Home Discussion Forum What's the difference between Animism and Shamanism?

What's the difference between Animism and Shamanism?

Don’t both believe that everything has a spirit? Do animists believe that there good and evil spirits? I’m looking for a very detailed answer on the difference and pretty much what they are/believe in. Also, any recommended books would be wonderful. Thanks!


  1. In general,
    Shamanism is more of the practice, while Animism is the perspective/belief itelf.
    they do tend to overlap quite a bit though.
    it’s impossible to give details you seem to be seeking without zeroing in on a specific culture. Any of the thousands of local cultures around the globe had its own variantion and intrerpretation; terms like Shaman and Animist are our descriptions only. They are generalizations; it is disrespectful to try to lump thousands of belief systems together as if they were all alike.
    In all actually, many cultures probably would not make such distinctions. Compartmentalization/specificity of definitions are our culture’s way of linguistically ruling the world; among a single local culture you might get as many opinions/descriptions as there are members of the culture.
    Blanket generalizations are falling out of favor as we begin to appreciate and respect others.

  2. Shamanism is more of a practice or set of techniques to do magic while animism is the belief that everything including objects have spirits or souls, this is kind of like Gnostic’s that believe everything has an astral double. Everything has a spiritual counterpart.
    Some spirits might be considered malevolent and others not.

  3. Shamanism covers an assortment of beliefs and practices claiming the ability to travel to the axis mundi (pathway between heaven and earth; or world core) for the purpose of spiritual contacts. It is also described as being the “use of the archaic techniques of ecstasy that were developed independent of any religious philosophy — the empirically validated, experientially operable techniques that produce ecstasy. Ecstasy is the contemplation of wholeness. Literally, ecstasy is the withdrawal of the soul from the body; mystical or prophetic exaltation or rapture characteristic of shamanism and visionary states, originally and naturally catalyzed by entheogenic plants; also, such states artificially induced by breath control, fasting, meditation, drumming and other shamanic and yogic practices. Entheogens come in many forms but most commonly from plants known as ‘psychoactive drugs.”
    Shamanism is considered to be of the occult. Their methods are similar to other occult practices and beliefs such as channeling and the use of spirits coming in the form of animals (called power animals and shape shifters). It is claimed that the practitioner takes on those shapes himself. Shamanism is found from Brazil, Colombia and Peru, to Mongolia, Native Americans and worldwide New Age believers among others.
    There is strong interest and practices involving the use of herbal concoctions and hallucinogenic plants in Shamanism. One of the most popular is the Ayahuasca practice. It is sometimes made into a ‘brew’ or mixed with other plants in various forms. This plant (also called yage or vine of the dead) is found in most regions of the Amazon and comes with dangerous effects. One report says “Ayahuasca is not something to play with. It may even kill, not because it is toxic in itself, but because the body may not be able to stand the spiritual realm, the vibrations from the spirit world.”
    Michael J. Harner, introduces the extremely intense and terrifying experiences in this summary:
    The soul is felt to separate from the physical body
    Visions of jaguars and snakes
    Visions of demons and/or deities
    Visions of distant persons, ‘cities’ and landscapes
    The sensation of seeing the detailed enactment of recent unsolved crimes
    Peyote is equally known and used in the southwest United States (especially among Navajo) and among the Huichol people of northern Mexico. Peyote contains a large spectrum of phenethylamine alkaloids, the principal of which is mescaline (a hallucinogenic drug). More recently, techno-Shamanism has been introduced; this is the use of technology to enhance and enter into shamanistic ‘altered states of consciousnesses.’
    Shamanistic medicinal practices include the application of various ancient witchcraft techniques. Those treated with shamanistic approaches are easily drawn into deeper, darker occult practices. Shamanism opens a door to (evil) spirit possession and other forms of occult bondage. These rituals and methods can lead to intense physical pain and afflictions, temporary insanity, emotional depression, and powerful spiritual torment. The spirit world is very real, both Godly and demonic. All spirits are one or the other!
    In a sense, shamanism is a religion of itself. However it is an ungodly (even anti-Godly) religion. As in the Garden of Eden, since Creation there has been the spiritual battle between dark and light, good and evil. The Bible tells us we cannot serve two masters. If we are not serving God, we are serving Satan. God forbids us to get involved in pagan and occult practices (Deuteronomy 18:14). And Galatians 5:16-23 tells us that the two spiritual forces are constantly fighting and we are never free from their conflict; they are fighting over our souls.
    This passage ends by telling us that “anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says “. . .never sacrifice your son or daughter as burnt offering. And do not practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust the Lord.” Do you want to disgust God?
    God has created us with a free will to Choose Him or to succumb to evil ways. You should know:
    Satan uses deception and demonic spirits seeking our destruction through practices like Shamanism. He lures by false results and images. “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
    God is more powerful than all that Satan can use against us. “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won your fight with these false prophets, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4).
    God equips us to stand against evil when we give ourselves to Him. He has given us the power of His Holy Spirit and equips us with a full armor so that we can take a stand against the devil’s schemes and deceptions as it says in Ephesians 6:10-18:
    “A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realm. Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
    Animism is basically polytheism and it is the belief in and worship of many gods. Typically, these gods are distinguished by particular functions, and often take on human characteristics. This was particularly true in ancient Greece and Rome. In other polytheistic cultures such as ancient Egypt, gods take on the form and characteristics of objects found in nature, including trees, sacred herbs, cattle, animals and animal–human hybrids.
    The belief in multiple gods is probably the result of an earlier belief in vaguely defined spirits, demons and other supernatural forces. These belief systems are similar to animism, ancestor worship and totemism. However, in polytheism, these supernatural forces are personified and organized into a cosmic family. This “family” becomes the nucleus of a particular culture’s belief system. The family of gods was used to explain natural phenomena and to establish a culture’s role in the universe. Typically, the number of gods would expand as the culture’s belief system developed, eventually resulting in a hierarchical system of deities. Over time, the lesser gods would diminish in stature or vanish altogether.
    Polytheism was wide spread in the ancient world. The Egyptians had a highly developed belief system that was based on multiple gods. These gods were the cornerstone of Egyptian culture and still fascinate us today. The ancient Greeks also had an intricate system of myths based on multiple deities. The Greek gods often took on human forms and personalities, and in many cases, directly interfered with human activities. When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks, the Romans assimilated much of the Greek polytheistic culture. Over time, as Rome’s influence spread, it absorbed other gods from the other cultures that it conquered. In addition to Egypt, Greece and Rome, polytheism was widespread in ancient Asian, African, European and Native American cultures.
    Polytheism still represents much of the world today. Except for the monotheistic (belief in one God) religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, most of the world’s religions are overwhelmingly polytheistic. Polytheism characterizes the beliefs of Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism in the East, and also contemporary tribal religions in Africa and the Americas. These religions are widely practiced throughout the world and remain very popular in their ancestral areas.
    Some polytheistic beliefs are also popular in today’s Western Civilization. This appears to be a result of increased immigration of Eastern cultures and the mainstream popularity of New Age pluralism. Unlike Christian, Jewish and Islamic doctrine, there is rarely an absolute truth associated with polytheistic thinking. Ideas of morality (notions of right and wrong) are relative to the individual or culture. Each believer is free to worship the god of his or her choice in the manner of his or her liking. As a result, each person is free to behave as he or she sees fit. Although polytheistic systems provide flexibility and a relativistic lack of accountability, they often leave followers with no sense of ultimate purpose and no prospect for eternal hope. Monotheistic faiths such as Christianity teach that absolute truth is reality, mankind is on earth for a purpose, and eternal salvation is possible for those seeking a reconciled relationship with the one true God.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here