How to Connect With Nature Spirits Through Animism

How to Connect With Nature Spirits Through Animism


One essential practice in nature spirituality is connection with nature spirits through an animist perspective. Explore how you can connect with nature spirits, regardless of your spiritual tradition.

How can you deepen your connection with the land and nature outside of your door? How do you cultivate more rich connections with plants, animals, stones, rivers, and mountains? While there are lots of ways to cultivate a connection, one enduring approach to this work is through the philosophy of animism.

What Is Animism?

Animism recognizes that all things in the world are imbued with spirit. This includes all living beings, such as insects, birds, mammals, fish, plants, and trees. Most animists also recognize that because everything comes from the living earth and eventually returns to the earth, human-created things also have spirit.

Animism is one of the oldest human belief systems, and it is found consistently among Indigenous peoples and hunter-gatherer societies. And while animism is still practiced by traditional cultures, it has a growing number of practitioners within the neopagan and nature spirituality movements. Animism can be a supplement to any existing belief system.

Exploring an animistic philosophy is an incredible way of deepening your relationship with the living earth and learning from beings in nature as teachers and guides. Here are some basic techniques to explore animism and how this philosophy and practice can deepen your connection with nature.

Gratitude, Permission, and Respect

If we accept that all beings in nature have spirit, then treating them like you would treat any other human you first meet is a good first step. What I mean is this: If you meet a new person, you wouldn’t immediately start touching them, hugging them, or pulling out their hair. You would first say hello, have a pleasant interaction, and get to know each other. While nature-based beings are different from humans, these same considerations apply, and by giving nature-based beings this respect, they will be much more willing to work with you and build a relationship with you. Because, after all, trees are people too.

Thus, the first step in establishing an animist practice is showing respect. This respect can be in the form of asking permission—if you want to sit next to a tree, harvest something from a tree, or so on, start with a greeting and ask permission. You can simply go to a tree, stand before them, and say aloud or silently, “Hello, Grandmother Tree. May I sit under you?” As described below, their response may come as something you hear internally, a sense of external energy, a visible sign (a bird song, etc.), or it may simply be a feeling you have in your gut. If the tree signals a “no,” respect that choice and move on. Sometimes the “no” is a test to see if you will respect the voices of nature.

Just as you would with human friends, it is also an excellent idea to offer gratitude. You can do this through a simple spoken “thank you” or through your own gifts: a song, chant, dance, or a nature-friendly offering. These basic practices in respect go a long way in a world where nature is primarily seen as something from which to take things, and this puts you on the path to deeper connection with nature.

Spirit Communication Basics

An important part of animist practice is developing our spiritual senses enough to hear the quiet voices of the earth. We often fill our heads with so much media and other human voices that it is easy to drown out spirits who may want to communicate. We also have many thoughts running through our heads and have to work to quiet our own minds. Nature has such respect for you; she is not going to speak over you or try to get you to listen. She will wait, patiently, for you to be ready to hear her.

We need to do the preparatory work on ourselves to be ready for her communication. Thus, the first step in developing spirit communication is working to quiet the mind through a regular meditation practice.

The second step is to practice communicating with the spirits of nature. It can take time to build these skills. Create space every week to practice sitting quietly, learning to hear their voices in whatever manner they may choose to teach you. As mentioned above, different people have different kinds of senses: Some people sense spirits visually, while others experience energy, gut feelings, or hear inner voices. The use of a divination system, such as a pendulum (which is great for yes/no questions) or a tarot deck, can also be a wonderful aid.

Deepening Relationships

Once you are able to communicate in gratitude and respect, the world of nature spirit communication is open to you. Get to know your local trees, stones, rivers, and animals on a more intimate level through these practices. Recognize that they have their own seasons and cycles—communicating with a sugar maple in a temperate climate is great from March until October, but don’t expect much communication when your friend goes dormant over the winter months.

Also, with spirit communication, just like in the human realm, it is also good to use common sense. If you feel something is off or wrong, don’t continue the communication. You can develop deep and meaningful relationships with many of the beings in your local landscape with these core practices.

Enjoy the first article in our Nature Spirituality 101 series, on how to connect with your local landscape.

How to Connect With Nature Spirits Through Animism

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