What's the difference between Animism and Shamanism?

1 Answer

Animism holds that our reality is not just the physical but is actually full of spirits. Shamanism holds that special people can enter the spirit world and make deals with spirits.


Animism is a system of beliefs that holds that the reality that we all live in isn't limited to what we can see and hear with our senses, but is instead full of spirits and consciousness that inhabit the land, the water, plants, animals, and the like.

For instance, in my new home country of Thailand, there are Spirit Houses built for just about every business and residence. The belief is that the land upon which the family is living or the business is doing business is occupied by a spirit of the land and that spirit wants to be respected, and so the spirit house is a way to do that. Every day people place food, drink, incense, and other offerings in their Spirit House to honour the spirit of the land. Doing so brings luck and protection and failure to do so brings ill-health, bad financial events, and other bad things.

Shamanism is a system of beliefs that holds that certain people, called shamans, can reach an altered state of consciousness and can enter the realm of spirit, talking with them, making deals, and otherwise interacting with them.

For instance, before his victory over Gen. George Custer, Sitting Bull, a Lakota Holy Man (which is another way to say shaman) was able, through his power and the ceremony he conducted, to foresee the invasion of Custer. For more on that and other facts about Sitting Bull, check out this link: http://www.manataka.org/page55.html