What To Say When You Meet an Animist


I don’t go around announcing my faith to people, and most of the time I’m content to allow them to assume that I am what they are. However, recently I got into a conversation with a long time friend who asked me if I was celebrating Christmas. When I answered, I could tell that he didn’t know what to say in response. If you don’t know what to say when you meet an animist, read on! I’ll help you out. But first, let’s look at what NOT to say to your animist friends.

What NOT To Say To Your Animist Friends

Oh, you guys engage in kinky orgies, right? 

This is a stereotype. Animist run the gamut. Some are monogamous, some polyamorous. Like people in general, some are more lusty and carefree in all aspects of their lives. Some are more private. Most animists engage in fertility rituals which may or may not include sex. If you are curious about this, ask. Perhaps this is something that your friend is willing to talk about.

Do you really participate in human sacrifice?

Sacrifice is part of life. Animists generally understand and embrace this. Historically human sacrifice was practiced by animists around the world. That was followed by animal sacrifice (burnt offerings). This is still done in many places, but no one that I know of participates in human sacrifice.

So, wait. Are you a devil worshipper?

The idea of the Devil is a Christian construct that really doesn’t have a place in animism. Some cultures have a devilish figure, like the Greek god Pan. He’s associated with wine, drunkeness, Nature, music, dancing, napping, and lusty sex. That’s the closest figure that we have to Satan. All gods and creatures in animism are natural. Everything has a light and dark side. There is no battle between light and dark unless it is within yourself.

Does that mean you’re a shaman?

“Shaman” is a cultural term that only applies to the Evenki people. Spirit walkers of other traditions have different names and practices. Being an animist does not make one a shaman. Only the spirits can do that. It’s not something that you can choose nor would most people do so because living between worlds is not an easy path.

How many gods do you worship?

Not all animists are polytheistic. Some are monotheists. Some don’t worship any gods at all. Animists come in many different varieties. We probably have more differences than similarities, so there isn’t much that you can take for granted.

If you say any of these things, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world, and you probably won’t offend. These are just some of the things we hear a lot that make us go, “Huh?”

Respectful Conversation Starters

What’s animism? Please share!

Most animists are happy to share what this means to them. There are many stereotypes that we’d love to correct if given the chance. We all have great stories of personal experiences that we may be willing to share too. If you have an open mind, we may give you a window to what’s inside us. So ask!

How do you practice animism?

Because animism varies from culture to culture and person to person, you may get really fascinating answers to this question. Responses could include things about rituals, personal values, activism, social activities, family values, or anything really. Animism is holistic. It touches every aspect of our being, so naturally it can show up in every way that we move in the world.

We’re actually quite normal. We don’t bite. In fact, we blend in quite well, but we do have a different governing philosophy. If you want to know more, just ask.