The following article is written by Angela Prider (aka LittleBird), an animistic spiritual teacher and healer, known worldwide for leading with integrity. Last year, Angela decided to move away from using the term ‘shamanic’ to describe her work, which she explains in a very detailed article about shamanism and colonialism. In our very first podcast, I got to chat with Angela about why she moved from shamanism to animism, animism as a spiritual path, the validity of dream interpretation (yes dreams always mean something!), and how to take a non Western, conscious approach to microdosing cannabis and psilocybin. Listen to our conversation here on the podcast and read below for a great introduction to Animism as a spiritual path.
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We live in a noisy material world where over these last centuries of industrialization and technology we have more comfort and convenience, but have simultaneously built a wall that insulates and disconnects us from the natural world. Without this connection we are left feeling dispirited with a type of soul lethargy and a sense of meaninglessness. And now after two years of covid, many of us are struggling with emotional fatigue, more disconnected than ever. For many, the spiritual resilience to navigate prolonged life challenges has gone, leaving a sense of bitterness and disenchantment in its wake.
What is it about the Natural world that inspires connection? Why is it that most of us spend a day in the woods, at the beach, on a mountain and feel renewed? Well, when we step out of the noise there’s a chance we might once again be able to hear the timeless, universal conversation running beneath our material world and which was once at the centre of our ancestors’ way of life.
This timeless conversation is the hum of interconnection between endless reciprocal relationships in the material universe and it’s at the roots of Animism, a spiritual way of living which celebrates the ancient knowing that everything is alive and everything is connected to everything else.
Animism is all about connection. It’s the opposite of materialism.
The word animism comes from the Proto-Indo-European root of “ane” meaning to breathe. This same root is present in many cultures with words that describe the same thing – breath, life, wind, and soul.
As a spiritual path, Animism offers deeper intimacy with our soul, our Ancestors, and Nature (animals, plants, seasons, elements, planets) by honouring and tending to the reciprocity of these relationships through seasonal and cyclic living, earth medicine rituals, meditation practices, divination, and soul work.
Essentially the spiritual path of Animism moves us out of our human eco-chambers and back into connection with the many communities to which we are a part. For example, you may walk in and out of your home passing by the same trees day after day and year after year. You may notice the trees, but you don’t think for a minute that the trees notice you because you’ve been taught that trees are inanimate objects, i.e. resources. But imagine if you walked by the same group of people day after day and year after year. If you began to acknowledge one another, then a relationship would be created, and after a while you would feel a sense of connection and belonging with that group.
Animism teaches us that when we engage in relationships with the natural world around us, our sense of connection increases and so does our well-being. Just see what happens if you begin to stop for a minute every day to say hello and touch a tree or plant where you live. And further: see what happens when you close your eyes and attune to the tree, take a few deep breaths and listen. Try this for a month. It’s only 30 days and well worth the experiment.
Animism + Dream Interpretation
I love to teach Intentional Dreaming as part of Animistic practice. Dreams are emissaries that carry messages directly from our soul to teach us about what’s really happening in our life at the moment. So, yes, all dreams are significant and they all tell us about ‘the condition of our condition’, as one of my teachers, Clarissa Pinkola Estes used to say. By learning dream recall and interpretation and how to integrate our soul’s messages into our life, we strengthen the direct link to our expansive nature while bringing richness and meaning to our lives. If you’re interested in paying attention to the messages of your own dreams, take a peak at this dream interpretation program I offer.
Animism + Journeying
A key part of the spiritual practice of animism is journeying into other worlds. Last time, I wrote about Soul Loss, and Soul Retrieval, and how journeying can be a support with the deep healing that comes when we reconnect to our innate selves. By bringing to mind a clear intention, we can work with our dreams, an alter, spirit journeys, energy medicine, conscious writing practices, and more to connect with our own healing spirit, and return to healing and wholeness. In animism, journeying is typically done in a held space with an initiated and trained practitioner or spiritual healer.
Animism + Working With Plant Medicine
Sometimes Animism can include ceremony with entheogens such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, or huachuma (San Pedro) to name a few, as well as also medicine like Blue Lotus and Ceremonial Cacao. Although entheogens are often viewed as psychoactive, hallucinogenic substances, the word is derived from the Greek roots en (within) theo (divine) and gen (creates) meaning “creating the divine within.”
From an Animistic viewpoint, a plant spirit medicine ceremony is about going into communion with the divine nature within everything – our soul, the plant, music, our Ancestors.
Plant Spirit medicine ceremony has been part of animistic cultures around the world for thousands of years and used for everything from healing to architecture. The ceremonies and healing practices have been passed down through many generations with apprentices usually training for 8-15 years.
As microdosing with psilocybin becomes more mainstream as a means for helping us become happier and more fulfilled, Animism teaches us to remember the essence of the Teacher plants and how to come into alignment with their wisdom rather than treating them as another quick fix, pill, or bandaid. It also reminds us to be in right relationship with the Indigenous peoples from whom the medicine came, so we must learn to acknowledge, appreciate, and respect the teachings and customs of Entheogens rather than perpetuate consumerism and appropriation along with the erasure of Indigenous cultures.
If you are microdosing, it may well support and deepen your journey to learn about the origins of the plant you are in relationship with, and find ways to acknowledge the Indigenous wisdom carriers who have been in communion with the plants for millennia.
Living in reciprocal connection through Animism brings much comfort to flagging spirits and at the same time, it brings a thawing out, an awakening to the life-death-rebirth cycles of nature, the cosmos, ourselves. Being intentional about life while being awake to death can also mean that we feel more deeply with a new level of sensitivity. At the same time, however, we gain practical tools and develop spiritual resilience for living a richer life.
If you’re curious about microdosing psilocybin, Angela has a four-part blog series, the first being 9 Tips for Planning your Microdosing Day which will help you bring more intention and connection with the spirit of psilocybin. For a deep dive into all things microdosing, Third Wave is a great resource. And if you’re interested in learning more about Plant Spirit Medicine check out Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines who provide promote a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science. They also have a lengthy list of recommended books on Plant Medicine.
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To explore animism for yourself, a great place to start is Angela’s Doorways to Animism program which starts March 9, where you’ll learn spirit journeying and earth rituals, while deepening your connection with Spirit and Soul. Watch for details on that here and be quick as her programs sell out fast. If you’re interested in learning Dream Interpretation, Angela offers a program called 28 Days of Intentional Dreaming. And also check out our new Intuition Test, to help you understand where your level of intuition is at right now. Learn more at https://www.angelaprider.com or on the gram, @sacredlifeanimism.