Animism

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Animism is the belief that living things, and sometimes inanimate objects as well, have a soul. The term comes from the Latin anima, which means soul (sometimes transated as ‘breath’). It is difficult to distinguish this conception from that of personalization, but the difference exists. The savage hears the wind whistle past him, and thinks that in it he can distinguish voices. He sees movement in streams, trees, and other objects, which he believes to be inhabited by spirits. The idea of a soul probably arose through dreams, apparitions, or clairvoyance, hallucinations and shadows, and perhaps through the return to life after periods of unconsciousness. Movement, therefore, argued life. The cult of fetishism well instances the belief in animism, for it posits the entrance into an inanimate body of a separate spiritual entity deliberately come to inhabit it. There is no necessity in this place to go into the question whether or not animism is at the basis of religious belief; but it is distinctly at the root of magical belief and practice.

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