Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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The Animate World is the Normal World

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I happened on a scientific paper saying that believing in or sensing the spirit in an "object" was abnormal. How sad it must be to live in a world full of dead things, where everything is inanimate. Worse to evangelize it and say animist religion and fairy tales are pathological.

Animist religion is not something from the dusty past. Many modern religions have animist components, not only modern revivals of pagan and heathen religions, but continuous religions too.

There are yakshas, nature spirits, in Hinduism, for example. When Marie Kondo greets and says goodbye to objects, that's animism, aka animist religion. Shinto specifically I think.

There are animist threads in many of the world’s cultures which are still woven into the fabric of society, even in the absence of a formal religion including them. Classic Disney cartoons are full of animals and things acting like people. Many children's books are the same. If this were not a legitimate and normal way of viewing the world, it would not come naturally to children. The official electricity symbol Mr. Ouchy is a cartoon logo meant to warn people of danger. If it was not normal to see personality in nonhuman things then it would not work as a warning sign because no one would understand it. The world today is still full of animism.

Animism was the normal way of being through most of human history. Many people are still animists today. A radical atheism that deadens the world so much there is no room for land spirits, river spirits, the magic of standing stones, crystal vibrations, trees, and your favorite sort of leaf is not at all normal. That is something that has to be taught. Even in the modern USA where this dead world philosophy is relentlessly taught by both atheists and some fundamentalist Christians, people still name their cars, boats, computers, and lab equipment. NASA named a robot and taught it to sing, and the whole world wept when it went dark.

Yet "object personification" is abnormal, they say. A sign of a different kind of brain, "not like us normals." If that is normal I have no desire to be normal. But considering how many tens of thousands of years humans have sensed, communicated with, and lived alongside the spirits in all things, and how tiny a bit of time by comparison there has been a movement to define nonhuman things as unreal, unfeeling, and without soul or anima, perhaps it is they who believe all things are dead and soulless who are away from human norms.

The animate world is the normal world. Believing everything is dead and incapable of feeling or communicating is staggeringly bizarre. 

image: a cloud in the shape of an eye in the sky, photo by Erin Lale

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


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