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Derived from the Latin word for soul, it is the worship of spirits detached from nature and without a necessary link with natural phenomena.
Animists belief that every natural object, both living and nonliving has a spirit or life force, and are endowed with reason and volition identical with that of man. The animist sees movement in streams, trees, wind, rocks, and other objects, which he believes to be inhabited by spirits. Movement, therefore, argued life. The concept assumes the existence of a universal soul or spiritual power that is reflected in the existence of the spiritual aspect of all living things, especially in the existence of souls in human beings. It is distinctly at the root of magical belief and practice.
Broadly speaking the word animism is used in two ways. The older usage refers to a putative concern with knowing what is alive and what makes a being alive. It alleges a belief in spirits or non-empirical beings, and/or a confusion about life and death among some indigenous people, young children or all religious people. The newer usage refers to a concern with knowing how to behave appropriately towards persons, not all of whom are human. It refers to the widespread indigenous and increasingly popular alternative understanding that humans share this world with a wide range of persons, only some of whom are human.
Animism as a concept was first articulated by Sir Edward Taylor in his anthropological work, Primitive Culture (1871). Any creation myth that stresses the spiritual or godly essence of each element of the creation might be called animistic.
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Sources: (1) Leeming, David Adams, Encyclopedia of Creation Myths, ABC-Clio Inc; (2) Jones, Lindsay, The Encyclopedia of Religion, MacMillan Reference Books; (3) Steiger, Brad and Sherry H., The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained, Thomson Gale; (4) Harvey, Graham, Animism: Respecting the Living World, Columbia University Press.
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