I recently posted a guest blog on Adventures in Animism called ‘Eco-Paganism 101’. Eco-Paganism exemplifies several themes that I’ve been exploring here, so I want to flag them up.
Eco-Pagans are animists, “people who recognise that the world is full of persons, only some of whom are human, and that life is always lived in relationship to others” (Harvey, 2006). Animism thus entails a very special relationship to place: If the world is full of other-than-human persons, and you care for them, then you’d better be fully engaged with where you are.
Animism not only requires an enhanced sensory acuity; it also emerges from it. Abram suggests that “at the level of our spontaneous, sensorial engagement with the world around us, we are all animists” (Abram, 1996). An indigenous tribal lifestyle typically requires a high level of sensory awareness to survive. The Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea, for example, live in dense rainforest and rely on a highly developed sense of sound to know the time of day, season of the year and their location in space (Feld, 2005). It’s no coincidence that indigenous tribal people are generally animists: Heightened sensory awareness reveals the interconnectedness of the world.
The special relationship that Eco-Pagans have with place relies on a “somatic, physical knowing” (Harris, 1996). Alisha Little Tree spoke of the ”knowledge in our bodies that tell us what’s right” (Taylor, 2005), while Gordon writes of how the physical ecstasy of dance connects him to a “world that thinks” (MacLellan, 1996) and Barry explains that a “conversation with a tree is first and foremost a feeling in your body” (Patterson, 2005). I could give you many more examples, but I trust the principle is clear.
I realise I’ve just summed up my PhD, The Wisdom of the Body: Embodied Knowing in Eco-Paganism. A more detailed summary, and indeed the whole thesis, is online.