|Photo by Jack Wolf|
When I look at animism, I'm basically using the definition here from Dictionary.com:
Here's my take on animism. Everything has a spirit. You can use the word soul but I don't...I guess because the word "soul" has too many Abrahamic connotations for me. So everything has a spirit within, natural or manufactured. It just does. They are all a part of the Great Essence, the Great Mystery...which Thornish people like to explain as the "operating system" of the universe.
Animism is a concept I didn't really have explained to me until later in life. It's just something that if you are sensitive, you know. It's why some people (like me) talk to everything around them. Trees, rocks, cars, computers, the kitchen stove, animals...you name it.
Yes, it goes against what we are taught. Welcome to the Unlearning.
Kids have a special connection to the Otherworlds, before they are told that they don't and it's hard to try to preserve that and fight against the propaganda from the mundane world. The next generation can be so much better than we are, if we work at it...because they don't have to do all that backtracking and unlearning to get back to where we started.
As for whether the Great Mystery gave everything a spirit...I don't get too hung up on who created who or that whole chicken and the egg thing. I think the Great Essence or Great Mystery is so far beyond our understanding that we are kinda chasing our nonexistent tails trying to figure it out. I know what I know. I know the spirit is in all things because I see it...hear it...feel it. Some people can't feel it anymore--or don't want to--and I don't spend too much time trying to convince those kind of folks that it's there. If they go out in the woods for a day and a night, open themselves up, and see what happens...they might be surprised.
Does it have to be alive to have a spirit ? No. But if it's dead (here in this world) its spirit may not be here in this dimension, this realm of the multiverse. We're basically all spirits riding around in a physical body conveyance of some kind...be it a person, an animal, or a tree suit. Your body dies in this 'verse and your spirit often goes off to your ancestors or somewhere else. Or hangs around and bugs your family still here.
Does this makes you feel insignificant? Like you are not really the top of the food chain? Or the dominant life form on this world? Good! It's supposed to! That is why Thornish people often do a Hollowing...to remind themselves of their tiny place in a web of spirits and creatures in the multiverse...and the vast number of them are far more advanced than we are.
Should you ask permission then, if you are interacting with these other spirits? It's a polite thing to do before walking in the woods...crossing a river...picking up a stone to move it...gathering flowers. Sometimes it's not so much "Can I?" but just an honoring of the spirits there. Showing respect.
I leave offerings all the time, especially when I am in the green spaces. Sometimes the only offering you have to leave are your words, your intent, your respect. The spirits understand. Believe me, if you start leaving offerings or even speaking the words (aloud or in your head) you will feel the response of the spirits around you. They might be surprised at first and angry because most people don't bother. But you will develop, over time, a relationship with the spirits around you and they will start to recognize you and welcome you (as long as you don't make promises you can't keep.)
My standard "sacred mix" for offerings is a small ziploc bag I always carry with me. Usually it is a mix of birdseed, nuts, peanuts, trail mix, sage, mugwort, tobacco, dried flowers...it changes with whatever I have on hand at the time and the season. In the spring I like to add wildflower seeds. Depending on where you are going you might supplement it with tiny rocks, crystals, copper pennies, alcohol...you get a feel for what the spirits around you like after a while. Added to this is your intent, your honor, your respect when you leave it. If I'm in a crowdy place I will usually just send up a mental or whispered offering but in more secluded places I'll leave a handful of sacred mix and some words.
The point here is not to take the spirits around us for granted. It's to acknowledge that you know your place in the multiverse is tiny but that you can and should live in Balance with everything around you. And once you begin to acknowledge and honor all those other spirits...it opens up the worlds around you in ways many have never even imagined.