Call of the Selkie


Animism is pre-dates organised religion but it is not a religion. It is as old as mankind. An ancient part of our souls.  Many that seek to walk a spiritual path or have a closer connection to nature are re-discovering its timeless wisdom. Animism is not dogmatic. It is a set of personal beliefs and ritualistic practices. A way of being and living in harmony with nature and all creation. 


At its heart of animism is the belief that everything has a spirit/soul and is therefore sacred. As such, the spirits of a place are thought of as the actual soul of the land or sometimes as guardian spirits who protect a specific place. Some ancient religions incorporated this belief and worshipped sacred wells, hills, trees or places in nature in addition to worshipping numerous deities. In some religions this then became the worship of saints. In that respect animism is the ancient seed of modern religion.

The belief in life after dead, reincarnation and ancestral veneration are also core to the practice.  Within this, kin and clan are important, especially the elders. Animists believe in the supernatural, an otherworld and in the existence of magic. Folk magic has its roots in the practice of animism. The old fairy faith is an animistic belief in inhuman and nature spirits. These practices and beliefs held strong in the highland and islands of Scotland. They are a historical documented part of our customs and culture. 

There was a strong belief in the ability that both the dead and living could cause harm if they desired. This might take the form of a curse, so people were careful not to offend. They didn't view spirits as benevolent, so they appeased them to prevent harm. They sometimes wore, charms or talismans to protect themselves from ghosts, demons, fae and witches. They protected their homes for the same reason and often used sacred herbs for this purpose. Sometimes an entire community would dress up to disguise themselves and take part in ceremony to keep evil spirits at bay. 


Animism is a ritualistic practice. This might take the form of creating shrines, making offerings, saying prayers, or calling on the ancestors for healing and protection. Again there will be cultural differences but most animistic cultures will perform rituals and make offerings before they ask the spirits for blessings. This would be done before they undertook something important. They might also ask for a blessing for the seemingly mundane things in life and sing or say incantations, prayers or charms.  If the outcome is favourable they might also give an offering of thanks. This often took the form of food, milk, or alcohol. In some cultures animal sacrifice was common.


Animism is not just a set of beliefs, or practices, it is a way of life. A relationship of deep respect for nature, the elements and a value for all things seen and unseen. This way of being was important to the ancestors because their survival depended upon knowing the land, plants and animals. As such they were a living breathing part of the landscape. Specific animals and trees were revered, sometimes to a cult status, such as the Caledonia Deer Cults. These animals are honoured by ritual and ceremony,  by wearing part of the animal, or ingesting it to take on its power. By building a relationship with the sacred, it becomes a familiar or spirit helper. 

Shamanism is found within animistic cultures as they share the same beliefs and practices. The difference was the role of healer, seer and ceremonialist that the shaman held within their community. 

All life is sacred, there is no separation, we are all woven as one. 


"The course was empowering and inspiring and helped me to accept myself as I am. Rowan is a very good teacher and the manuals are great". (Maureen Countamatta)