As we get more and more questions from curious listeners about animism, it became obvious that we need some sort of data base for definitions so that we can communicate clearly. This page will continue to grow. Please use it as a starting point to keep the discussion going.
Agnostic– a person who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God or the gods. This can also be someone who believes that God’s nature is unknowable.
Altar– a focal point for ritual work. It’s usually on a table top and is generally set up with a theme that reflects the intent of the ritual and is therefore temporary.
Amocara– this is Pan Society’s version of a minister. This is someone who ministers to the needs of the community using their talents and skills. This is a divinely inspired calling. No one can make you an amocara or take it away.
Ancestor worship– this is a term coined by someone who doesn’t understand the practice of ancestor reverence. Ancestors aren’t “worshiped.” They are revered. They are still a part of life as long as they are in our memories. Ancestors can, and want to, aid us. They may sometimes need to be appeased. So prayers and offerings are made to them regularly – usually through a shrine.
Animism– the oldest extant spiritual practice that includes the belief that everything has a spirit or conscious energy. It’s found primarily in tribal cultures, but is gaining adherence in modern cultures as science catches up with spirituality.
Apparent reality– the world that you can perceive. The world that is testable by science. This is distinguished from the Otherworld that we can’t see.
Atheist– a person who doesn’t believe in God or gods.
Bellogenio– people who do not lie within the bell curve, for example homosexuals and people with mental illness. While all people are gifts to the world and are teachers, these people’s uniqueness bring rare, much needed gifts and teachings.
Cardinal directions– north, south, east, and west.
Co-creator– recognizing that thoughts create and influence things, therefore we are all creation beings. As we think, we become.
Connection – a sense of union, rapport, or being in sync with something outside yourself
Consecrate – to dedicate for a special purpose, to make sacred
Empath– a person who is sensitive to psychic energy. A clairvoyant, clairaudient, or clairsentient.
Heathen– pagans. Comes from a Welsh (?) word meaning heath dweller- so it’s a derogatory name for someone who lives in the country. In contemporary terms, it refers to someone who belongs to the Germanic Neopagan spirituality.
Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)– someone who: can detect changes in emotional energy and/or psychic energy; reacts to low level environmental changes such as sound, light, scents, textures, and activity level; reacts to chemicals in food, cleaning products, perfumes, carpets, etc. This person spends a lot of time coping with things that others find not distressing. This is most likely due to either a high heavy metal load, head trauma, or emotional trauma and is NOT a sign of advanced spirituality. HSP is not the same as being an empath. Empaths do not have generalized sensitivity. They also do not react to stimulus despite being able to sense it.
Keening – mournful singing or vocalizations done at a funeral to protect the dead from evil spirits during the transition between death and burial. The text of the songs are also referred to as “the keen.”
Macrocosm- the world, the universe, the whole
Magick– using energy to create an intended outcome. This is different from slight of hand or creating illusions.
Manifesting– another word for magick
Medicine man– this term was coined by Europeans to describe the Native American person who administered to the spiritual needs of the tribe. Each tribe has their own name for what this person is called. The role varies from tribe to tribe and may or may not include shamanism. Common roles are healer, communicator, educator, historian, herbalist, prophet, mystic, communicator between the spirit world and this world, and keeper of tribal wisdom.
Medicine Wheel– the term “Medicine wheel” is a European idea used to refer to the Native American “sacred hoop” or symbol of a circle with a cross in the center. The circle of life has no beginning and no end. Within the circle contains everything in the universe. The meanings vary from tribe to tribe because Nature changes with longitude and latitude. This symbol is a great teacher for connecting with creation and understanding oneself. This symbol is found throughout the world. We refer to this as the Wheel of Life.
Medium– a person who is able to speak to the dead. This is a skill that all people can learn. The dead they are speaking to may or may not be well so any information gained from this communication can be as faulty as speaking to a living person.
Microcosm– a miniature representation of something larger. Often refers to humanity.
Modern animism– the revived practice of animism by Pan Society that was created to recognize that the needs of society changes as people change. A return to old ways won’t work. In order to keep from adulterating existing practices or swinging back and forth to extremes, a new animistic practice that balances western with eastern, old with new, and matriarchy with patriarchy is necessary. This form suggests to first develop sovereignty, then connection, and through that Oneness will arise.
Occult– that which is unexplained, mysterious.
Oneness– the sense or belief in the idea of all things being woven into an interdependent fabric of existence
Otherworld– refers to all realms that aren’t readily apparent through the senses by most people and isn’t yet measurable by science.
Pagan– this term originally meant anything that wasn’t Roman. It has evolved to mean anything that isn’t Christian. This group usually includes atheists, agnostics, pantheists, and polytheists. The word comes from the Latin word paganus which means “country dweller.” It has nothing to do with Satanism or evil. It’s an Earth based faith.
Panpsychism– the belief that everything has a consciousness
Pantheist– the view that God and the world are one or that it’s an expression of God’s nature. In other words, God is everything and everything is God.
Polytheist– the belief and worship of many gods
Ritual– a mindful exercise to focus energy and intention. It’s often done in the same way over and over to give it meaning and power. They can be highly detailed or spontaneous. They can be solitary or include groups.
Satanism– this is hard to define because many groups use this term with very different meanings. It’s best to contact the specific organization to see what they believe. They don’t really have a lot in common with each other. For the most part, they are not advocating evil nor do they use dark arts for manipulating outcomes. However, this is what they are most known for.
Shadow– the side of an archetype that is imbalanced, either by excess or deficiency. It helps us to adapt, but does so in a way that is not generally perceived as the most effective. It can alert us to our growth opportunities.
Shamanism– the spiritual practice of the Tungus (Russia) people that is based in animism. Practitioners are chosen at birth to care for the spiritual needs of the tribe. These needs can include healing the sick, solving problems, divination, mediating between the living and dead, helping the dead to cross over, and protecting the living from hostile spirits. This term has been used generically to apply to all indigenous groups, however, there are many differences in shamanic cultures that can lead to over generalizations and inaccuracies. It’s clearer and more respectful to call each tradition by its own name.
Sorcery– magic, energy work, or manifestation that violates someone else’s free will or sovereignty. May also involve the use of necromancy or conjuring demons or other spirits to do your bidding.
Sovereignty– the responsibility for self rule. It’s about discipline, boundaries, self care, responsibility, freedom, and the respect for others’ self rule.
Spirit Walker – someone who walks in the spirit world to help those in spirit form or those who are this side of the veil. This is not the same thing as a medium. It’s more than communication. Although there are many effective healers who work in different modalities, this does not refer to a cultivated skill. It’s passed down from Spirit and cannot be claimed or learned. It’s gifted. It’s a partnership between Spirit and the person. The healing is not done by the person, but by Spirit.
Supernatural– coming from something other than Nature, something science can’t explain
Trickster- sometimes a god, an animal, or an energy that exists to remind us to stay in touch with Spirit. It’s sometimes helpful and sometimes not. It is generally male. He is nonjudgmental, often impulsive, clever, sometimes foolish, sometimes wise, and always logical in a backward way. He moves between the worlds with ease.
Wheel of life– see medicine wheel
Wicca– a modern Pagan religious movement that was started in Britain and was introduced to the public by Gerald Gardener in 1954. Wiccans may identify as Witches or Warlocks, but one can be a Witch without being a Wiccan. Wicca is an earth based, peaceful religion. Witchcraft is a practice.
Witch– one who practices witchcraft and/or folk magick. Christians popularized the belief that Witches are evil Satanists. Satanists and Witches are two very different things with different belief systems. While Witches may practice dark arts, this is generally looked down upon by those engaging in Witchcraft because they understand the interconnectedness of life and know that what you send out comes back to you.
Witchcraft– the practice of magick or energy manipulation. This may be done by Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, atheists, or anyone.