If, like me, some of your most important relationships have been with birds – or with trees or flowers, amphibians or reptiles, insects or stones, or particular places – you may well have been following recent debates about ‘new’ animism with great interest. This blog has been set up as a space for musing upon the broad theme of dialogue with sentient worlds, and thinking about the interface between animist spirituality, natural history, and cultural politics, in a postmodern Western context.
Drawing on post-colonial ethnography, new animism affirms worldviews and lifeways based upon respectful relationship with a wide variety of other-than-human beings, or persons, as well as with each other.(1) I favour a hybrid understanding of animism that embraces a keen sense that the teeming complexity of cosmic (and, of course, earthly) nature -a matrix of interdependent communities of beings amongst whom humankind exists as a problematic member species- is pervaded by intelligences and relationships of many kinds, and by mind and consciousness, and/or ‘Spirit’.
What, then, might respectful relationship mean? How are we to enter into meaningful dialogue with a potentially bewildering diversity of ecological others? What happens when we find ourselves relating closely to (for want of a better term) other-than-human allies? What mutual obligations might be entailed? How are we to talk and write about such experiences? How might such relationships inform the rest of our lives? How might engagement with other-than-human ‘persons’, and with the land, relate to concerns for human social justice?
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(1) Graham Harvey’s Animism, Respecting the Living World.
Responses to the natural world on my/our doorstep (and beyond): A Right Royal Visit, There’s Toads About, Yellow Bird’s Nest, Late Snow, Praising Limestone, Ground Nesting at Midsummer, Alienated Nature – Representing Invasive Species, Humankind and Ashkind/Shadow over the Ash,
A Rare Sunny Walk, Protecting the Vulnerable, Something Astonishing is Happening Age and Beauty,
Some Portraits of Older Birch Trees. Midsummer Moments
On the relationship between animism and natural history: Animists, Naturalists and Spirituality, Peregrine Dreams-1, In the Wake of a Sparrowhawk, also Befriending Beech Trees, Birds and other People, Humankind and Ashkind/Shadow over the Ash, The Personhood of Trees, The Beauty of Vultures, Eco-Animism, Astrology, and Underworld Deities – Part One, Animism on T.V? Part 1 – Gordon Buchanan with Guillemots and Black Bears, and Part 2- Charlie Hamilton James in Peru, and Other Rainforest Stories. Jim Crumley on Eagles, Swans, and Bears.
An Animist’s Bookshelf: Handbook of Contemporary Animism, First Impressions and Animism, Respecting the Living World, and other titles on Graham Harvey’s books. Wakeful World on Emma Restall Orr’s book on animism. The Bioregional Economy, a U.K View on Molly Scott Cato’s Bioregion book. Double Death on Deborah Bird Rose’s ‘Wild Dog Dreaming’. Natural Magic, on Nigel Pennick’s book of that name. Relational Magic on Susan Greenwood’s ‘Anthropology of Magic’.
On poems and stories about relationship with ‘the natural world': Two Corvid Stories, Ted Hughes’ Crow and the Battle of the Birds, and Ted Hughes, Shaman of the Tribe? also Notes from the Tuning Fork, Ted Hughes and the Calder Valley, Part-1. also Part -2 and Part 3, and Part 4. The Poetry of John Burnside.
On divinatory/’spiritual’/magical/extra-ordinary (pick your own term!) encounters or relationships with other-than-human beings: Peregrine Dreams – 2, Equinox Greetings, Roe Deer Rite and The Common Kingfisher, a Personal Story, Birds and Me, Two Personal Stories
On various aspects of animism: Animal Rites and Animism and the Moment of Death and Remembering How I Became an Animist and As Summer Fades (memory, image, symbol). Posts on Animist Ethics, include Note on Animist Ethics, Respecting Other (Human) People, and Those Cruel Wars, Part 1 and Part 2. See also Changing Men?
On astrological ‘showings’ that seem to me to raise profound questions about our place in cosmic Nature: Equinox Greetings, Is Anybody Out There? In the Wake of a Sparrowhawk, The Beauty of Vultures, Part 2. and Appropriating Sedna Reconnecting Astrology with its Animist Roots.
On animism and social justice: Protecting the Vulnerable, tax justice. Animism on T.V? Part 2, Charlie Hamilton James in Peru and other Rainforest Stories. Spirits of Place, Notes on Animism as Deep Political Ecology.
The photograph of a Bee Orchid was taken at Conwy R.S.P.B reserve, in July 2012. Bee Orchids not only mimic the appearance of a female bee, but emit pheremones in order to lure male bees into ‘pseudocopulation’ as a method of pollination. The species’ northward spread is being monitored in relation to climate change.All photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.
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