All major religions and belief systems in the world are the ultimate outcomes of thousands of years of evolution and adaption – and they can all be traced back to one, single belief system that spanned the entirety of the human race: animism.
Animism was what our oldest ancestors first believed in; it’s what all of our modern religions stem from, and it can be traced back to at least 40000 years ago, when humans began migrating across the world to different continents.
What is Animism?
Animism comes from the Latin word “animus” which translated means “the rational soul, consciousness, and intelligence.” Breaking that down further, in all languages around the world, their root word for “soul” usually translates to “breath”, or something that can’t be seen or touched. This is the basis for animism, and what sets it apart from much of what we believe today.
Believing in the animism system means believing that all things in the universe have both a consciousness and a soul. Everything from a single-celled organism to the largest boulder tot he stars in the sky were believed to contain their own soul, and that all the souls were connected in some fashion.
There was also the strong belief that everything in the observable universe underwent a process of rebirth and reincarnation – something that mirrors modern science’s explanation that all material objects around us come from the same particles and mass that were forged in the creation of the universe.
How Animism Evolved
Almost all of the ancient religions that we know well, such as the Greek, Roman, and Norse belief systems put quite a lot of weight into the theories that there was more than just the human race inhabiting the earth.
The Norse, in particular, believed that flora, fauna, and everything in-between contained their own souls or spirits, and that everything was to respected. The Greeks underlying belief in worshipping the mountains, springs, hills, rivers and forests mirrors gives evidence to support that animism has endured even to the era of the Greeks and Romans.
The strongest influence of animism could be felt in the pagan religions of the northern Germanic peoples that once inhabited northern Scandinavia and Europe.
These pagans worshipped animals and tree spirits, and followed powerful leaders called druids, who spent years learning herbalism, alchemy, and magic- far removed from our world of Internet, mobile phones, Australian sports betting, and globalisation.
On a global scale, animism has all but died out. There have been some comebacks around the world, specifically in the form of neopaganism, but it’s still quite different to the beliefs of our earliest ancestors.
The biggest difference is that neopaganism often finds its roots in worshipping a deity of some kind, while animism is rather the belief that more exists than meets the eye.
Worshipping a deity means following a set of rules, while animism is more about respecting nature, and appeasing the many spirits that roam the earth rather than worshipping them in any sense.