BY KAYLA BABOOLAL
My spiritual heritage is based on the belief that there is life in all things, an energy that must be respected. My university studies helped me identify this belief as Animism Spirituality. The communing with these entities and the respectful use of their healing properties brought my family teachings in line with the Shamanic* practices of Native tribes around the world.
From the aboriginal people’s of the Pacific, India, Africa or the Americas, there has been an ancient belief that all things, from the rocks, waters, plants, animals and so forth, have a spirit, just as we do. The proof of this belief structure exists in archeological finds around the world. Deified animal shrines, sacred plants buried with healers and kings a like, consecrated stones used in amulet, all represent the importance placed on the existence of these items and how they reflect the continuation of the aboriginal culture. It can also still be seen in the aboriginal practices of these cultures who have been able to maintain their practices against a world of change.
A tree (willow), who’s bark was boiled would cure the pressures in the head, the sap from a plant (aloe) smoothed over a burn would cool it, and help it heal, a crystal (lepidolite) warn by a person suffering from depression would soon feel calmer, bathing in the salt waters remove toxins from the body, and water coming forth from deep within the earth, or as a gift from the highest reaches of a mountain top can sustain a nomadic tribe journeying through their lands.
The ancients, or ancestors, did not suffer from the ailment of ego. They understood that the spirit of the willow gives of itself to heal. That there was more than medicine within her bark, there was chi, prana, mana ~ life. Within each example given, the recipients life force was strengthened. The ancients understood that this came from the ‘tool’ used in the healing process, and they knew to honour this. A request was made, an offering given for the sacrifice made. It was simple. It was respectful.
The village healers (or ‘shaman’) would commune with the spirits of the flora, asking that the share their secrets for healing, sustaining and in some cases, taking of life. S/he would also commune with the fauna. When the time for the hunt was near, a voyage to the animal realm would be made, whether through trance dance, drumming or vision quest, to seek approval for the hunt. To learn the limit of what could be scarified from the herd to sustain both the people and the herd itself. In some native tribes, if the hunt could not track the herd, direction and guidance might be given, a path marked. With all this work done, the hunter, who finds his kill, will still thank the animal for its sacrifice. Still honour its life in how it is taken, and how it is used, completely toward the tribe’s life force.
This is how I define being an Animist, how I embrace it into my world.