The most recommended animism books

Who picked these books? Meet our 7 experts.

7 authors created a book list connected to animism, and here are their favorite animism books.
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Book cover of Animism: Respecting the Living World

Gavin Van Horn Author Of Planet

From my list on a living kinship with the more-than-human world.

Who am I?

I remember, as a very young child, clandestinely sneaking out of the house on humid Houston nights to gather toads. How my parents never caught me in the act, I do not know. I only know holding these amphibians in my hands felt special, magical even. This compulsion toward other creatures speaks to the unfolding of my lifelong learnings, a path that led me to a PhD in Religion and Nature and then to work for the Center for Humans and Nature. I’ve never stopped reflecting on how humans might better care for our earthling kin, and I don’t suspect I’ll ever cease marveling at the earth’s wild generativity. 

Gavin's book list on a living kinship with the more-than-human world

Gavin Van Horn Why did Gavin love this book?

I first met Graham when I was a PhD student attending a conference on religion & animals. He is a person who seems drawn to and across boundaries of scholarship, and though this book is scholarly, it’s also a totally accessible overview of the ways in which animism is not some primitive ideology but, rather, core to human experience and cultures all over the world. Harvey provides a careful treatment of historical and contemporary animist perspectives, nonhuman personhood, and the formation of animistic sensibilities. He details how animism fosters a constant dialogue between humans and non-human persons—a kind of social, spiritual, and ecological conversation that is continuously negotiated. Animism is not a thing of the past; it’s a way of life that is vital to a viable future. 

By Graham Harvey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Animism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How have human cultures engaged with and thought about animals, plants, rocks, clouds, and other elements in their natural surroundings? Do animals and other natural objects have a spirit or soul? What is their relationship to humans? In this new study, Graham Harvey explores current and past animistic beliefs and practices of Native Americans, Maori, Aboriginal Australians, and eco-pagans. He considers the varieties of animism found in these cultures as well as their shared desire to live respectfully within larger natural communities. Drawing on his extensive casework, Harvey also considers the linguistic, performative, ecological, and activist implications of these different…


Book cover of The Life Within: Classic Maya and the Matter of Permanence

James L. Fitzsimmons Author Of Death and the Classic Maya Kings

From my list on ancient Maya religion.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by Maya religion since college—ever since I took my first class on Maya hieroglyphics at Tulane University. At first, I was drawn to the visuals accompanying the glyphs: women running ropes through their tongues, men holding hands with gods, and animals (spirits) wielding sacrificial knives. Then I began chasing the meanings of those visuals until I found myself specializing in ancient Maya mortuary behavior and receiving a PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University. I am happy to say that I am still on the chase, having written or edited five books (with two more on the way). I hope you enjoy this list!

James' book list on ancient Maya religion

James L. Fitzsimmons Why did James love this book?

The ancient Maya viewed many things that we would consider inert as animate: objects had agency, even personality. As a result, I often tell my students that the artifacts they hold were once alive. Unfortunately, I rarely have time to tell them just how they came to live—or how they died (sometimes violently). This fascinating book explores not only animism but also the ways in which artisans literally brought objects to life. Read this book and then go to an exhibit on the ancient Maya; then try to decide which things in the exhibit are still (technically) alive. The exercise may be disconcerting—but it will offer a completely different take on the museum experience.  

By Stephen D. Houston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Life Within as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the Classic Maya, who flourished in and around the Yucatan peninsula in the first millennium AD, artistic materials were endowed with an internal life. Far from being inert substances, jade, flint, obsidian, and wood held a vital essence, agency, and even personality. To work with these materials was to coax their life into full expression and to engage in witty play. Writing, too, could shift from hieroglyphic signs into vibrant glyphs that sprouted torsos, hands, and feet. Appearing to sing, grapple, and feed, they effectively blurred the distinction between text and image.

In this first full study of the…


Book cover of World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence

Steven C. Hayes Author Of A Liberated Mind: The essential guide to ACT

From my list on understanding and shaping reality.

Who am I?

Steven C. Hayes is Nevada Foundation Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. An author of 47 books and nearly 675 scientific articles. He is the developer of Relational Frame Theory, and has guided its extension to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) a popular evidence-based form of psychotherapy that is now practiced by tens of thousands of clinicians all around the world.

Steven's book list on understanding and shaping reality

Steven C. Hayes Why did Steven love this book?

Stephen Pepper’s central insight is that philosophical systems cluster around a few core models, or "world hypotheses," drawn from common sense. He ignores details and personalities, and uses very little quotes and citations. Instead, he presents the central tenets of each world view using his own terms. His style permits an understanding of the grand scheme of philosophy, abstracted from the details of particular positions. The book is like a series of colored spotlights cast on a complicated scene. Irrelevant details of various philosophical positions disappear like so many shades of blue under a blue spotlight. Fundamental differences leap out, now from one angle, now from another.

By Stephen C. Pepper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked World Hypotheses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"World hypotheses" correspond to metaphysical systems, and they may be systematically judged by the canons of evidence and corroboration. In setting forth his root-metaphor theory and examining six such hypotheses - animism, mysticism, formism, mechanism, contextualism, and organicism - Pepper surveys the whole field of metaphysics. Because this book is an analytical study, it stresses issues rather than men. It seeks to exhibit the sources of these issues and to show that some are unnecessary; that the rest gather into clusters and are interconnected in systems corresponding closely to the traditional schools of philosophy.The virtue of the root-metaphor method is…


Book cover of Anastasia (The Ringing Cedars, Book 1)

Heidi Wedd Author Of Wild Flower Walker: A Pilgrimage to Nature on the Bibbulmun Track

From my list on nature spirits.

Who am I?

Following a herbal and homeopathic pathway for 20 years has taken me on many insightful and inspiring tangents. One of those being the passion to commune with nature spirits and learn directly from herbs.  This practice has led me on many a fine adventure (one of which Wild Flower Walker contains) and continues to be a rich source of teachings and growth. I have been teaching these practices for the last 11 years and offer courses in Shamanic Herbalism; Herbal Alchemy; & Plant Spirit Communication. These books have been treasures and catalysts for me and I hope they will open your heart further to the rich world of nature spirits.

Heidi's book list on nature spirits

Heidi Wedd Why did Heidi love this book?

A fascinating series with many insights and inspirations for how to live more deeply aligned and in co-creation with nature. While the writing doesn't flow particularly well, the content and magic that is carried within have a palpable effect. It is worth the journey and will leave you inspired to connect in broader and deeper ways. 

By Vladimir Megre,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anastasia (The Ringing Cedars, Book 1) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Anastasia", the first book of the Ringing Cedars Series, tells the story of entrepreneur Vladimir Megre's trade trip to the Siberian taiga in 1995, where he witnessed incredible spiritual phenomena connected with sacred 'ringing cedar' trees. He spent three days with a woman named Anastasia who shared with him her unique outlook on subjects as diverse as gardening, child-rearing, healing, Nature, sexuality, religion and more. This wilderness experience transformed Vladimir so deeply that he abandoned his commercial plans and, penniless, went to Moscow to fulfil Anastasia's request and write a book about the spiritual insights she so generously shared with…


Book cover of Plant Spirit Medicine: A Journey Into the Healing Wisdom of Plants

Heidi Wedd Author Of Wild Flower Walker: A Pilgrimage to Nature on the Bibbulmun Track

From my list on nature spirits.

Who am I?

Following a herbal and homeopathic pathway for 20 years has taken me on many insightful and inspiring tangents. One of those being the passion to commune with nature spirits and learn directly from herbs.  This practice has led me on many a fine adventure (one of which Wild Flower Walker contains) and continues to be a rich source of teachings and growth. I have been teaching these practices for the last 11 years and offer courses in Shamanic Herbalism; Herbal Alchemy; & Plant Spirit Communication. These books have been treasures and catalysts for me and I hope they will open your heart further to the rich world of nature spirits.

Heidi's book list on nature spirits

Heidi Wedd Why did Heidi love this book?

I read this book back in the late '90s when I was just beginning to study herbalism (with a teacher very aligned with plant spirit wisdom). It was a highly significant book in expanding my version of what herbalism can be when practiced in union and cocreation with plants. When I flick back through it now, I see so many aspects of my current shamanic herbalism practice reflected back at me and realise how formative it was to my learning. Highly recommended.  

By Eliot Cowan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plant Spirit Medicine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Whether you live in a mountain cabin or a city loft, plant spirits present themselves to us everywhere. Since its first printing in 1995, Plant Spirit Medicine has passed hand-to-hand among countless readers drawn to indigenous spirituality and all things alive and green. In this updated edition, Eliot Cowan invites us to discover the healing power of plants-not merely their physical medicinal properties, but the deeper wisdom and gifts that they offer.
Enriched by many new insights, this guide unfolds as a series of chapters on how plant spirit medicine helped Cowan resolve specific challenges in his own healing journey…


Book cover of Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany

Michael Marder Author Of The Philosopher's Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium

From my list on plants and philosophy.

Who am I?

For fifteen years now, I have been exploring the seemingly strange connection between plants and philosophy. The unexpected twists and turns of this theme have taken me to forests and gardens, to collaborations with plant artists and plant scientists, to ancient thought and twenty-first-century experimental design. Once you get over the initial surprise (What can philosophy tell us about plants?), you will be in for the exhilarating ride that is vegetal philosophy, finding plant heritage in human thought, politics, and society; witnessing traditional hierarchies and systems of classification crumble into dust; and discovering the amazing capacities of plants that testify to one important insight—plants are smarter than you think! 

Michael's book list on plants and philosophy

Michael Marder Why did Michael love this book?

Matthew Hall’s book offers a good formulation of the problem—Western philosophy has treated plants as things, not as living beings—and a nice overview of alternative (non-Western and, above all, Indigenous) approaches to plants that do not fall into the same trap. I have on many occasions vehemently disagreed with Hall’s recommendations that we should treat plants as persons, not least because of the problematic (and, ironically, very Western) heritage of personhood. But it is a wonderful entry point into the topic of plants and philosophy.

By Matthew Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plants as Persons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Challenges readers to reconsider the moral standing of plants.

Plants are people too? No, but in this work of philosophical botany Matthew Hall challenges readers to reconsider the moral standing of plants, arguing that they are other-than-human persons. Plants constitute the bulk of our visible biomass, underpin all natural ecosystems, and make life on Earth possible. Yet plants are considered passive and insensitive beings rightly placed outside moral consideration. As the human assault on nature continues, more ethical behavior toward plants is needed. Hall surveys Western, Eastern, Pagan, and Indigenous thought as well as modern science for attitudes toward plants,…


Book cover of The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies

Gillian Gillison Author Of She Speaks Her Anger: Myths and Conversations of Gimi Women: A Psychological Ethnography in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea

From my list on anthropology to understand women's myths and rites.

Who am I?

I grew up in a family of beautiful, accomplished women at a time when most women stayed home. But the spectacular women in my mother's family also suffered spectacularly, and I was determined to understand family life at its very roots. I studied anthropology and, over a 15-year period, lived in a remote part of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea among a group of Gimi women who spent most of their time apart from men. I shared women's difficult daily lives, participated in their separate rites, learned their myths, and, through my writing, have devoted myself to giving them voices of their own.

Gillian's book list on anthropology to understand women's myths and rites

Gillian Gillison Why did Gillian love this book?

This is a very short book with a single brilliant insight into the human condition. 

It shows how wrong it is to suppose (as Marx and Engels did) that first there were self-sufficient nuclear families who then produced surpluses to exchange with other nuclear families. 

Mauss used early fieldwork in the South Pacific and Northwest Coast of Canada, to demonstrate that exchange is the very essence of human social life, inseparable from the incest taboo, marriage rules, and a fully realized highly elaborate symbolic universe based upon principles of animism, sympathetic magic and rites of passage. 

By Marcel Mauss, Ian Cunnison (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the "public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank…


Book cover of Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic

Yvonne Patricia Chireau Author Of Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition

From my list on for beginners who want to practice real magic, folk magic, and Hoodoo.

Who am I?

I have been studying American styles of magic for more than 30 years. Having received a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, I have explored the idea of magic as a natural counterpart to both religious thought and scientific theory. After teaching courses on this subject to college undergraduates, I recommend these books based on what I have found to be the favorites of students and peers as the most accessible, enjoyable, and practical sources for beginners.

Yvonne's book list on for beginners who want to practice real magic, folk magic, and Hoodoo

Yvonne Patricia Chireau Why did Yvonne love this book?

The title of this book says it all. It is about effective, practical magic with an emphasis on manifestation. Six ways an incantation that is as simple as it is powerful. The book goes into detail about different styles of magic that are available for readers who want to learn more about sorcery, witchcraft, chaos magic, and spirit work. I like this book because it takes one deep into the inner world of magic that exists within the recesses of the mind, opening up the practitioner to spiritual possibilities that have the goal of improving the self. Techniques such as meditation, trance, spiritual cleansing, and dreams are dealt with in an easy and straightforward way.

By Aidan Wachter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Six Ways as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Six Ways is a handbook of practical skills and methods that help build the foundation of a sound magical practice. Six Ways looks at relationships with allies, sigils, energy work and other simple approaches to magic presented in clear and direct language. It explains how to develop the internal and external skills required for effective practice.


Book cover of The Findhorn Garden: Pioneering a New Vision of Man and Nature in Cooperation

Heidi Wedd Author Of Wild Flower Walker: A Pilgrimage to Nature on the Bibbulmun Track

From my list on nature spirits.

Who am I?

Following a herbal and homeopathic pathway for 20 years has taken me on many insightful and inspiring tangents. One of those being the passion to commune with nature spirits and learn directly from herbs.  This practice has led me on many a fine adventure (one of which Wild Flower Walker contains) and continues to be a rich source of teachings and growth. I have been teaching these practices for the last 11 years and offer courses in Shamanic Herbalism; Herbal Alchemy; & Plant Spirit Communication. These books have been treasures and catalysts for me and I hope they will open your heart further to the rich world of nature spirits.

Heidi's book list on nature spirits

Heidi Wedd Why did Heidi love this book?

Any reading on nature spirits has to include a book or two from the Findhorn community or Dorothy Maclean - one of its founders and plant spirit communicator. I recommend this one as it contains not only insights from many plant devas and landscape devas, but a broad overview of the formation of the Findhorn Community itself - which occurred in direct communication and cocreation with the plant devas themselves. A fascinating and eye-opening read. 

By The Findhorn Community,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Findhorn Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Members of the Scottish agricultural community present the history and philosophy of their extraordinary gardens


Book cover of Encounters with Pan and the Elemental Kingdom

Heidi Wedd Author Of Wild Flower Walker: A Pilgrimage to Nature on the Bibbulmun Track

From my list on nature spirits.

Who am I?

Following a herbal and homeopathic pathway for 20 years has taken me on many insightful and inspiring tangents. One of those being the passion to commune with nature spirits and learn directly from herbs.  This practice has led me on many a fine adventure (one of which Wild Flower Walker contains) and continues to be a rich source of teachings and growth. I have been teaching these practices for the last 11 years and offer courses in Shamanic Herbalism; Herbal Alchemy; & Plant Spirit Communication. These books have been treasures and catalysts for me and I hope they will open your heart further to the rich world of nature spirits.

Heidi's book list on nature spirits

Heidi Wedd Why did Heidi love this book?

A true-life fairy tale in the 1960s of a man whose childhood dream of meeting the fairies was finally realised in his 60's. It is an engaging read as well as packed with information gleaned through Roc's experiences meeting Pan, the spirit of Nature.  A must-read for anyone willing to learn more from the nature spirits themselves. 

By R. Ogilvie Crombie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Encounters with Pan and the Elemental Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the "Scientist and the Faun" the reader follows Robert Ogilvie Crombie's (ROC's) experiences and encounters with Pan and the elemental kingdom in the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and the path that led him from there to the Findhorn Community where he encountered more elementals and fauns. In one conversation with Pan at the Botanic Garden ROC talks about other people being jealous of his abilities and asks why he is able to see Pan and the elemental kingdom and receives this reply from Pan: Communicating with my subjects is not a garden game for the odd half hour when…