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Animism: Respecting the Living World

Animism: Respecting the Living World
Graham Harvey
Wakefield Press
RRP $29.95

Although I had previously understood animism to mean those religions that worship animals, that was never what the word meant.

The word animism is used to describe that which all religions have in common, the belief in souls or spirits but became associated with Indigenous religions thought to represent the “primitive” origins of religious belief.

The author of Animism: Respecting the Living World moves us from this point to explore “new” animism which recognises the personhood of all living things including some things that most of us would consider non-living.

Harvey introduces us to the existence of other-than-human persons, including rock persons, fish persons, and living country.

He does so from the perspective of Indigenous people, modern pagans, and environmental activists.

He goes on to explore the implications of new animism for the way we approach the natural world.

Written in a dense academic style that covers a lot of material and with many brief illustrations, it is a heavy read but very effective at helping one to rethink their perspective and relationship to the natural world.

It should not be read as accurately describing Indigenous culture but it will help us understand the different perspective from which many indigenous people come, and the place from which modern animists derive their respect for the environment.

The book completely lacks any discussion on the relevance of God the Creator in animism making it a little spiritually draining.

Read Animism: Respecting the Living World if you are seeking to understand new-age, pagan or environmental activism movements of today, or if you wish to gain a new way of looking at environmental and ethical issues.

Tim Trudgen works with Indigenous Australians as a cross-cultural consultant and is currently studying anthropology and theology part time