What does Animism mean?

Animism means choosing to see the personhood and kinship in all things.

I use the word Animism a lot, so it makes sense to clarify the meaning it carries for me. Though originally coined by Christian anthropologists to describe the ‘nature worshipping’ behavior of indigenous peoples (with the further common clueless addition ‘they believe everything – animals, rocks, sky – has a ‘soul”), a community of thinkers, authors, activists, scientists, artists and philosophers (including myself) have embraced it and invested it with deeper meaning.

Animism, essentially, means acknowledging the personhood and kinship of all Life, human, non-human, animate and ‘inanimate’. In the words of the Lakota, Mitakuye Oyasin, “We Are All Related”.

Personhood, therefore, means person-ing, the behavior, feelings, and values of a person. All people value the sanctity of their borders. All people want appreciation and respect.

Kinship indicates the inescapable interrelatedness of all things. Where does breath end, and the body begin? Where does stone end, and my body begin? Does the fire in all the cells of my body, differ from the sun that put that fire here to burn? An interdependence of Personhood means nothing else but Family. This means breath, stone, fire, all people and my kin.

Animism essentially means animating, a way of relating to the world that fully experiences and acknowledges the personhood and kinship of all things. This has nothing to do with belief; this has to do with attitude. I don’t have to ‘believe’ something ‘is’ [sic] a person, I only need treat that other as I would treat a person, and then I watch what happens. You animate by making a choice; the term animist simply indicates a person who often makes this choice.