What is Animism? Animism is a way of approaching life that emphasizes relationships. The term has historical baggage from white, Western academics who misunderstood and judged indigenous cultures; however, many are reclaiming the term in helpful ways. Drawing from the work of Graham Harvey in my framing, animists see the world as full of persons, both human and other-than-human, and prioritize living in conscious and respectful ways with others. These others include: animals, plants, mountains, metals, fire, bodies of water, spirits of wind and weather, deities, ancestors, star people, nature spirits, and many others.
Consider animism on a spectrum. If you look down on people from other backgrounds and see nature as a resource for humans to exploit, you’re not very animist as your relational sphere doesn’t extend beyond living humans who are like you. If you appreciate humans of all sorts, connect with companion animals, and respect many wild kin as also intelligent and worthy of respect, then you’re more animist. If you also deeply bond with other forms of life and dialogue with plants, animals, and other unseen forces, then you’re more animist yet. The wider your field of meaningful relationships, the more you fit the description of an animist.