Animism is the term we use to describe the belief that all things, plant, animal and objects both natural and man made are inherently possessing of a spiritual life-force. Many ancient peoples believed in animism, including pre-pharaonic Egyptians. Animism maintains that a spiritual life force endows all things with at least some form of soul essence and some sources even suggest, consciousness.
Where do Kemetic neo-pagans sit with animism and is it a belief found amongst practitioners today? I can’t speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself through sharing stories from my own unverified personal gnosis (UPG) concerning animistic phenomena, and encourage others to do the same (see the 2018 book, Profane Egyptologists by Paul Harrison, a book I plan to review). I’ve written previously about Subjective Mystical Experiences (SME is a term I’ve invented, which I believe is more user-friendly than UPG). This includes a personal encounter with the life-force essence, which I’ve hypothesised to be that of Kneph, in the post My Life with the Netjeru.
Animism was historically presented as an attribute of primitive cultures and irrational belief systems by the scientific fields of anthropology and Egyptology. Stigmatised with a negative connotation, any further dialogue on what the subjective experience of animism might have been like for ancient peoples was effectively shut down and shelved. Thus, inertia has been imposed on a spiritual force meant to freely circulate.
It seems the modern take on animism, which was originally credited to anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor, is that his were not the final words on animism but instead consisted of a paradigm, which is today outdated and ready for re-examination. Some scholars suggest the dawning of a ‘new-animism’ (see the 2016 article, Is There Such a Thing as Animism by Darryl Wilkinson).
While the article above is suggestive of a revisionist’s approach to indigenous animism, it is without a doubt, a topic for neo-pagans to consider. I am conscious of the fact that neo-pagans can sometimes draw attention and interest from anthropologists as well as other disciplines interested in documenting the lived experiences of contemporary pagans. In that respect, how can we as neo-pagans represent ourselves and our community in a manner that satisfies intellectual inquiry and still maintain our spiritual integrity? If we are reduced to a mere catalogue of belief systems, it would constitute a deconstruction of our religion at the precise moment we are attempting to reconstruct it! What would the impact of this be on us? We need to be considerate of and sensitive to the potential impact of our actions, as will be demonstrated later on in this post.
The notion that beliefs are nothing more than invented explanations for natural forces we don’t understand simply doesn’t add up as far as the neo-pagan movement goes. Today, we are informed by history and by science and yet, we still choose to resurrect long-extinct religions. My own explanation is my beliefs are not merely beliefs but are conclusions based upon UPG / SME. My spiritual practice as a Kemetic neo-pagan is strengthened and validated by psycho-spiritual encounters I’ve had with the ancient Egyptian pantheon. This may or may not hold true for other Kemetic neo-pagans; further investigation and sharing would be needed to make that determination.
Cementing my relationship and belief in animism are recent SMEs I’ve had with a fledgling deity; an acacia tree goddess. This is a story I’d like to share below:
Recently, I bought a new bedroom furniture set. I just started a new nursing job at a local hospital and even though my contract wasn’t spectacular, it was still a permanent contract, which made me feel more secure. To land a permanent position anywhere at the time, during the first months of COVID-19, was quite a feat. Nurses were in demand and yet, it still wasn’t easy getting hired. After going through a period of very little work previously, it made me want to celebrate and get my life back on track.
After working for a few months, I had my sights set on creating a bedroom oasis, a place to rest and recharge. I went to a furniture store and had a look around. Something about this one bedroom set in particular caught my attention. It was made of mostly solid acacia wood, it was modern in design and just felt and looked really nice. It was the best quality at the best price I could afford, so I decided to go with that set. It was called Toronto, even though I’m pretty sure acacia trees don’t grow in Canada, unless I’m missing something (which hey, you never know). Whatever the name, it was a beautiful bedroom set and I was excited about it. I’d come a long way!
There were a few delays with backordering. When the furniture was finally delivered on my day off, I left it sitting in boxes in the lounge room until my housemate arrived home, who was going to help me unbox it and set everything up. I spent the day doing laundry and various other odd jobs around the house and I had to walk past the boxes frequently as I made little trips around the house. I noticed it had been a few years since the walls were washed in the house, and I impulsively decided to wash them. Washing walls is harder work than it sounds, so I really got stuck into it. That’s when I became aware of an uneasy feeling coming from the boxes. I stopped, grateful to have a distraction, and tuned into what was going on.
Whatever label you want to slap on it, if you want to call it empathic, sensitive, psychic (I find most labels cringeworthy) I have an ability to perceive non-physical reality. That’s probably the best way to describe it. There wasn’t a negative or evil feeling coming from the boxes. Just… mounting anxiety, I realised. Not anxiety from myself, but a feeling of anxiety coming from the boxes. I tuned in further and saw a beautiful, cobalt blue lady of light. Intuitively, I sensed this was a nature spirit or diva. The diva appeared stunned and in shock and not completely aware of me standing there.
A cascade of impressions began to flow and I suddenly realised the situation. She had come from the furniture, from one of the trees that had provided the furniture. I quickly realised the implications of my choices as a consumer and the impact those choices might have on other forms of life. Now there was a traumatised nature spirit stuck in my lounge room and I had to help her, I just had to figure out the best way how.
I lit some incense (realising later that this too was made of wood products, how wonderful) and played soothing meditation music from Youtube. I needed to try and stabilise her, so in my mind, I began speaking to her. I said hello and I asked if she was okay.
“I’ve been sold.” She said. Feelings of What’s next, anything could happen and I have no control over my destiny followed. I started to feel more of the feelings and thoughts the diva was having. I also felt a twinge of my own guilt, realising what a selfish, mindless consumer I really was. I had no idea of how my consumption might affect other living things. Okay, so maybe this tree came from a sustainable, ecologically responsible plantation. So what! That feel-good knowledge was quickly reduced to expose a marketing campaign designed to make you feel better about buying the products you buy. Try parroting the conditioning of your human privilege to a nature diva that still wants to be a tree growing in the Earth, and not someone’s piece of furniture. This quickly turned into a heavy situation that raised a lot of ethical questions. I can’t sleep on air, I need a bed, so what do I do? Sending the bedroom set back wouldn’t help; the damage was done. She was my responsibility now.
“I could become paper.” She said. This was her biggest fear. Becoming paper. Becoming pulp. Great, I thought, I really messed up here.
Her anxiety began to lull as she showed me more of her reality. Yes, this was a nature diva who had once been the soul of an acacia tree, not so long ago. The diva’s soul energy was very strong, very concentrated. Not only was she aware of herself, but she became aware of herself in all things. She was a tree, but she was every tree, she was a bounding waterfall on another continent, she was a monkey high in the branches and she was the fruit he held in his hands. She marvelled at the wonder of the mystery of herself and all that she was. In this sense, the diva had evolved into a goddess because she realised god within. At least, as part of my own unverified personal gnosis, I acknowledge her as a fledgling goddess.
“I am nothing, yet I am all. I am all this.” She gestured and gave me a searching look, to see if I understood. I was deeply touched by this being. I could say nothing, I simply nodded dumbly, chux cloth in hand. The acacia tree goddess began to hum syllables to me, sweetly, innocently. Muala. That was her name. But even a deity can be vulnerable, even a deity can be traumatised which is a concept I’m not sure if we humans are familiar with.
“It’s hard.” She began to cry. I found myself crying with her. I wasn’t expecting this. I suppose I was expecting that if anything, if my new furniture should happen to contain some form of consciousness that it would be like getting a new puppy and the furniture would be happy about coming to its new home. I wasn’t expecting a traumatised nature goddess of the acacia. I was too busy focusing on myself and wanting to spruce up my bedroom and my life because things were looking up for me. I never thought about the Earth or the trees or what impact my consumerism might have on the planet. Or that a plantation tree is still a tree with a life and… feelings? New-animism, indeed.
Muala related the experience of being cut down, of being mercilessly ripped apart and processed by machines, a feeling of being butchered and sliced up and thrown around. Then she was morphed into shapes that weren’t natural to her. She still felt the urge to straighten back up into her tree-form. On one hand, her consciousness had reached amazing heights. On the other, she was very naive about human nature, about the fact that she was a plantation tree and had been purposely grown to supply the timber industry. I felt incredibly guilty because in a very real and direct way, she had been grown for me to consume. I was responsible for this. I apologised to her and told her I didn’t know. It was a completely unexpected experience that left me in shock.
“Well, now you know.” She said.
I tried to ease her pain as best I could. I told her again, how sorry I was and that she didn’t have to stay here anymore; she could go off and be with all the amazing things she was already a part of. Or she could perhaps go to the light and reunite with Source. The netjeru, however were already making contact with her. Even Mother Mary of the Catholic faith heard her cries and came forward to help. The netjeru seemed to feel that the encounter was not by accident. Isis came forward and said that if Muala stayed here, she could learn about humans and learn how to become a spiritual guide. She could also work with the Egyptian pantheon and learn more about the business of being a goddess. Isis saw potential in Muala and didn’t want her going off wandering alone, bewildered and unprotected. Clearly, she was vulnerable and had already experienced enough terror and exploitation. To simply leave her and allow her do her own thing would place her in peril. Muala heeded the advice given by Isis and chose to stay.
Muala, the fledgling acacia tree goddess is with me today, sometimes presenting herself as the brilliant blue lady I saw and other times, as a very solid tree. She has placed healing symbols into the palms of my hands and at night, has told me she sings a ‘ghost song’ for protection against negative entities, which I haven’t heard yet. She also works with domestic and wild plants and trees.
It wasn’t until later on, through building my knowledge-base of Kemeticism, that I learned of the significance of the acacia tree in ancient Egyptian mythology and its sacredness to Isis and Osiris, which I may write more about in an upcoming post.
Thank you for reading Kemetic Blog. I hope you enjoyed this post on animism and my experiences with Muala, the acacia tree goddess. There’s a strong ecological message in this post and I think the key is to receive from nature with love and gratitude, as opposed to taking with complete disregard. If we honour the spirits of those beings which have given their lives to provide for us, it will have a positive impact on the whole planet. To do that, however, we must be willing to at least consider animism as part of our own personal gnosis. As always, stay safe and well!
© Scott Rose / Kemetic Blog – All Rights Reserved.