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Animists hold the belief that all things contain individual spirits or souls. Even though this extends beyond the beings scientifically classified as living, most modern animists tend to hone in on animals and plants. Most also work with mineral beings, especially crystals and stones. And probably a majority pay honor to the beings of landscapes and weather. A good number also work with place spirits, even some human-created ones such as houses, temples, cemeteries, stores, and campgrounds.

One class of beings that are widely overlooked are items that were fashioned by human hands or human machines. Two notable exceptions to this rule are sacred tools and the works of crafters and artists. This is due to the fact that both sacred tools and art are used and/or created with specific focus and intent. Thus these objects contain a very strong field of energy that is already used to interacting with humans.

I would like to take a moment to explain a few definitions I use for easier communication. The term I use for the spirits of human-created objects is "artifact spirit". The truest definition of artifact simply means "anything altered or created by humans". I prefer this rather than man-made because, while the objects may be man-made, sometimes the spirits in them aren't (but sometimes they are).

I use the term "awakened" to mean the certain state a spirit can achieve where it is at least somewhat self aware and self determining and able to interact with (and possibly communicate) with humans. All objects are ensouled, but for various reasons they can become dormant or never awaken in the first place. Some objects find a need to enter a dormant state very similar to sleep. They may decide to "sleep" as little as a few hours to as long as a few centuries. Sometimes artifact spirits enter dormancy after a trauma.

It may seem odd to imagine non-organic beings experienced experiencing trauma but, in my experience, they can. Especially if they are used to being surrounded by respect and love and then suddenly encounter callousness or violence. A hypothetical situation would be a cherished wedding ring stolen from the finger of a murder victim and pawned. After being exposed to the fear and death of its owner and going from a status of treasure to junk it may shut down. Hopefully, it will catch the eye of a buyer who will once again turn it into a symbol of love and happy memories which may convince it to awaken again.

Artifacts that were created to be disposable often never awaken. Why would, for example, a plastic spork, wish to awaken when it was created impersonally to be identical to millions, used once, and then sent to a landfill? It is possible to help the spork awaken although it would be hesitant to do so once it begins comprehending its usual life cycle and will probably choose to go back into dormancy. (Please don't awaken disposable objects as an experiment unless you will be keeping them for some period of time. Awakening something and just throwing it away is a very cruel thing to do. I did it to an empty coke bottle and only realized the callousness of the action after I had tossed it in the dumpster, for which I still feel bad about.)

An artifact spirit may awaken on its own or a person may initiate the process. It is completely unnecessary for a person to be an animist or have a belief in ensouled objects for them to cause an artifact spirit to awaken. One of the most common ways for an artifact to awaken is for intent, focus, and strong emotion to be placed on it. It is extremely common for children's plushies and toys to awaken. Many people often name their cars, boats, firearms, and computers. This personification is at least a subconscious acknowledgement of the spirit inside the object and a strong bond often forms between said object and its owner.

Technology is *very* easy to awaken and often they are "born" awakened. This is due to many reasons. Computers, phones, gaming consoles, and other tech are often literally an extension of ourselves. Sometimes we even partially merge together temporarily (or in the case of some technophiles, permanently). Technology is also getting closer and closer to mimicking human intelligence and most of society is anxious for the day this finally happens. Thus, many people are already starting to view computers as children to be taught. Of all of the objects that surround us in our daily lives, technological objects evoke the strongest emotional responses, good and bad.

I've already mentioned artwork, but I feel it is worth expanding on. Artistic objects and tech objects, in my mind, tie as the best artifacts for an animist to work with if they are just starting to explore the idea of communicating with artifact spirits. Art, by its nature, communicates with humans. Artists and artwork reflects the archetypes of Creator and Creation which are two of the most powerful archetypes to evoke. Art is always born out of emotion and meant to be an object of communication (even if the artist keeps the piece of art, it is still a form of communication from themself to themself). Thus, the spirits of objects of art are nearly always born awakened with a sense of purpose and a knowledge of how to communicate to humans (or at least a select group of humans).

A very good way to experience and understand the various ways artifacts may be awakened, what personalities they develop, and how they choose to communicate with (or ignore) humans is to visit various museums. Art museums are obvious choices that tie in with my last example, but don't limit yourself to that. I once challenged myself to open up to the spirits that might be found in a military history museum despite my ambivalence towards the topic. I was very surprised by what I felt and what greeted me. I ended up talking to a tank, a rifle, and even a WWII canteen. I met many more spirits who were kind but not interested in talking. And, yes, I met a few who were snobby or even malicious. I encountered many different personalities among those artifact spirits. Pride, sorrow, victorious joy, weariness, boastfulness, love, and hate. I was especially touched at those who still had a connection to the humans they worked with and wanted their stories to be remembered (the canteen was one of these).

I've also sprit-walked (my term for entering a light trance at a place to communicate with the spirits that might be there) in a few different museums holding Native American artifacts. These artifact spirits, in my experience tend to be more reserved and many of them give a message of "I won't talk, but you're welcome to sit with me quietly". Some do wish to share their stories, but some are resentful both of being in the museum and especially of the fate of the peoples they originally lived with. And sadly, quite a few of those artifact spirits had gone dormant. Perhaps it is a form of mourning. Perhaps through ignorance or malice they had been disrespected. Perhaps some of them felt that being in a museum display is a form of captivity that they don't want to experience. I also feel that some of the objects were completely empty of souls, and my theory is that they left to follow the souls of the people they first lived with.

I wish to leave this section on how artifact spirits awaken with something that ties in very well with the topic, something to contemplate. It is a clip from one of my favorite movies, "American Beauty". In it one of the characters, Ricky, shares with his friend a film he made of a plastic bag being blown around by wind. This moment that he filmed had caused a sort of spiritual understanding in him. Whether that understanding was purely pantheistic or also included animism is up for interpretation. In my opinion, what he says leaves it open enough for both to be argued validly.

The reason why I include it here is because it is a very moving and poignant example of a communication between a person and an object that is normally ignored. The focus Ricky gave the plastic bag, the emotions it stirred in him, and the fact that he felt it important enough to immortalize on film would, in my experience, all but guarantee that either the bag was already awakened for some reason, or that it awakened at the moment both it and Ricky decided to communicate with each other.

The theme of "American Beauty" is about reexamining life on your own terms, and while it is full of amazing moments, this scene especially touched me as an animist. I'm by no means perfect when it comes to recognizing and respecting all the artifact spirits around me, but Ricky and the plastic bag opened me up to become much more receptive to the idea. If you have a moment to watch the clip, perhaps it will do the same for you.

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The Animist

November 2012

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