
While both belief systems are rooted in the idealization that every element and object in the physical realm possesses a spiritual essence, pantheism differs in the sense that it fundamentally is rooted in everything being the source of one particular spirit – the spirit of God or of a higher power.
It also follows the notion that the spirit present in every object is interconnected and intertwined and therein lies the greatest difference between animism and pantheism. Animism does not necessarily believe that the spirit in every earthly object is connected, but rather that each object hosts its own unique spirit.
Animism in Children
In his theories of childhood development, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget theorized that children have a strong belief in animism, that objects around them have feelings, and that these objects have a life force, or spirit, within them.
This is evident when young children display strong emotions of distress when their favorite toy is mishandled or thrown about. As their development progresses, their innate animism beliefs slowly fade away and they are then taught that only humans, animals, and plants are alive.
Examples of Animism
In other beliefs, there is a fundamental spiritual basis in nature which believes that birds, such as eagles, are messengers between the worldly realm and God within the spiritual realm. People would send messages to God on the wings of an eagle. Even praying to the rain gods to open waters from the sky and heal a land of drought is rooted in the belief of animism.
There are many beliefs that are rooted in praying to the gods of fire, rain, and even of the ocean and lakes. While this has been seen prominently in Greek mythology, it is a form of animism too.
Even in Hinduism, statues of the gods that are fervently prayed to are treated with reverence and adorned with garlands and ash to ensure the spiritual element of the object is honored and respected. Many ceremonies and sacrifices of food are made to the physical representations of the Hindu gods as a way of appeasing and satisfying the gods.
Animism and Spirituality
Animism has its place in many beliefs. Even outside of specific religions, the belief that all forms on earth are created by a higher spiritual being, brings about the idea of animism in that an all-creating power has imparted its essence into everything it has created.
For example, some may find a greater sentimentality and value in a gift that was made for them rather than a gift that was purchased. This is because giving someone a gift that you made means you are giving them a piece of your creativity, a piece of your time, and ultimately, a piece of yourself.
But even deeper than that, just as you created a gift, in the belief of animism, that gift now has a spiritual essence of its own. Animism is not just limited to nature, objects, and places, but it even extends to human handiwork and art.
Next time you find yourself drawn to certain objects in your surroundings, or you find yourself suddenly filled with absolute bliss when gazing upon art pieces, it may be your own spirit finding harmony in another. Just the way home isn’t always a place, a spirit isn’t always found in just living beings.