Animism, in a nutshell, is the belief that everything in the natural world – from animal to zephyr – is ensouled, alive in some relevant and important sense of the word. Plants, mountains, trees, winds, rocks, streams, animals, all of them sharing in the same great and cosmic force that animates everything else (where humanity is typically conceptualized as the prototype…which I have a problem with). Animism seems to be a foundational concept for spirit-workers such as myself. Under the auspices of animism, the facets of nature transition from being objects to be used and become subjects to be respected and interacted with as equals. By crossing into the Otherworlds via a shift in consciousness, the spirit worker can commune with the diverse spirits that populate the world. [If she is particularly open and respectful, even the spirits of the animate Universe (yes, animism encompasses more than just this Sphere *smiles*) just may take a turn with her around the cosmic room, whispering the wisdom of stars and planets into her ear.]
I have always known that many so-called “inanimate objects” were indeed animate. However, it was not always clear to me exactly how I could live that knowing. Sure, I could honor and respect those spirits as I would my fellow human beings, but I felt called to do more than simply acknowledge the existence of the various spirits embodied in natural phenomena. My call to spirit-work came quite unexpectedly when I was introduced to The Catskin Siters (let’s call the group TCS for short). When I began working with the Norse/Germanic shamanistic oracular practice, spae, and its sister practice, seidhr via TCS, I finally realized that there was a practical way to live my animistic belief and begin forming active relationships with myriad spirits. It was as if the living beings of the natural environment exhaled and began to whisper in the dark.
I think it is important to note here that spirits whose bodies are aspects of the natural environment are not the only types of spirits. There are other beings of the unseen worlds that are connected to various natural phenomena but are not the souls/spirits of those phenomena. For example, to my thinking, dwarves are spirits that inhabit the earth, they are not the soul or spirit of the earth. Another good example are the Fae. They occupy various natural places – like trees – but they are not the soul or spirit of those natural places. Humans are another example. We live on the earth, among the trees and rivers, but we are not the souls/spirits of the trees and rivers. Dwarves, the Fae, et al are spirits in that they are non-corporeal by most definitions but I think of them like species occupying a particular environment. A tree has a soul separate from the faery spirit living in it. A stream a spirit beyond the undines that may occupy it. This is my take on this at this point in my spiritual awareness. As I gain more experience, my understandings most definitely may shift. Who the heck knows; I certainly don’t *smiles*.
As I worked within TCS and performed my own rites, rituals, journeys, and meditations, my animistic belief was no longer simply an intellectual knowing occasionally corroborated by a brief interaction but it was a calling to actively make contact, passionately build bridges between the worlds, and seek out dynamic ways to constructively weave our collective wyrd. Were the spirits of land, sea, and air, of mountain, stream, and valley waiting with bated breath for me in particular? Probably not, but I was most certainly waiting for them. Now I can hear them breathing and distinguish their words, their will. For me, animism supports my belief that all beings, all things are interconnected, woven together into an intricate system, a latticework of relationships that link our destinies. Since when have humans and trees or streams and birds or mountains and wind (in their current biological/evolutionary iterations) not relied on one another for their mutual survival and quality of life? At the cosmic level, when has the Earth not relied on the Sun and the Moon or the life cycle of distant solar systems that contribute to the balance of our own solar system?
These days, basking in the glow of my philosophical and experiential dawn, I am always striving to hear more clearly and work more diligently for the good and prosperity of all my relations – gods, fellow humans, ancestors, crows, coyotes, fish, trees, plants, mountains, rivers, ancient stones, distant suns, wayward comets, and every”thing” else. The next time you are out and about in the world, perk up an ear. A spirit or two may be greeting you! We are kin, we are inextricably linked, and we craft existence together.