Animism & Our Relationship with Earth
When you think about nature, what gender do you give it? What human attributes do you apply to it? When we think about our planet, most of us regard it as ‘she’; also known as Mother Earth. And others just regard our planet as just a large living rock flying through space…. Regardless of what gender, personality, or thing you choose to acknowledge our Earth as, we all can agree that it’s alive and full of life.
What about the communities within our planet? The ecosystems, animals, and natural phenomenons? Like the ocean, a hurricane, or mountains? Similar to our notion of regarding the planet as she, we regard these things as mother nature; “this powerful and predictable yet chaotic beautiful mystery. (hope that makes sense in your head like it does in mine).
When I think about the ocean, rivers, and mountains I automatically regard them as having feminine personalities. The sky, on the other hand, I think is definitely a ‘He’...because the Sun and the Rain are the sperm that the flora and fauna need. I think the planet itself, along with the help of the sun and the moon, is more like an androgynous bisexual entity. We shouldn't even get too technical in trying to categorizing nature, because nature just is. But the point is that, these entities are real and very much alive. We know that nature and other non-human things are present with us and we can feel them with all our senses. But have you ever experienced animism with nature?
Animism is associating human-like attributes to nonhuman entities… and this is not just pretending that mother nature is this super cool chick that will love you really hard but will fuck your shit up if you mess with resources. Animism is more so an experience you have with nature; a familiar relationship or a caring connection to inanimate thing like mountains, or the ocean. Of course, there are different levels of animism depending on what context you put it in. Some might find this ideology to be esoteric, meaning only a few people with a specialized knowledge or interest would understand. But trust me, it’s really not that complex...
Think about the relationship you have with your pet. Pet owners know that their companions are different than us but still intelligent beings in their own realm. This is animism in the simplest form. I treat my dogs and plants the way I would want to be treated if I was a dog or a plant… They are my family and I am familiar with their behavior and therefore their personalities. I don’t regard myself as a superior to them, I am simply another species but still their companion taking care of them and respecting them. I play music to my plants and I cook full meals for my dogs because I they are my family. Seems a bit childish to some but that’s exactly how you have to regard nature in order to truly care for it. You must have a childlike mindset and animate entities or species that are not human, so you can relate to them.
Within Paganism beliefs and many other Nature Religions, Animism is presented as an awareness that everything in Nature is more than just alive; it holds personality, wisdom, and energy. Native American spirituality teaches about the importance of having a respectful and compassionate relationship with our resources and elements. Many tribes regard mountains as brothers and sisters. Other religions have gods and goddesses for the elements. In Santeria for example, the ocean is ruled by Yemaya, goddess of maternity and mother of all living things. Pagans consider the Ocean, the mountains, crystals and stones, the sky, the sun, our oxygen, as friends, relatives, and ancestors. Regardless of the type of relationship, there is a soul or spirit within the natural phenomena or inanimate object/thing.
Not so religious yourself? Me neither but animism is something we all have experienced at least once in our life. Think about when you were a kid. Did you create characters for your toys? Did they all have unique personalities? Even our cartoons and movies were full of animal characters! And still are…
As kids, we were able to relate to these characters knowing that they were animals. This was because we are born curious and innocent of course. The Lion King is my all-time favorite Disney movie because it taught me about harmony and balance in nature. That scene that Mufasa tells Simba about the delicate balance of nature!!!
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.” – Mufasa
You don’t have to be a Pagan, or a spiritual person, or a tree-hugging hippie to adopt animism into your life. Because it can simply start by having a mindful relationship with your house plant.
And also, taking a moment to think about the natural elements you use in your everyday life….
Water, for example...Did you know that water reacts to energy? Even thoughts affects its quality. Look it up it’s incredible! Aside from that cool fact, it really comes down to the relationship you experience with the ocean, a river, lake, or rain.
Even living in the city, where there’s more concrete than greenery, be mindful of the mini patches of nature you see between the cracks of concrete. Weeds and shrubs and overgrown lawns hold their our spiritual essence too. I’m obsessed with touching the trees of Miami! Every time I see a big ol’ looking tree I have to go say hello and press my palms on her. Sometimes I hug her and thank her for the oxygen she provides my community. Touching or embracing trees also grounds you and it’s great for the root chakra!
It’s a pretty magical feeling when you are able to connect with nature like this. It’s a conscious understanding that nature and all her children must be respected. Most importantly, it has helped me be more environmentally conscious about reducing my carbon footprint. When I explain it to people, they're perspective of animals completely change, in a good way! Animism is not just understanding that nature is indeed present with us, it is understanding that nature holds a spiritual essence. In this really good Ted Talk by a dude named John Reid says,
“One can believe in something to be true or real, but it’s a whole different experience of awareness when you truly apply animism to your life.”