Animism is something I think I have practiced as far back as I can remember in childhood, except that I did not have a name for it at that point. Nor would I have considered myself a pagan, witch or any other label, then, yet either.
It just simply felt right to me intuitively.
What Animism Is
Animism is the practice or belief that all objects have a spirit (or soul, depending on who you’re talking to and how you define and differentiate those things), even the inanimate ones.
You are probably an animist if you talk to your plants, or other plants elsewhere, as if they are listening (because they are!). You may also be an animist if you believe or feel that there is a spirit of the land on which you live (separate from any nature spirits you believe in).
Animists may also believe that rocks, crystals, and items made of natural materials (wood, stone, plants, etc) have spirits. They will usually treat these items with greater care than others, believing that the item’s spirit should not simply be throw away when its usable life is deemed over.
How Can You Practice Animism?
There are countless ways to be and practice animism, and I won’t include an exhaustive list here, but this should give you some basics to get started:
Honor the Land Spirits
Even if you live in an apartment building or in the middle of a bustling metropolis and have no actual land of your own, there is still a spirit of the land on which your home sits, where you walk, and all around you, really.
Leave an offering such as pouring fresh spring water into the ground, a small baked treat, or just sit for a moment with your body connected to the ground and give thanks to the land spirits where you are.
If you live in a single-family residence of some kind on land, you can also do those things listed above, but also make sure to care for and keep up the cleanliness or natural beauty of this land, no matter how big or small.
This might include planting gardens, cutting overgrown grass, pulling invasive weeds, putting in a bird bath, hanging wind chimes, or sitting under a tree on the land to simply take it all in.
I also like to ask the land before making any changes if its okay. This could be anything from planting new things to especially removing plants that have already been there.
When you go walking or hiking out in nature, give a greeting (its okay if its silent in your mind if you don’t feel comfortable saying it out loud with others around) to the land you are on and you could even ask how you can honor it while you are there.
Honor the Spirit(s) of Your Home
This is not the earthbound spirits that may hang around your home, this is the spirit of your actual residence. The house, apartment, condo, or building in which you live has a spirit. It thrives and is happy when you keep it clean and free of negative energy and entities.
It enjoys when you bring joy and happiness within its walls. It wants to be cared for so it can continue to provide shelter for its human occupants for many years to come.
Some people see their house spirit and land spirit as one and the same. I don’t think this is right or wrong. Go with what feels intuitive to you. My house spirit feels distinctively different from my land spirit, and I’m not sure why I know that, I just do.
Your home also has spirits that keep your water, heat, cooking facilities, and energy flowing. Not in the sense that they pay those bills, but that they direct the use and flow of those within its walls. Honor them by keeping things clean, considering the feng shui of your space, and keeping out sources of bad or negative energy.
Honor the Spirits of Plants
Virtually every pagan cultural tradition across the globe has revered and honored plant spirits. These include indoor potted plants, but also those of the wild-growing friends around us. In your immediate vicinity you may have flowers, bushes, trees, and other plant life.
Each variety has a spirit and we can often feel them, especially if you tend toward empathic abilities, and definitely if you have a knack for psychometry, aka reading an object’s history by touching it.
Have you ever sat under a tree and felt its presence welcoming you? Have you ever walked into a room with plants, felt happy, then walked into a room without plants and felt nothing, or even empty? These are examples of how we consciously or unconsciously pick up on the spirits of plants in our environment.
If you’re outdoors, you can simply acknowledge a plant by touching it, singing to it, or smiling at it and sending loving thoughts. This works for indoor plants as well.
Whenever I bring home a new plant, before I place it in whatever room it will go in, I sit with it for a few moments and put my hands on its leaves and simply send happiness and love to it. I ask it to tell me its name when its ready, and then I let it know its part of my family and welcome it, stating that I will love and care for it as long as it chooses to remain with me.
I found that once I started connecting to the plants in my yard and home, the happy and positive vibes really picked up and I can sense their spirits better, as well as when they need attention or help from me.
Other Ways to Practice Animism
These are some other objects that you may feel particularly drawn to in the form of their spirit, so acknowledge that and honor them however you intuitively see fit:
- furniture, especially that created from wood (which used to be a tree, so some believe that fragments of that original source tree’s spirit remains with the wood from it)
- crystals and gemstones
- incense resins
- herbs (this technically falls into the category of plants above, but I find many people forget about this subcategory)
- water, more so outdoor sources than indoor from a faucet
- some books (I can’t say every book I’ve picked up has had a distinct spirit to it, but some definitely have; I don’t know what differentiates one group from the other)
- musical instruments (I’ve been a violinist since I was a small child and can absolutely tell you that instruments have spirits that either mesh with the musician’s or don’t; two completely different people can play the same instrument and get different sounds because of this)
- textiles (I can’t say that mass-produced textiles like clothing from chain stores has this phenomena, but I have absolutely picked up spirits of hand-woven rugs and other cloth, knit, crocheted, or otherwise handmade items)
- use your senses and sit with your environment for some time and just ‘feel’ what spirits may be around you in the form of your personal possessions, structures, and random objects
If any of this rings a bell for you and you want to dive a little deeper into the practice of animism, or just read more about it, I can recommend these books:
For a more historical lesson of the origins and prevalence of animism, Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey
For a more eco/green responsibility perspective of animism, The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature by Emma Restall Orr
For a quirkier exploration of animism, How Does it Feel to be You? by Oshri Hilzenrath