My Animism

I wanted to sit down and type this out for two reasons; first and foremost for myself and for my readers. I have talked quite a bit here about my beliefs and worldview. I wanted to take the time to really create a more concise version of all of that. Second, I am hoping to add another contribution to the growing My Polytheism project.

As I have said many times before, I am an animist first and foremost. It is my foundation, and the lens through which I view the world. I am a polytheist as well, because there is more than enough room for gods in my animism. But that’s not the focus of this post, so will leave that for a moment.

My animism starts with a single and simple philosophy; that the world is full of people, most of which are non-human, and that life is lived in relation with others.

This idea comes from Graham Harvey’s book “Animism: Respecting the Living World.” As I have explored in many other posts, the implications of this philosophy are huge. In many ways it informs everything I do as well as many of my values and principles.

Naturalistic Aspects

There is a principle that I adhere to when approaching many of life’s obstacles; search for a mundane explanation first, then explore spiritual ones. This means I practice and live a spirituality that is very grounded in this world. A world of trees, deer and humans, and plenty of other things besides.

Science is very important to me, and I think it is a fine thing overall. Most of all, it is a reliable method for understanding that which is empirical. That being said, it is only one method of understanding the world. I prefer to integrate many different ways of understanding into how I view the world.

For example, science as well as my own senses tell me the world is full of many things. It also tells me that things like plants and animals are living.

My animism tells me that not only are these things living, but they are people too. Oak People, and Deer People, and Squirrel People. In fact, the current count of species on this planet is over one trillion.

One Trillion different species of People.

In addition, my animism also tells me that all people are deserving of basic dignity and respect, as well as the basic right to exist as they see fit. It fits nicely with things like ecology, that says in some way or another, we are all interconnected. Destroying forests for example is as bad for us in the long run as it is for the People that find themselves displaced.

It applies too to humans. It means that no matter your gender, sexual orientation, or the color of your skin, you deserve basic dignity and respect.

All are people. All deserve basic dignity and respect.

Spiritual Aspects

It is called the physical for a reason. It is the world we live in all of our embodied lives, the world of science and nature. It is the world we can touch and taste, measure and understand.

But as I said, I tend to layer and interweave the numerous aspects of my worldview. The physical is one aspect, the metaphysical is another. I draw a great deal of inspiration from old mythologies, folklore and archaeology. I weave the threads of the past into the present, and onward into the future too. It’s called the metaphysical because it is what comes “after” the physical. It is not the realm of science, but of belief and ideas.

I don’t think we just “stop” when we die. We become… well disembodied. In naturalistic ways, the dead are still with us. In our bones and blood, in our soil and in our air. Some day all the atoms in my body will be recycled into something else. My ancestors live on in my very DNA, and in my memories.

It is said that the dead are protectors of the living, and I take this to heart. In both a physical and metaphysical sense, my ancestors are still with me. I can ask them for guidance, and their blood runs in my veins. So much of my appearance, innate skills, my mental makeup, I owe to them. I have added my own bits from my own life experiences to be sure.

So there are the disembodied, and there are those that never had bodies to begin with. I am not going to go to deep into that at the moment. But I want you to consider what I said earlier about the trillions of species. Now consider they have trillions and trillions of dead behind them, back to the first of their kind. Humans have that too, and that makes my animistic view really complicated.

I want to share something now that hasn’t really appeared too much in my previous posts. It is my current way of organizing my thinking about all this. I tend to think of the various species as “Clans”. In the anthropological sense, “clan” usually means a grouping based on a common ancestor.

So in humans terms the McManus clan would in some way all be descendants of someone named McManus.

Also, if I say one of my big spiritual alliance is with the Arctic Wolf Clan, it implies most members of gray wolves, as well as the subspecies the Arctic wolf. Because under current taxonomy, Arctic wolves are considered a subspecies of gray wolves; Canis lupus artcos. See how that works?

As such, I would also be a member of the Human Clan, Homo sapiens (sapiens). If you want to go even farther back up the ancestral tree, I could claim I am part of the Primate Clan too. And considering that all life (and other peoples) on Earth have a common origin in some primordial time…

That makes every person on this planet a member of the Earth-Clan.

Obviously, there is a lot a room for nuance and overlap in this system. For example, because of my spiritual alliances, I am considered a member of Artic Wolf Clan as well as the clan of Skaði. There is a whole set of stories there I am not going to go into. Not in this post anyways.

Most of what I have said here comes as much from taxonomy and anthropology as it does a fair bit of Nordic folklore, especially Finnish folklore and modern art as well. There is plenty of scholarly material that suggests there may have been an ancient clan system in some parts of Europe. Reindeer/Elk and Bear cults being the most obvious examples.

One of my favorite Finnish folk metal bands is Korpiklanni, whose name means “Forest Clan.” As such, as I have just detailed, the various species would be the Klanni.

Gray/Arctic Wolf Klanni, Earth Klanni, and so forth. You get the idea.

Political Aspects

I don’t want to harp too much on this, as I have said a fair bit in other places. As I said earlier, my animism implies that all people deserve basic dignity and respect. This is regardless of the various ways we divide each other, by sex, gender, skin color, or what have you. This idea for me even transcends human issues. The whole of nature deserves respect as much as humans do.

I have made it no secret that I favor the ideas embodied in social democracy, especially in the Nordic model. You know, the kinds of ideas that put people first. Universal health care and education, equality and democracy. Because not only do people deserve respect, but deserve a voice too.

In addition to a lot of issues that fall under social justice, the Nordic countries also put a strong emphasis on the environment as well. As I said, basic dignity and respect extends beyond humans. We need to be doing everything in our power to live sustainably, and reduce our impact on the environment. Entire species, entire Klanni, are going extinct mostly due to habitat loss. That is on us humans. Not to put too fine a point on it, but in human terms wiping out entire peoples is considered genocide. In animistic terms, killing off entire species is genocide too.

Issue by issue, my animism does inform my political positions. Human people deserve dignity, so we should do every everything we can to make sure the people in our societies are taken care of. In addition, non-human people should enter in the equation too.

The long and short of it is; we cannot afford to think only of ourselves.

I feel like there is a lot more I can write here…

But as always;

Thanks for reading!

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About Nicholas Haney

I am a writer, author, hunter, craftsman, and student of anthropology/archaeology. View all posts by Nicholas Haney

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