Thursday, May 30, 2024

A Complete Guide to Animism

A Complete Guide to Animism & How to Use it In Witchcraft

One of the defining features of witchcraft, as well as many spiritual and occult practices, is the idea of animism. Animism, which is derived from the Latin "anima" meaning soul or life, is the belief that all things are imbued with spirit. This means that not only do humans, plants, animals, and other living things have a spirit, but so do nonliving things such as rocks, mountains, rivers, the wind, hurricanes, and even man-made creations like magical tools, houses, and cars. Animism has been preserved, unbroken, through many Indigenous groups, such as Native Americans and Aboriginals, but has also recently been reclaimed by groups seeking to reconnect with their ancestral roots.

A Brief History

The concept of "animism" was first developed in 1871 by E. B. Tylor in his work Primitive Culture, which debated the relationship between "primitive" versus "civilized" societies. As one might expect, Tylor's work is extremely problematic and contains all the racist rhetoric and apt disregard for non-Christian religions so common in white-centered academia. Unfortunately, Tylor's work laid the foundation for viewing Indigenous cultures as something to be dissected and presented by white "authorities" with complete disregard for them as a living entity and existing people. While Tylor's work and perspectives are still perpetuated within the academic community, we as witches and pagans can choose to be better.

While the term "animism" is relatively new, its ideas are not. Cave paintings in Lascaux, France show animals with human-like qualities, while burial practices indicate a belief in an afterlife or spirit world. Carved figurines, hand prints, and other finds further suggest animistic views among our ancient ancestors, which carried over into multiple religions including those found in Greece & Rome, Celtic druidry, Shintoism, and so many more. 

As mentioned, these practices have been preserved in many Indigenous cultures and have recently been revived by modern witches and pagans and other nature-based spiritual practices. It's important to note, however, that the animism found in paganism and witchcraft should not and is not based on Indigenous practices, although they may share some similarities.

Animism vs Totemism

Totemism, unlike animism, centers around the worship of a particular object, symbol, or animal that is believed to possess supernatural powers or be the embodiment of a group's ancestors. In 1869, John Ferguson McLennan argued that animism was evident in fetishism which he believed gave rise to totemism. This was in an attempt to discredit the existence of animism outside of totemism. Still, modern animists and anthropologists have argued that animism is distinct from totemism, and I am inclined to feel the same.

While animism and totemism share some characteristics, such as the belief that non-human entities have a spirit, the incorporation of ancestor worship, and a reverence for nature, they have many more differences. Animism is inherently broader than totemism, with the belief that all things have a spirit versus a single entity. Because of this, the rituals associated with animism tend to be broader as well, including a wide array of living and nonliving entities. Totemism, however, is more community-focused than animism. Members within a group are all represented by the same totem, coming together to honor, worship, or otherwise involve the totem in their culture, as seen in the Haida and Tlingit tribes in North America that carve totem poles. On the other hand, animism varies wildly between groups and individuals and therefore lacks the community aspect of totemism in most cases.

Animism in Norse Paganism

Norse paganism or Heathenry is animistic in nature and while there are differences in personal gnosis, some things are generally agreed upon. First, is the inclusion of ancestor veneration. This hinges on the belief of there being a spirit realm that is capable of interacting with the living on our plane of existence. Second, is the incorporation of nature spirits such as landvætter or land spirits (genii locorum), Jötunn, trolls, hausvætter or house spirits, and other wights or spirits associated with places, objects, or creatures.

Animism in Practice & Spiritual Activism

When viewed this way, there is no separation between the sacred and the profane. This means that living and nonliving things are not just "things" to be exploited or controlled, but instead, allies that we can build relationships and collaborate with. As such, "using" something in a spell or ritual becomes "working with" and consent of the object must be sought after before incorporating it into your practice.

For example, my most recently posted spell on enchanting jewelry required the assistance of many spirits including my engagement ring, salt, candle, fire, rose, lavender, cinnamon, rose quartz, and moonstone. Each of these spirits was awoken before conducting the spell and their assistance was asked for. If, for whatever reason, a spirit refuses to aid me, I don't use it. I don't have its consent and going against its wishes places me in the wrong, which can adversely affect the spell I am performing. Some refer to this as being in "right relationship," which recognizes the sovereignty of all spirits. As such, respecting their boundaries and thanking them for their assistance puts you in "right relationship."

Animism ties directly into spiritual activism, especially in the form of ecological stewardship. An animistic perspective calls for us to engage in environmental activism while rejecting colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. According to colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism, the Earth and all its contents are ours to do what we will with, with complete disregard for the impact this may have on the environment and the organisms that live here. This has led to the destruction of our Earth, depletion of natural resources, genocide, and climate change. Recognizing that all things resonate with spirit flies directly in the face of this view, prompting us to preserve, protect, and steward the Earth and environment, giving it the respect and dignity it deserves.

Animism also flies in the face of white supremacy culture, which prizes quantity over quality, power hoarding, and individualism. By interacting and respecting all things, the quality of your spiritual relationships becomes more important than the number of relationships you have, and "owning" or possessing more becomes less of a priority as we work to preserve and protect the environment. Furthermore, animism flies in the face of individualism, encouraging practitioners to develop relationships with others to bring about change. Spells and rituals are no longer simply about you and your power but all of the spirits coming together for one goal. We do not and cannot exist within a vacuum, and neither should your magic.

With all of that said, animism is a crucial feature of modern witchcraft, paganism, and other nature-based spiritual practices, and having a firm grasp of the concept can revolutionize your magic, broaden your understanding, and foster empathy. 

How do you incorporate animism into your practice?

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Wyrd Sisters Oracle Deck Review

Wyrd Sisters Oracle Cards Review
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this deck in exchange for an honest review.

It's been a while since I had the chance to review an oracle or tarot deck, but thanks to Weiser, I was recently given the opportunity to review Wyrd Sisters Oracle by Casey Zabala, a sixty-card deck "devoted to working with the ancient deities who dwell at the roots of the world tree and set the order of the cosmos through their spinning, weaving, and cutting of the cords." I was specifically drawn to reviewing this deck because of its connection to Norse paganism, specifically the Norns who are in charge of weaving the threads of fate.

Wyrd Sisters Oracle Cards Review

Wyrd Sisters, like many other decks on the market today, comes with a guidebook that explains the meanings of the cards. However, this deck is fundamentally different from other oracle and tarot decks in that the cards not only have a meaning, but also a spell or magic associated with them. The 'suits' are divided into Spell Cards, Candle Magic Cards, Sigil Cards, Magical Tool Cards, and The Wyrd Sister Cards. The magic associated with them, however, is not always clearly outlined, instead allowing the user to formulate their own spells and rituals through intuition and potential correspondences. I find this concept absolutely fascinating and a great opportunity for all witches, new and old alike, to learn how to craft their own spells through limited guidance and add some variety to their practice. The book also contains two potential card spreads and a brief introduction to the Wyrd Sisters (Norns) and how they show up in this deck and spreads.

Wyrd Sisters Oracle Cards Review

As for the cards themselves, they are printed on a medium card stock with gilded silver edges. They bend easily for shuffling while maintaining their overall shape. The artwork is colorful and full of symbolism. I'm not going to lie, I don't find it to be the most beautiful deck I have ever used or seen, but its unique purpose and use make up for that. Overall, it's well-constructed and a deck I hope to use in the future, especially as I delve deeper into Norse paganism and magic.

You can order your own Wyrd Sisters Oracle deck by Casey Zabala wherever decks are sold.

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Thursday, May 9, 2024

Operation Olive Branch & Pass the Hat

Back in February, I shared a spreadsheet from Operation Olive Branch that contains several Palestinian families seeking to escape the atrocities they are currently facing in Gaza. These are vetted fundraisers, mostly through GoFundMe, to ensure that the money is going to where it's actually needed, and not to scammers. After some of the things that happened when Ukraine was first invaded, I can see why many are concerned about donating to such campaigns. Through the hard work of those are Operation Olive Branch, you needn't worry that your money will go to fund scammers.

Now that "Pass the Hat" is growing tremendously on TikTok thanks to Erin Hattamer, I thought it best to share the spreadsheet again, as well as where you can find more information. You can find Operation Olive Branch on Instagram and TikTok where they share updated information, highlight families in need, and offer other ways you can make a difference. You can also find links to GoFundMes, action steps, and organizations to support in their comprehensive Google spreadsheet.

Whatever your political views may be, I think we can all agree that innocent people, including thousands of children, do not deserve to die a painful, terrifying death. I implore you to take a moment and donate to a family in need. Help these families get to safety. I understand that money is tight for everyone, but $5, even $1, goes a long way when thousands of people donate. I used to work in a call center raising money for an organization; no donation is ever too small. In fact, it's hundreds of small, reoccurring donations that often kept us afloat, not a large, one-time donation.


We are not free until we are all free.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Book Review: Secrets of Greek Mysticism by George Lizos

Book Review: Secrets of Greek Mysticism by George Lizos

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book via Weiser in exchange for an honest review.

I recently finished several books, finally having a moment to catch up on my hobbies. The end of the school year is always really crazy, especially after spring break, but we are finally on the home stretch! Last month I finished Secrets of Greek Mysticism: A Modern Guide to Daily Practice with the Gods and Goddesses by George Lizos. I am not going to lie, when I started this book I was a little combative...okay maybe very combative. I did not agree with Lizos's interpretation of the Greek pantheon and myths and did not like that he claimed scholars, people who dedicated their lives to the study of Greek mythology, were wrong in their interpretations. In fact, I very openly raged to my fiance about my initial thoughts, who dutifully listened to me complain about every occult book I read. Yes, even my highly recommended books have periods where I become upset and he hears it all! My highest criticisms often come from one of two places: cultural appropriation or disrespect of experts, especially scientists. I recognize the second one partly comes from white supremacy culture (worship of the written word, especially those from a 'narrow' viewpoint). As a scientist, I am not willing to back down when occult authors attempt to rewrite well-documented science. That isn't how the world works, but that was not the case with Secrets of Greek Mysticism. Yes, I was and still am upset he claims most if not all, scholars are incorrect, but after sitting with my initial feelings, analyzing them, and getting to know Lizos's arguments, my opinion has changed. So what am I talking about?

Lizos takes a theological instead of a mythological approach to the gods and goddesses. What does this mean? According to Lizos, a mythological approach misrepresents the the deities and attributes too many human emotions to them, painting them as fickle tyrants in need of transactional worship. Lizos believes the myths are an allegorical collection of stories that draw from theology with the intention of communicating the deities' qualities in an entertaining yet educational way. The myths were meant to convey some information to everyone and leave deeper meanings up to students of theology. My only qualm with this is why would the general populace not be given the same information as mystery students? The general public highly valued and respected the gods and goddesses, so why make myths so difficult to understand? Why gatekeep?

Book Review: Secrets of Greek Mysticism by George Lizos

Despite my protests, Lizos's interpretations of the myths as well as his personal experiences with them create a refreshing narrative and outline of "worship." This is an approach I would like to personally apply to Norse mythology and even Celtic to get a better understanding of what the deities actually mean, not man's humanization of them.

The majority of the book is spent discussing the 12 main gods of Olympus with entire chapters dedicated to each. Each chapter opens with a brief personal introduction followed by the essence of the deity, their virtues, activation mantra, journal prompts, connecting with the deity in nature, hymns, symbolism, and meditation. This consistent approach allows you to build a relationship with each deity at your own pace and really get to know them. I loved Lizos's personal experiences with each deity while traversing across Greece and would have liked more of these stories throughout. The book ends with a section on connecting with the gods through monthly festivals and rituals, that will not only deepen your connection but add to your overall practice as well, giving it rhythm and meaning.

Even if you are not interested in Greek mysticism, Secrets of Greek Mysticism: A Modern Guide to Daily Practice with the Gods and Goddesses by George Lizos is well worth the read as it can help you approach your own deities in a new and profound way. Despite some of my protests, I do strongly believe Lizos's approach to the gods is one worth reading and understanding, and applicable across pantheons. 

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Monday, May 6, 2024

Book Review: Throwing Bones by Mystic Dylan

Book Review: Throwing Bones by Mystic Dylan

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book via Weiser in exchange for an honest review.

In 2019, I wrote a series on Bone Magic in which I wrote a post about throwing bones and creating your own bone tarot (bone throwing set). Throwing Bones: Crystals, Stones, and Curios by Mystic Dylan is an excellent follow-up to this series. While not nearly as in-depth as what I wrote, Mystic Dylan does offer information I did not, including information on other types of divination and different throwing boards you can use in your practice.

The book opens with an introduction to divination, the types of divination, and traditions and techniques commonly used in different divination practices. Mystic Dylan mentions that bone throwing (cleromancy) found in hoodoo, footwork, and conjure has deep roots in South Africa specifically in the Zulu tradition, but makes specific note that bone throwing is not a closed practice or restricted and therefore open to everyone. I loved this nod to culture and diversity and the assurance it gives readers that they are not culturally appropriating by incorporating bone-throwing into their magical practice. In fact, bone throwing has roots that trace to just about every culture in the world, although the techniques, bone meanings, and tools often vary.

Book Review: Throwing Bones by Mystic Dylan

After a brief introduction, Mystic Dylan goes on to explain how to build your own bone-throwing set, how to prepare for a reading, different curios meanings, and cleansing and protection rituals that can be incorporated into your divination practice. There is also a chapter on necromancy, scrying, and pendulums. The book ends with 20 different divination boards you can use for all types of divination. Each board includes a full description and explanation of how to use it and can easily be used without removing them from the book. Honestly, the boards alone make it worth the purchase. Mystic Dylan also includes a further reading list at the end with plenty of great books on divination and cleromancy, books I also highly recommend.

Book Review: Throwing Bones by Mystic Dylan

Throwing Bones is extremely short but beautifully illustrated. There are plenty of pictures throughout, making this a great coffee table display for those of you who aren't afraid to hide your occult side. Despite its length, I enjoyed Throwing Bones: Crystals, Stones, and Curios by Mystic Dylan and will be coming back to it time and time again while I continue to grow my bone-throwing practice. Cleromancy deeply resonates with me and was one of the divination forms employed by Norse pagans, along with runes and trance. 

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