What Is Animism?

What Is Animism?

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by White Cranes

Animism is the belief that all things are spirit and that all spirits are part of the oneness. There is no separateness, no hierarchy. All spirits are equal, because all spirits are part of the One.

Animism lacks the duality of later belief systems: good/bad, negative/positive, and so on. In animism, values are thought of more as a spectrum from less powerful to more powerful, from less harmonious to more harmonious.

In animism, humans do not consider themselves to be the center of the universe. For example, many animals are stronger, fiercer, faster, or smarter about certain things than humans. Many animals can do things that humans can’t, such as fly through the air, live underwater, and so on.

Trees are stronger than humans, and they live much longer. Trees have their own spirits and knowledge and are revered by many cultures.

Stones are known to be much older and wiser than humans. Their vibrations are not disturbed by ours, but they can affect us.

Mountains have been revered from the earliest times as wise and powerful spirit beings. The same applies to oceans, rivers, lakes, and so on.

Animism Is the Oldest Spiritual Belief System

Animism is the oldest spiritual belief system known. Anthropologists and archeologists have found evidence for animism dating back at least 70,000 years.

Fully modern, large-brained human beings have existed for about 250,000 years. Originally humans were gatherers and scavengers. Eventually humans learned to hunt animals instead of just scavanging dead ones.

Until around 10 to 12,000 years ago, all peoples were gatherers and hunters. The gatherers, the women and children, generally provided 75 to 85 percent of the food. More in some cultures, less in others.

Anthropologists know from intensely studying indigenous gathering- hunting peoples that the usual belief system for such peoples, all over the world, is animism.

Animists Are Humble

The oldest peoples were and are very small in stature. Even now there are indigenous people in Central Asia (Nepal), in South America (Peru, Equador) and in Africa (the Bushmen) who are under 5 feet tall and very slightly built. Many animals are much larger, faster, and stronger than they are.

Early humans lived through ice ages when many animals were huge, such as 10-foot-long sabertooth cats and 14-foot tall woolly mammoths. Even after the ice ages ended, large predators such as lions, tigers, leopards, pumas, and bears were much larger and fiercer than humans.

Humans could not run as fast as cheetahs or deer, did not have claws like big cats or badgers, could not fly like a bird or an insect. Humans were humble. They were not the top of the food chain.

Like traditional gathering-hunting peoples today, early humans knew the animals were their older brothers and sisters. They watched the animals and learned from them by observation and in dreams and visions.

Humans knew that the trees were even older and that tree spirits held special knowledge. They knew that the spirits of the stones, the mountains, the rivers, and the oceans were even older, and that each had its own special knowledge, too.

Receiving Messages from the Spirits

In animist cultures all people pay attention to the messages that everyone receives in dreams and visions. In order to be in harmony with spirit and with nature, to be happy and to survive, animists pay attention to the messages from animals, plants, stones and other spirits.

About the author: White Cranes has studied and taught animism and shamanism since 1989 and leads a 132-member Shamanism Meetup group. Want to read more about the oldest human spiritual belief systems? Go to http://www.shamanista.com and http://shamanista.blogspot.com

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