Animism is a concept that every thing regardless of a living thing or a non-living object has a spirit or a soul. In the late 19th century, Sir Edward Burnett TYLOR, an English anthropologist, used the term in his writing "Primitive Culture" (1871) and established it. In Japanese, animism is translated as 'Hanrei-setsu' (all objects have spirits or souls) or 'Seirei Shinko' (worship of nature). The term derives from a Latin word "anima," which means breath, spirit, and life.
Views of the animism by Tylor and Marett
Tylor defined the animism as 'a faith in spiritual beings,' which is the minimal definition of a religious thing. He wrote that the notion of god in many tribes reflect a personality (personification, sense of personification, euhemerism). Even in the present day, it is inevitable to use the term when discussing the philosophy of religion, and, contrary to Tylor's view of the animism, Robert Ranulph MARETT advocated that there is a notion of a power or a life without a personality among 'barbarian' tribes. The state before the animism was called "pre-animism," and a similar concept was also referred to as "animatism," "vitalism," "dynamism," and so on. The approach to the study is sometimes criticized to be analogical or evolutional.
Globally universal 'animism which is a primitive religion as a start' and discrimination of it
The spiritual view that a spiritual being governs a body or an object (a concept close to yorishiro [object representative of a divine spirit] in Japan) is commonly present in religions and folkways over the world. From the European view point that Christianity was advanced, the animism used to belong to a primitive and barbarian society. It can be seen in the fundamental view of the natives in the South Pacific (Trobriand Islands) and Brazil in the folklore and the cultural anthropology, as seen in "How Natives Think" by Lucien Lévy-Bruhl.
Concept of Shinto
In Ancient Shinto since ancient days, which was the origin of Shinto, himorogi (worship of a sacred shrine forest, a giant sacred tree, or a forest) and iwakura (worship of a giant rock such as meotoiwa [wedded rocks] and mountains) represented by kannabi (a mountain or a forest where the divine soul resides) are not necessarily an object as the yorishiro, but also serve as borders between tokoyo (country of god or sacred area) and utsushiyo (mortal world or real world) and barriers to separate them. The nature worship and the spirit worship (animism) are absolutely included, and a concept of the ancestor worship by extension and the shamanism including shamans and fortune-telling are also involved.
Deities residing in shinrabansho (all things in nature, the whole creation)
As a folk beliefs and sense of value deriving from Ancient Shinto, there are behaviors beyond the range of the above-mentioned shinrabansho, and there are even tumulus for Mongolian warriors and tumulus for whales worshiping those lost their lives as enemies or food. While the above explanation of the animism refers to "non-living," the object absolutely remains in the range of the seas, mountains, rivers, rocks, grounds, weathers such as winds, rains, and thunders, and the like in the nature, and there is no description of artificial objects such as tools. In this point, even the artificial objects are covered including Tsukumogami, tumulus for tools, and Hari-kuyo (Solemn rite of respect and thanksgiving for broken needles and pins), with extremely large variety.
In the faith that deities reside in a human activity, for example, rice production was a divine service in folk religion for rice cultivation in the agriculture and fishery, and, not only in the primary industry tightly connected to the nature but also in the secondary industry, it was believed that deities reside in construction, civil engineering, mining, industries of blacksmith and tatara (ancient iron-making in Japan), and food processing industry such as brewing. There were divine services in each occupation, where a household Shinto altar was set, a costume was worn, and unique rites were performed at milestones in the process, and many occupations still continue the services in the present day.
Not only the soul and the spirit but also their expressions and understandings were the life, the soul, the departed soul, the god, and the deity, where the distinction among them or concepts of them were vague, which have not categorized or defined in the past. However, there were some distinction such as strong and weak or main and sub, where larger ones (giant rock, mountain and river) and long-living old ones were regarded to have a stronger power and valued.
The deities having an idol as a human such as a humanized divinity in Japanese myths were also objects of worship, then the age changed to accept the concept that 'these deities govern other deities of shinrabansho.'
Syncretization of Shrine Shinto and the Ancient Shinto with other religions
Later, in addition to the forms of the ancient temples and the styles and the rites of the ceremonies, with an influence of Buddhism, the form of the Buddhist architecture, and the rites since Nara period, Inyo (Onmyo) gogyo shiso (Yin-Yang Wu-Xing Idea) was taken into Shinto in the Taoism in Heian period, Onmyoji (Master of Yin yang) and the cosmic dual forces ideology emerged, whereby the Inyo gogyo shiso is present in the present Shrine Shinto. Shugendo, which is a mountain worship combining the Ancient Shinto, Buddhism, and Esoteric Buddhism, and other religions emerged later, and Confucian Shinto combined with Confucianism emerged in Edo period.
As generally referred to as eight million different deities, because deities residing in various objects and events have been worshiped in Shinto from modern times to the present indivisible from the Ancient Shinto, Shinto is sometimes regarded identical to the animism. However, since the yorishiro is limited within a certain range in the present Shrine Shinto, the himorogi and the iwakura became tamagaki (fence around a shrine), and now the sacred shrine forest is not treated as a shintai (sacred object) any more. As described above, Shrine Shinto may be different from the animism in that deities do not reside in everything.