Talk:Animism

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Americans?[edit]

I found the phrase 'All Native American religions are fundamentally animistic' a little unencyclopedic. This may or may not be true, but such a blunt fact could do with even a little more info. To what extent? Any examples? And how do they differ?

My Native American ancestors believed in 'The Great Spirit'. They were (are) spiritualists, not animists. They see some animals as being more or less on an equivalent spiritual journey as are we humans, but whereas they might revere some animals, they do not worship them as gods. Consider a Raven, a highly intelligent bird. It will alert predators as to your whereabouts, when you happen into it's territory, in the interest of picking your bones when the predators are done with you. However, if you feed it a time or two, and become part of it's surroundings, it will then change tactics and show you where prey (moose) can be found. It will also sound alarms when wolves, bears, approach. I do not need to cite these abilities for myself, as I have lived with Ravens for many years. I'm sure there are many who can concur. With that in mind, my 'people' , more or less, consider animals as a form of person with a spirit, not a spirit in the form of an animal. There is absolutely no mystical/metaphysical mumbo jumbo in the relationship. Hollywood/ Bush Hippies/ Empowerment Marketing Experts try to romanticize such factors into play, but none of that has anything to do with the evolved relationship we have with the Raven. They are just really smart flying eaters of road-kill and scraps. swampfoot (talk) 02:22, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

Considering the wide variaty of native american religions and cultures, I find it hard to beleive there are'nt any answers to these questions. I'd also add that in my research I've found evidence of shamanistic and polythesic fundamentals in many Native American religions, which again makes the current statment fustratingly short. If anyone could add anything to this it would be greatly appreciated. Elcaballooscuro (talk) 20:53, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

Outdated References, POV Problem[edit]

This article seems only to convey the colonial perspective of Tylor, Frazer, et al. Today, the religions of indigenous people and forest dwelling peoples are widely acknowledged as such, and their traditions are not considered 'primitive' or lower on a long-rubbished scale of cultural evolution. The article should be made to reflect this point. 217.171.129.79 (talk) 10:43, 17 July 2008 (UTC) R.E.D.


I edited the Africa section because it simply does not reflect the complexity of what is being referred to as "Animism" in African traditional beliefs. I would strongly suggest that those who wish to understand this debate begin with Evans-Pritchard's Nuer Religion and Godfrey Lienhardt's Divinity and Experience, both over 60 years old at this point. No leading scholar of Africanist Anthropology has used the terms "animist" in any significant way since then, and the debate that has followed as to how to best capture the conceptualizations of spirits has been very rich. The science is way too decided here to let this stand as is. I do realize that disciplinary traditions and definitions may be playing a role here, but I really think Anthropology has enough evidence that should alter how scholars of Religion and related fields deal with subject by now. Drewalanwalker (talk) 19:11, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Animism and the origin of Religion[edit]

I changed Karen Armstrong's title from "freelance author Karen Armstrong" to "feminist author Karen Armstrong" - now, that isn't totally accurate, either, but she is NOT a "freelance author," by any means. She calls herself a "freelance monotheist" which is something completely different. Perhaps she should just be listed as "author" and leave off the adjective altogether?

71.110.1.32 (talk) 16:32, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

You have not explained why she is not a freelance author. Slrubenstein | Talk 19:38, 22 February 2008 (UTC)"
She is feminist and Theist ? I feel such two factors are well cited here as a means to alert the reader of her probable bias. 'Freelance' also implies to me that she is a-political, which of course she would not be as a feminist monotheist.

Spiritual not Religious[edit]

Some mention of modern American Animism, i.e. unformed belief in spirits outside of any theology, seems called for. Lycurgus 10:55, 12 August 2007 (UTC)

Whatever that beilef should be called, it is not animism. Slrubenstein | Talk 22:47, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
Might just be me, and constitute Wikipedia:OR; but couldn't this particular form of Animimism be summed up with something like....
Treating "existance"/"reality" as being a system of interacting black boxs, with anima replacing the "behavour" of black boxes
NB I'm English and first learnt of these animistic like topics through studying Mechanical Engineering, rather than religion/spirtuality.(That came later.)
steve10345 (talk) 05:55, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

I am trying to add citations as needed if appropriate and wanted others to look at this one. This is stated "Developmental psychology has since established that the distinction of animate vs. inanimate things is an abstraction acquired by learning." I have found this that may make it [1] understandable.

Suggested reading section[edit]

I have removed a linkfrom suggested reading section, which is no longer active. Please put it back if you can find it in a new web adress. Thanks..Ciup (talk) 16:13, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

John Maynard Keynes[edit]

what is John Maynard Keynes's animal spirits? Jackzhp (talk) 19:14, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

That book is an economics treatise, not a critique of animism one way or another. It's title comes from the fact that economic actors (which are humans, or else groups of them) do not act in a completely non-emotional rational manner, as earlier classical economic models expected. So, it's not really relevant to this Article. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 05:06, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Removal of sentence[edit]

I have removed from the Mythology subtopic a sentence which read "For instance, Australian mythology focuses largely on corporeal, non-spiritual beings.[citation needed]" because it is incorrect. The Australian Aborigines have ancestral spirits, human, flora or fauna in form [2] --AlotToLearn (talk) 02:18, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Neopaganism[edit]

re [1], I have actually written much of Wiki page "Asatru"/"Germnic Neopaganism". The article does not present any evidence to support your claim. Of course, all neopagan flavours attempt to revive historical animism, but there is nothing to suggest that Germanic neopaganism does this more than others. Re [2], "Neoshamanism is not a religion": is that so now? In this case, Neopaganism as a whole "is not a religion". This depends entirely of your personal definition of "religion". For narrower definitions, animism and religion are mutually exclusive because religion proper develops out of animism anthropologically.

Now please stop pushing Neopaganism on this page. It may be mentioned, but it isn't the focus of this page. If you have literature discussing Neopaganism in terms of animism, be sure to discuss it at Neopaganism, and after you did that, we can post a brief summary of your findings here. --dab (𒁳) 15:53, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

I agree, "Neopaganism" is not a religion, because it is a term used as an "umbrella-term" for SEVERAL religions. Wicca and Asatru are two separate religions that are both fall under the term "Neopagan". Asatru is, in Europe, a legitimate, State recognized religion (by four European States: Spain, Denmark, Iceland, Norway). Wicca is not. It is by self-definition animistic and therefore as valid as Shinto or Hinduism, which are mentioned in the the preceding paragraphs. Furthermore, Wicca which IS specifically mentioned in the section following "new religious movements", is not animistic, but is by self definition an "immanent religion" and therefore only has very limited similarity with animism. Wicca is lacking in "land-spirit" and "wight" worship, etc. This is why Germanic Neopaganism is separated out of the umbrella-term "Neopagism", due to the fact that it stands apart from all other "Neopagan" traditions in that, without its animistic beliefs "Germanic Neopaganism" is not possible. This can be proven through Icelandic Sagas and laws (see Landnámabók, Heimskringla and Eybyggja Saga in part.) where the settlers of Iceland, were to remove the dragon-prows off their ships when approaching Iceland to prevent the frighting of "land-spirits". When settling their new land they carried fire around the land to mark it and to pacify the land-spirits. Another example of land spirits (in the Heimskrinla, chapt., Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar), is when a wizard goes to Iceland in whale shape to find a way to invade Iceland, but the land-spirits,who are on the side of the Icelanders, fend him off. (the crest on Icelandic money is the four land-spirits of this story.) This by definition, is classic animism. And in daily life the land spirit- and wight-worship is more important, or rather practised with more frequency, than the Blóts to the gods (See "Our Troth" pub. by "the Troth"). There is no other Neopagan tradition that has this in common with Asatru. That is why it has to be mentioned, because animism is not common in all religions that "Neopaganism" encompasses, but it is, and is essential, in all branches of Germanic-Neopaganism.

I also agree with you that there should be a specific section in the "Germanic-Neopaganism" page, that deals with animism. Even though animism is mentioned in the section "Rites and Practices", which clearly states that: "Animism or land veneration is most evident in the rituals dedicated to the elves and wights.". I will gather my findings on the subject and write a section. The fact that the latter page is lacking in an appropriate section, does not mean that this section is not based in fact. Please do not delete.

I hope you understand, am not "pushing" Neopaganism, I am adding Asatru.Odinsjarl (talk) 00:44, 21 February 2009 (UTC)Odinsjarl

I am not disputing there was animism and magical thinking in Viking Age paganism, just as in every other instance of historical paganism. But you keep conflating Neopaganism with historical Viking Age paganism. Don't do that. Please WP:CITE a reference in support of your claimed "fact" that Asatru "stands apart from all other 'Neopagan' traditions" wrt animism. I am not saying it isn't true, I am saying you need a reference or your assertion is pointless, per WP:TRUTH. I support your introduction of the Germanic_Neopaganism#Animism section as a good idea in principle, but there also you need to cite some appropriate reference. Please save us both some time by accepting right now that without references, you can do nothing on Wikipedia. I will be very pleased to discuss animism within Neopaganism with you, but this will only be possible based on quotable literature. --dab (𒁳) 12:43, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

The language in this section is not in any way neutral to begin with. "Purport to" and "like to describe themselves as"? Come on. Would you use that terminology about a follower of, say, Shinto? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.113.186.77 (talk) 02:16, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Christian attitudes towards animism[edit]

The article should maybe try to better explain what have been the Christian attitudes towards animism. There have arguably been two different attitudes, one which is to denounce it as pagan or occult, and another which is to try and find relevant similarities between the two religions, such as in John Paul II's interfaith efforts on several continents. ADM (talk) 04:36, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

Christian attitudes were far more complex than that. The missionaries generally denounced and accepted animism at the same time: it's not a dichotomy, those are different dimensions. The attitude of the home church was often different. Almost by definition, the missonaries were people who more interested in, had more sympathy with, and had a wider knowledge of religion. And more interested in, had more sympathy with, and had a deeper knowledge of the people.
The Roman Catholic attitude to both inclusion and denunciation predates John Paul II by millenia. The Roman Catholic church is explicitly traditional, and able to include elements not in conflict with the core faith. That church is also strongly denuncatory: if you are in the business of accepting traditional beliefs, you need to be strong and clear about which traditional beliefs are accepted and rejected. RC missionary practice in South America and in the Orient was both widely inclusive and strongly denunciatory. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 218.214.18.240 (talk) 12:14, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

Muism[edit]

I haven't read all that much about it (though I am in the process of changing that--I've got some books on hold at the local library), but doesn't the Korean indigenous tradition of Muism/shamanism fall under animism, too? Would any Wikipedians be opposed to my adding appropriate references to it in the article? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 96.26.238.33 (talk) 16:31, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Of course the Korean indigenous tradition is animist -- unless, as is becoming increasingly common, you define "animist" to be an outdated theoretical construct which does not actually include any real examples at all. The problem with that approach is that it does not leave us with a generic term (like "monotheist" or "pantheist") to describe, however inadequately, this group of religions, and no modern term has yet emerged to replace it.
The generic term "animist" conceals real differences in belief: it's kind of like calling some one an "American". But if you read much anthropology, you'll see that anthropologists prefer to look at subsets of that group too. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 218.214.18.240 (talk) 10:59, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ (PDF) http://sitemaker.umich.edu/gelman.lab/files/development_of_the_animate%E2%80%93inanimate_distinction.pdf.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Dean, Colin [http://gamahucherpress.yellowgum.com/books/religion/DREAMTIME1.pdf "The Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime (Its History, Cosmogenesis, Cosmology and Ontology)" 1996, Gamahucher Press, West Geelong, Victoria, Australia, at page 2

Tylor Quotation[edit]

Although the definition "the theory of the universal animation of nature" has been attributed to Tylor in some sources, that phrase does not seem to actually appear in Primitive Culture. I updated the quotation to his actual words (which are pretty similar in concept) for the sake of accuracy and added a reference. Numenetics (talk) 21:11, 19 September 2010 (UTC)

Rocks and thunder...[edit]

So, animism assigns spirits to non-living particles (rocks and such). Is there a name for the idea that spirits exist only in biological beings but not exclusively humans? If so, there should be a Link from this Article to an Article on that idea. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 02:34, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

I think the page should be changed so that it phrases animism as giving souls to nonliving objects, not to nonhuman objects. There is no reason why humans should have souls and all other life should not. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 200.252.231.131 (talk) 10:34, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

First off, you're right. The words for "life" and "soul" are the same in the original Hebrew, and God breathed life/soul into the brutes and then into humans. It is only by reading the Bible in English (and other modern languages) that people find what seems to say that souls are solely human. However, Jesus only had to save humans because, due to our conscious relationship with God in this life and our guilt from Original Sin, only humans can go to Perdition (as opposed to being absolutely gaurenteed Paradise or at least a positive state of being). In other words, only humans can go to Hell anyway and that's why he only had to save humans. In the interest of WP: Not a Forum, however, I ask that you reply to this on my own Talk Page if you choose to reply. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 23:37, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Why only one definition?[edit]

This article used to list at least three different definitions of animism. Now the article gives only one explicit definition: the belief that non-human entities have souls. Now, this is by far the best-known definition of animism, but it isn't the only one. As the article itself notes further down, Tylor defined animism as the belief in souls or spirits in general; clearly, by this definition, a religion could be animistic without involving non-human souls. Moreover, Britannica defines animism as "belief in the existence of spirits separable from bodies".[3] This definition is, of course, completely different from the definition given in this article. Is there a reason why only one definition is given in this article? I'd be happy to edit the article to include other definitions, but I don't want to do so and then come back later to find that the other definitions have mysteriously disappeared again. --Phatius McBluff (talk) 03:33, 4 June 2011 (UTC)

Is this article written from a European perspective?[edit]

Hi editors,

I have linked some African religion articles in particular Serer religion to Animism. The Serer religion in particular is a great example of true Animism. Every single thing has soul and deserves respect, etc. But is this article written from a European paganistic view point to the exclusion of others? Perhaps I am one of few who believe that the article does not actually deal with the subject. Tamsier (talk) 11:39, 10 March 2012 (UTC)


Hi I'm not really sure how this goes but i'm a different person than the above and have something to say. Basically, i think you're right: the article is a formal, western, encyclopedic article about something that simply does not exist in that culture. It's like natives that couldn't SEE the ships coming, because their brains didn't know how to see such things. Animist and author Daniel Quinn (of the novel ISHMAEL) has commented on his website (ishmael.org, on the "guestbook") recently that parts of the animism article here remind him of people who have never actually SEEN an elephant trying to describe it to each other. Religions are experiences as much as beliefs, and i guess animism even more so than ones that have central dogmae and such that can be "pinned down." Whatevs: i think you got the idea, above author person. Animism is the experience of being part of the biosphere, a description far too wishy-washy to expect to stay up long on the great unbaised Wikipedia (a resourse far, far more useful for some things than others). Anyone who wants to really understand animism should read Quinn's THE STORY OF B or Alan Watts' THE BOOK. Yup. 63.225.208.115 (talk) 11:16, 24 December 2012 (UTC)

Philosophy and not religion[edit]

From its definition isn't animism a theological philosophy and not a religion. The lead defines it as "Animism (from Latin anima "soul, life")[1] is the religious belief that natural phenomena, including animals, plants, and sometimes even inanimate natural objects, possess a spiritual essence." To my knowledge two major world faiths: Hinduism and Buddhism have such beliefs central to them. Yogesh Khandke (talk) 02:33, 13 November 2012 (UTC)

I've added some information in the opening of the article regarding your inquiry. The fact is, it may be regarded as a belief or a religion. Wolfdog (talk) 05:37, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
According to Dean C. Halverson in "Animism: The Religion of the Tribal World", Animism is a religion that stands alone. [1] --Amaruca (talk) 00:54, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

Examples of animist traditions[edit]

Under "Examples of animist traditions" at the bottom it says "The Aluk religion in the Toraja society", but Aluk links to an island of Greenland but Toraja links to an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Is it just me, or do these pages seem to be completely unrelated? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.195.3.229 (talk) 05:58, 5 December 2012 (UTC)

"Science(???)" and Animism (or Dualism?)[edit]

"Science and Animism" is misleading/suggestive that animism is a scientific principle or validated through scientific theory. While interesting to cite some scientists who proponents of dualism, there is no scientific theory of dualism--I believe it is merely a philosophy and therefore opinion and not "science." I am not even sure why this section is here. (It comes off as an agenda by someone to suggest to readers that animism is scientific. Perhaps, at the very least, rename the heading to "Scientists who are dualists" or something like that. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 107.200.131.79 (talk) 23:16, 30 March 2014 (UTC)

Capitalization of Animism as respect for indigenous peoples[edit]

Let's talk about this before any more edit wars.--Amaruca (talk) 11:06, 6 December 2014 (UTC)

Speaking as an uninvolved bystander it would appear that you have a reference for your viewpoint and the other side doesn't. Trilobitealive (talk) 22:59, 6 December 2014 (UTC) Looking for resources to substantiate suppositions of the other side of the question, I find some significantly POV work, such as this link, Catholic Encyclopedia which would lead me to wonder if this is not so much a POV dispute as a true shibboleth which could only be resolved by discussing both sides in the article.Trilobitealive (talk) 23:17, 6 December 2014 (UTC)
Knee jerk reactions toward religious viewpoints are abundant. The question is: do we apply equal treatment and respect towards all or just some?--Amaruca (talk) 20:57, 7 December 2014 (UTC)
As per WP:CAPS, Animism should be capitalized.Omo Obatalá (talk) 00:22, 7 December 2014 (UTC)
I agree with the application of WP:CAPS in this circumstance. The problem is that we have two adamant opposers who have made promises to edit war my attempts to apply this rule.--Amaruca (talk) 22:36, 7 December 2014 (UTC)
I'm reading MOS:CAPS#Religion and I don't see that. I did find "Philosophies, theories, movements, doctrines, and systems of thought do not begin with a capital letter, unless the name derives from a proper name". Editor2020, Talk 00:05, 9 December 2014 (UTC)
"So, animism needs to be understood because it is the form of religion to which people gravitate. Although precise figures are hard to come by, the estimates concerning the percentages of animists in the world are significantly large. For example, Gailyn Van Rheenen, an expert on animistic religions, estimates that “at least 40 percent of the world’s population” is animistic (Van Rheenen, 1996:30)."[2]--Amaruca (talk) 00:57, 9 December 2014 (UTC)


It would look like MOS:CAPS#Religion would also say "Names of organized religions (as well as officially recognized sects), whether as a noun or an adjective, and their adherents start with a capital letter." So it would seem that the Capital side of this disagreement would need to provide sufficient references to demonstrate that Animism somewhere in the world is an organized religion with some sort of Wiki verifiable reference.
I don't want to contaminate this discussion with WP:OR but anecdotally I do know from many conversations in real life that in southern Nigeria Odinani the officially recognized native religion within the structure of both the Igbo tribe and the national government is commonly called "Animism" by numerous English speaking Catholic Nigerians who call the practitioners Animists. It is certainly organized, but not organized in the English language - English descriptions are primarily done by heavily POV Christian writers such as the reference I gave above to the Catholic Encyclopedia. I find it interesting that the English language sources cited in the Odinani article emphasize its theistic beliefs but entirely ignore its animistic beliefs. I think this may be a contamination which goes all the way back to the fact that in that country most of the published historical work has been written in Arabic, English, Latin ... but never Igbo.
On another subtopic, I ran across an internet-readable copy of the reference that was given by User:Amaruca. I haven't read the whole thing but it does seem to use the word in a manner that s/he was endorsing. (link) I think I will stop posting here at this point because I'm neutral in the debate but am interested in the ways that it occurred in the first place.
All this leads back to my original thesis that perhaps the subject of capitalization versus noncapitalization should be addressed as a shibboleth rather than a dispute. Trilobitealive (talk) 01:07, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── So have we decided to capitalize Animism or not? Editor2020, Talk 15:20, 11 December 2014 (UTC)

As far as I am aware, "animism" isn't the name of any religion. It is a general term for a category of religious/spiritual belief, so more analogous to "monotheism" or "deism". Given that those aren't usually capitalized, I don't see why animism would be. I don't see this as an issue of respect for people's beliefs, as you are not mis-spelling or mis-capitalizing the name of their actual religion. (If you are worried about (dis)respect, you probably ought to be referring to their religion by its actual (capitalized) name instead/as well as describing it as "animist"). Iapetus (talk) 21:58, 25 January 2015 (UTC)