Nature Transmissions

Let's Talk About Animism

nature intuition Aug 16, 2023

In elementary school, I learned about the spiritual practice of talking to animals, communing with trees, calling on ancestors and general nature worship in regard to the Native Americans of lore. In elementary school in New York in the 80s, Native Americans existed of lore, not as a living contemporary culture. Learning about Native American culture in elementary school was like learning about ancient Greek mythology; this was another time, before science and technology when people didn’t know any better and were unenlightened. The earth-based Native American culture was considered antiquated and rang with echoes of naivety and superstition. It wasn’t their fault, I was taught, they just didn’t know any better.

Now I know that this was all wrong.

Having lived for several years in an Athabascan community and now near to the Red Willow People of Taos Pueblo, I know that Native Americans not only still exist (despite the mass genocide by the American government) but thrive. They have not forsaken their earth-based culture because they live in a modern world with science, but instead continue to practice it with more fervor and intention than ever.

And while I was taught that animism is a thing of simple heathens, I now know that not only is that false, but that animism is normative consciousness (as Joshua Schrei coined in The Emerald Podcast). For 98% of human history, 98% of human civilization practiced animism. The philosophical worldview that modern Western civilization currently exists under, that only humans are conscious and therefore separate and having dominion over nature, is not the real story but the false narrative.

Schrei said in a recent Instagram post about animism throughout human history, “It wasn’t a theory, a philosophy, or an idea. It wasn’t actually an ‘-ism.’ It was direct, felt experience. It was, simply, how things were. Which is why it has been commonly understood across the entire world for all of time.”

Graham Harvey who wrote the quintessential book on animism, Animism: Respecting the Living World, studied animist cultures all over the world from Aboriginal Australians to Ojibwe of North America to Neo-Pagan activists and more. He says in his book, “…Animism is not a theory that ‘everything lives’ but is concerned with particular relationships… animism entails finding appropriate ways to relate to a wide range of persons. It adds, as a sub-point, that only some people are embodied.” When Harvey talks about “persons” he means human and other-than-human persons/people. When he says not all are embodied, he is referring to the practice of communing with ancestors and spirits. In other words, animism is about being in relationship to the whole range of persons—human or other-than-human, physically on this earth or in spiritual form.

Hello, my name is Johanna, and I am an animist.

Some of you will straightaway think I am crazy. Fairies are fairytales. Talking trees are of fantasy. Animal messengers are folklore. Nymphs are a myth.

As an individual navigating animism, it is up to me to determine what it means to me, how I will reason for it, how I will practice it. Contemporary animism is complicated because animism has always existed within cultures and tribes who have found ways to lay out the guidelines, rules, and philosophical understanding of how it works.

I lean on my own nature intuition, as well as pagan cultures of the past and contemporary pagan cultures around the world to help me remember what all our ancestors already knew how to do, practice animism. Every single one of us has animist ancestors.

There are many theories about when Western civilization began to veer away from animism. Some say it was at the start of agriculture due to a surplus of goods and gods. Some theorize that it was the creation of a phonetic alphabet when we got lost in the words that took us out of our sensuous experience. Others believe it was with the creation of the Jewish bible, the one god, the Genesis creation story. And many believe it was all solidified during the Enlightenment era when Descartes claimed, “I think therefore I am.”

However our departure from the natural world began and perpetuated, we can see that the results of this disconnection have created a spiral of destruction to our living habitat. We are amidst the climate disaster that will bring humans and the majority of nature beings to their doom.

I believe that helping individuals to remember their animist consciousness will shift all of human consciousness and steer us back to a state of connection and equilibrium with the natural world. I pray it will be a regenerative turn, and that it will be enough. I believe that in shifting our consciousness toward one of connection and reciprocal relationship with the natural world, we will heal ourselves and the Earth. I don’t only believe this, the nature beings have told me this.

So, when I say, I am a Nature Intuitive and you can be too, I am not speaking metaphorically. I mean, you can communicate with the natural world and the natural world can guide you to peace for yourself and peace for your community and the people you serve.

If you don’t believe me, try it yourself. It is magical, but it is not mysterious. Anyone can do it.



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