Pagan Blog Project week #1: A is for Animism

According to Wikipedia (Only the highest quality sources for this blog, folks) Animism “is the religious worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence.” It’s something I very much believe in, and even when I was Christian I was unwittingly holding this view without realizing it had a name.

Part of the reason I discovered animism was through learning about Shinto. I found the idea very appealing, and it fit into my own beliefs pretty well; I was of the opinion that animals had souls, and that humans had souls, and that they didn’t always look like their physical counterparts. So thinking about it, it would make sense that all of nature had some kind of spiritual presence to it, including plants and the Earth itself. This was before I had decided to pursue a pagan path.

Part of why I am an animist is because of my experiences with animals. I’ve always been an animal lover, and it seemed obvious to me that my dog (and other animals) were more than just a glorified slab of meat driven by instinct. They had a soul, they had a spark of life. And old objects were similar. I could feel (for lack of a better word) their personalities, built up from years and years of history.

This doesn’t tie in to any belief in an afterlife. As far as I’m concerned, humans, animals, and whatever else may experience an afterlife do it completely seperate of each other. But it does tie into why I feel drawn to Amaterasu and the turn of the seasons.

For me, there are small spirits and greater spirits. They’re not necessarily interchangeable lwith gods, but they hold the significance of one. Amaterasu, for instance, is the sun goddess; the sun is kind of a big deal, so she’s a greater spirit, while people like me and the tree in my backyard are lesser spirits.

I haven’t been well-researched enough to know if these fall in line with any pre-set path, although I do know Shinto and Asatru are both animistic religions, but I’m going to do much more research on the topic.

Are you an animist? Why or why not? What advice would you give to newbies looking into an animistic path?

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2 thoughts on “Pagan Blog Project week #1: A is for Animism

  1. I’m an Animist-Shinto mixture as well!
    It just seemed to click with me, and the things I’ve always privately thought… I was raised Christian as well (Lutheran), but despite growing up with it, it always just felt like stories to me, and I couldn’t really…believe it in my heart, I suppose. I preferred something much more nature and animal-oriented, and Shinto and Animism gave me that. (Unlike your experiences though, I don’t focus specifically on the gods and goddesses in their tales of heaven as much as I do their more Animist tales).
    I know what you mean about the game Okami! That’s one of my favorites as well (Have you played the DS sequel, Okamiden?), but as for me, my first (loose) introduction to Shinto was through Hayao Miyazaki’s Totoro (when I was around five or so), and again with Princess Mononoke (later in grade school). They’re both very powerful, and sparked a strong curiosity in me to find out more.
    I’ve been to Japan twice, and had a chance to visit Shinto shrines and some forests both times, and it was extremely spiritual for me. It was like there was this sense of overwhelming ancient power. I felt a strong “real”-ness I never had with Christianity.
    For newbies, I’d strongly suggest thoroughly researching the roots and various different religions utilizing Animism, and find out which one (if any) work well for you. Don’t be afraid to combine aspects and gods from different religions with your own beliefs to find something that feels true for you. 🙂

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