Animism, Myths, Legends & Folktales

Animism is one of the oldest spiritual concepts. It refers to the belief that non-human entities possess some form of spiritual life.  Animism acknowledges the existence of souls or spirits, not only in humans, but also in all other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena like thunder, and geographic features like mountains or rivers.  

Animism is a component of the world view of some hunter-gatherer cultures in which the human being is regarded on a roughly equal footing with other animals, plants, and natural forces. Respect for the non-human life and objects, therefore, is critical. Ritual becomes essential to win the favor of the spirits of one’s source of food, shelter, fertility; to wards off malevolent spirits; and to provide for the successful passage of a deceased’s spirit to the afterlife.

Mythology is related to animism because a large part of mythology is based upon a belief in souls and spirits (animism).  Mythology later came to focus largely on the sacred stories of origins and transformation and death and doom myths.

The main characters in myths are usually gods, supernatural heroes and humans—a true account of the remote past. Myths explain how the world gained its current form and how customs, institutions and taboos were established. Myths are closely related to legends and folktales. Legends, however, are stories that are traditionally considered true but are set in a more recent time and feature humans as their main characters. Folktales can be set in any time and any place and are not considered true or sacred by the societies that tell them.

Tomorrow, Creation Myths    Rita Bay

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