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1. The belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls.
2. The belief that natural objects have souls that may exist apart from their material bodies.
3. The doctrine that the soul is the principle of life and health.
4. Belief in spiritual beings or agencies.


Origin of animism

Latin – 1825-35; < Latin anim(a) (see anima) + -ism

The Latin word Anima means soul or breath.

Key Point:

  • Pantheism is the belief that everything shares the same spiritual essence—individuals do not have distinct spirits or souls. Animism puts more emphasis on the uniqueness of each individual soul.
  • In animist societies, ritual is considered essential to win the favor of the spirits that ward off other malevolent spirits and provide food, shelter, and fertility.
  • Shamans, also sometimes called medicine men or women, serve as mediums between the physical world and the world of spirits.


  • shaman: A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a religious medium between the concrete and spirit worlds.
  • animism: A belief that spirits inhabit some or all classes of natural objects or phenomena.
  • spirits: The undying essence of a human. The soul.


  • Shinto, the traditionalreligion of Japan, is highly animistic. In Shinto, spirits of nature, or kami, are believed to exist everywhere. These range from the major (such as the goddess of the sun), which can be considered polytheistic , to the minor, which are more likely to be seen as a form of animism.
    The impacts and affects that Shintoism had on their culture is that they had a great respect for the natural world especially their emperor from the past.

    Interesting Facts on Shintoism

    Shintoism means the way of gods, it is also an ancient religion of Japan.

    Kami is Amaterasu, which is the sun goddess and she is the ancestor to the emperors of Japan. (Shintoism – World Religions)

– Shinto shrine

Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, either intrinsically or because spirits inhabit them for a period of time. Unlike supernatural forces, animist spirits may be inherently good or evil. Often, these spirits are thought to be the souls of deceased relatives, and they are not worshiped as deities.

While animists believe everything to be spiritual in nature, they do not necessarily see the spiritual nature of everything in existence as being united (monism), the way pantheists do. Animism puts more emphasis on the uniqueness of each individual soul. In pantheism, everything shares the same spiritual essence—there are no distinct spirits and/or souls. Because humans are considered a part of nature, rather than superior to, or separate from it, animists see themselves on roughly equal footing with other animals, plants, and natural forces, and subsequently have a moral imperative to treat these agents with respect.

In animist societies, ritual is considered essential to win the favor of the spirits that ward off other malevolent spirits and provide food, shelter, and fertility. Shamans, also sometimes called medicine men or women, serve as mediums between the physical world and the world of spirits.

Animism is thought to be the belief system that laid the groundwork for the notion of a soul and the animation of traditionally inanimate objects, allowing every world religion to take those basic principles in other directions. Though earlier philosophers such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas discussed animism, the formal definition was postulated by Sir Edward Taylor late in the 19th century. Examples of Animism can be seen in forms of Shinto, Hinduism, Buddhism, pantheism, Paganism, and Neopaganism.


tribal-african-society-lesson-14-638Animism started in traditional communities of Africa and it is still practiced today. Animist’s believe that one’s ancestors serve as important links between the present and spiritual worlds. There is no religious text in this belief system. Animist’s worship the spirits of nature and they also worship their ancestors. This belief of a great respect for nature has an impacted and affected their culture greatly.


Buddhism was located in India, but it didn’t stay in India. Buddhism migrated to Southeast Asia and China, then went on to Korea and Japan. Siddhartha Gautama created Buddhism. There is no Holy Text for Buddhism. Buddhist’s believe that you can end your suffering by ending your desires. Their impact on culture is that they learn to accept what life brings to them.

Siddhartha, who was the creator of Buddhism, was Buddha. If you look at the second picture above, that is an example of what Siddhartha (Buddha) looked like.

Buddhist have a special day called Wesak, Vesak or Buddha Day. Every month of May when it reaches the night of the full moon Buddhist’s share the birth and death of the “Enlightened One.”


AnimismTaoism was located in China. Taoism isn’t really a religion, it is a social philosophy. Taoism has a Holy Text called Tao Te Ching. They believe that they should follow “the way” of nature, which means to accept the things that you cannot change. Their impact on culture is that they do not challenge the natural process and they accept things as they come.

Interesting Facts on Taoism

There are 2o million followers of Taoism around the world but most of the followers live in China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

In the first picture above, it shows a good example of the Taoism symbol. It is called the Ying Yang. (Taoism – ReligionFacts)


Confucianism was located in China. It’s Holy Text is called the Analects. Confucianists believed that all people need to accept their role in society. Their impact on their culture is that they have a great deal of respect for their parents, their elders, and their country. (Filial Piety)

Interesting Facts on Confucianism

Confucianism is not a religion, it is a social philosophy like Taoism.

In Confucianism their is no teachings about afterlife. (Confucianism Origins, Confucianism History)


PolytheisticHinduism is the world’s third largest and oldest religion.

The Hindu’s goal is the salvation of life.

Ganesha is a Hindu God whose head is of an elephant, rest body is human. Other examples of animistic beliefs & nature worship in Hinduism: Monkey God Hanuman, the first four avatars of Vishnu namely Matsya, Kurma, Varaha & Narasimha, River Saraswati in early Hinduism & later river Ganga, Agni – the deity of fire, Naga – ‘snake’ deity & its worship, Surya dev – ‘Sun’ worship or Sun deity, ‘Tulsi’ plant and ‘Pipal’ tree worship among others, etc. etc…..

2) This is important to know: While Hinduism has animistic beliefs it is not exclusively an animistic religion. Animism is a popular but philosophically minor aspect of Hinduism which also has many other aspects like panentheism, monism & monotheism, polytheism – most popular, metaphysics, atheism, non-dualism, etc. Hinduism has many “isms” but is not exclusively based on any single one of them, hence is called a ‘disorganized religion’ by many.
For example, atheism in Hinduism:Atheism in Hinduism

I think Buddhism is much more animistic than Hinduism.

In Buddhism, if you live bad lives, karma can result in you living out your next life as a mosquito or a piece of lichen in Antarctica or a blade of grass or whatever.
In Hinduism, karma still has you come back as a human… just a human in a higher or lower caste.



Animism – Boundless


9 Belief Systems – Tackk

OMF International

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