Handbook of Contemporary Animism, 8-10



Chewong Animistic Ontology

Signe Howell


pp. 101-2 [C^ewon in Malaya "FWMC"] deities who each assume form of both human and of some species of animal; mystic 2nd sight of travelers between worlds


"According to Chewong cosmology, frogs -- as well as many other non-human beings and objects ... -- have consciousness (ruwai {borrowed from <ibri^ /ruwah./ Strong's 7306-8}) which makes them persons and subjects. When they are in "their own land", which is also in the jungle but invisible to the hot{-tempered} human eye ..., they abandon their frog "cloaks" and appear to each other in human shape and behave in a recognizable ... rational manner. ...

[C^ewon legend of the male shaman and the frog-goddess :] "A frog woman was in the river. ... She leapt out and turned into human shape. She was, however, completely naked, and this made her very shy. She stood with both hands covering her private parts."

{"the girls ..., setting aside their clothes ..., then bathing in the river Kalindi [RL, p. 3] ... emerged from the water, modestly covering themselves with their hands [RL, p. 4]".}


"Being a person with cool{-tempered} eyes, Bongso has shamanistic abilities and is able to travel between the different worlds of sentient non-human beings. ... The various worlds exist, not only side by side, but also, in many instances, inside each other; invisible to all who do not possess cool eyes.

The latter (who are shamans) can travel between the various worlds and put on and off bodies ("cloaks") of other species."

{This feat, so often mentioned in accounts of Siberian and other shamanries, is performed during dreaming.}

"FWMC" = "Frog Woman and Her Moral Code". http://www.peacefulsocieties.org/NAR14/140821chew.html

RL = Da’ud ibn Tamam ibn Ibrahim al-Shawní : Rasa Lila. Omphaloskepsis {'Navel-contemplation'}, 2013. http://www.omphaloskepsis.com/Library/TRL.pdf

{Radha is also known as Vis`akha 'Forked', referring particularly to the "Lightning-Fork" ("VBR"), which is in turn considered (by the Yoeme -- YM&L, p. 113) to be induced by the swallow-bird's flight; and "swallows" are ascribed (RL, p. 13) to the concourse with Radha (who is one of the go-pi maidens who emerged nude, though modest, from the river Kalindi) : the succeeding naks.atra being named /Anu-radha/ ('after Radha').}

"VBR" = "Vishaka * Bisaja * Radha". http://barbarapijan.com/bpa/Nakshatra/16vishakha.htm

YM&L = Ruth Warner Giddings : Yaqui Myths and Legends. Tucson : UNIV OF AZ ANTHROP PAPER 2, 1959. https://web.archive.org/web/20140416074311/http://www.globalgrey.co.uk/Books/Native-American/Yaqui-Myths-And-Legends.pdf

p. 103 animism

"Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, one of the founders of anthropology, made the term "animism" central to the new discipline of comparative culture ... . ... Drawing on second-hand accounts of primitive peoples ..., Tylor (1871) argued that many of these attributed a spiritual aspect -- or soul -- to the animal, vegetable and mineral worlds".

"ethnographic fieldwork in many parts of the world confirms that the religions of the people studied may indeed be predicated upon an understanding of an animated natural world, positing a great number of sentient non-human beings".

{Exceedingly misleading! In actuality the very reverse is the case : namely, that ethnographic in many parts of the world hath confirm always confirmed the religions of all people to be based upon supernatural experiences, i.e. dream-and-trance-mediated connections with transcendental worlds inhabited by immortal deities (not including "sentient non-human beings" generally, for such a category would include ordinary animals, who are always explicitly excluded).}

pp. 104-5 perspectivism

p. 104

"New interest to the comparative investigations was added by Viveiros de Castro's ... perspectivism (1992, 1998[a]), derived from his study of the Arawete` and inspired by Aorhem's work from the nearby Makuna (1993) ... (Viveiros de Castro 1998a:469).

Interestingly, ... My ... "relativity in perception" (Howell 1989) displays many similarities to the perspectivism of Viveiros de Castro. ... These have been noted in other societies ... . ... When recently these concepts were brought to [application in the anthropology of] Siberia and Inner Asia, a number of very detailed and perceptive publications followed, refining and expanding their meaning and application

p. 105

(e.g., Pedersen 2001; Willerslev 2007)."

Viveiros de Castro 1998a = "Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism". J OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE 4:469-88.

Aorhem 1993 = Kaj Aorhem : "Makuna : an Amazonian People". Gothenburg : Socialantropologiska Institutionen, Göteborgs Universitet.

Howell 1989 = Signe Howell : Society and Cosmos. Oxford Univ Pr.

Pedersen 2001 = M. A. Pedersen : "Totemism, Animism and North Asian Indigenous Ontologies". J OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE 7.3:411-27.

Willerslev 2007 = Rane Willerslev : Soul Hunters. Berkeley : Univ of CA Pr.

{N.B. The entire "perspectivism" understanding is derived by shamans from their peculiar dream-experiences (wherein anthropoid deities can appear at will as animals, etc.) : a fact that Signe Howell and Viveiros de Castro, alike, conveniently ignore, leading to drastic vagaries into illogic and into non-sequiturs, and increasing remoteaway from any accurate facts about shamans' experiences.}

p. 105 contemporary "neo-animism"

"A new-found interest in a more "mystical" side to life is discernible in many Western quarters today. From neo-shamanism ... to contemporary philosophy of science, alternative versions of reality are posited which may broadly be characterized as neo-animistic."

pp. 106-7 shamanism & alien life-worlds

p. 106

"Shamanism, the ability of some individuals ... to communicate with conscious non-human beings in their environment during a dream or induced trance state,

{As every shaman hath alway painstakingly explained, the communication in dreaming is not with any aspect of animals in the material (waking-)world "environment", but rather with deities who, from their abodes in the dream-world, control species in the waking-world.}

is usually part of animic cosmologies. ... Rigorous examination of how alien life-worlds are constituted, and mapping the premises for the practice of interaction with non-human persons in daily activities, are

p. 107

prerequisites ... . ... . ... their forest is a world of numerous conscious animate beings with whom they maintain proper relationships ... .

{Quite false! Instead, the forest is understood by all the abode of mindless automaton-animals which are controlled, alike unto puppets, by dream-world-dwelling anthropoid deities with whom (instead!) shamans "maintain proper relationships" -- quite a difference!}

Nevertheless, myths, songs and other narratives about the animated cosmos and the behaviour that is predicated upon these must ... be understood ... as real. The cosmically constituted ... inclusive, but bounded, animated environment ... humans, and many (but not all)

sentient animals, plants and spirits, constitute a single moral universe."

{Nay indeed! For, though the "spirits" are indeed intimately involved , animal and plants [both of which the "spirits" (deities) control] are not regarded as any part of a "moral universe" (single or otherwise).}

p. 108 praeternatural "cloaking" & praeternatural metamorphosis {aequivalent to Markionist understanding of the kenosis in Christology}

"Each species has its own special body (cloak) ... . Cloaks may be put on and off by those individuals in each species who have shamanic abilities ... .

They may ... take off their own cloak and put on that of another species. ...

{The kenosis (doffing the divine nature) is succeeded by donning the human nature.}

Metamorphosis occurs when a person of one species, clad in the body of another, forget to behave according to his or her "true" nature" ... . ...

{After the kenosis, <im[a]-nu->el ('With-us-God') ceased to function according to the divine "true nature" [, but did not forget. According to Gnostic lore, howbeit, incarnating souls of ordinary mortals do indeed forget, and require to be reminded by a "Hymn of the Soul (or, Pearl)"].}

To inhabit the body of another species for longer periods leads to seeing and behaving as those whose body one is wearing and may finally lead to metamorphosis of the person."

{This led to <im[a]-nu->el's powers metamorphosing into those of a mere mortal; so that he could no longer summon legions of mal>aki^m ('angels') at a moment of peril; at which juncture he was susceptible to being crucified.}

pp. 109-10 personhood of alien consciousnesses

p. 109

"According to "deep ecology", a Norwegian version of ecological mysticism,

animals and plants have intrinsic and inherent value equal to humans.

{That which is more actual, is that spirit-guardians of animal and of plants have intrinsic function in the universe-wide communicatory-and-planning network comparable to that the spirit-guides of humans.}

They are persons in their own right (see e.g. Wetlesen 1999).

p. 110

We do not have access to the views of gibbons, frogs, elephants, dogs, trees or rivers, and cannot enter into meaningful dialogue with them. ...

{Somewhat inapplicable! There are some humans who do telepathy with animal-spirits and with plant-spirits; and some few humans who even control animals by such means.}

Having achieved a shamanic trance state ... :

[quoted from Harner [1980]:xiii :] communicate intimately and lovingly ... with the animal {divinity-}people, the plant {divinity-}people, and

{divinity-people} [of] all the elements in the environment, including


the soul of the rocks, and


[of] the water."


"Harner's view of human nature is that it has the capacity, through an induced state of altered consciousness, to create relationships with the non-human worlds which ... is {are} made up of sentient beings ... . ...

{Somewhat more explicitly : humans have the capacity, after having commenced an initial friendship (whether by being introduced by other person already in close contact with them, or simply by means of an intense longing) with a set of deities, to visit (with the approval of, and assistance by, those deities) the world[s] of those deities; or alternatively, without having bothered to set up such a friendship, to force their way into such worlds by breaking-and-entring by means of the burglary-tool commonly known as "psychedelic drug".}

It is, nevetheless, indisputable that many humans are able to enter an altered state of consciousness in which they meet with ... non-human sentient beings."

{In dreams and in trances such mortal humans are able to meet with those "non-human sentient beings" commonly known to religious litteratures as spirits, divinities, and deities.}

Wetlesen 1999 = Jon Wetlesen : "Moral Status of Beings Who Are Not Persons : a Casuistic Argument". ENVIRONMENTAL VALUES 8:287-323.

Harner 1980 = Michael J. Harner : The Way of the Shaman. Harper & Row.



Ancestral ... Religion ... in the Philippines

Paul-Franc,ois Tremlett


pp. 117-8 secret sites in sacred landscapes

p. 117

"landscapes ... alive and animated by meaningful relationships between {among} peoples, animals, places and secret spots

{The "meaningful relationships" amongst humans, sites and secret locales, is considered to be mediated by deities (including some divinities who can assume animal-guise, but never by any actual animals).}

have been ... taken as a point of departure -- ... requisite ... to assert ... their connective and relational abundance."

p. 118

"according to Gariguez, "the ancestral domain comprises interacting landscapes of human community ... and the living spirits of the land, which include also the spirits of their ancestors" (... 2008:212)."

{Though this may be litterally true of rather archaic systems, yet in the more developed Norse (particularly, Icelandic) and Bodish (i.e., Bon etc.) systems, the "living spirits of the land" (called "landwights" in the Germanic case) are regarded as too antique to have much ancestral relationship with currently resident mortals.}

Gariguez 2008 = E. A. Gariguez : Articulating Mangyan-Alangans' Indigenous .. Spirituality ... . PhD thesis, Asian Social Institute, Manila.

p. 119 spirits of the forest

"It is a "natural" sensorium that co-ordinates the individual ... spatially through being able to recognize the dwelling places of the duende -- the spirits of the forest -- and morally through ... indigenous traditions and knowledge."



Toward a Phainomenology of the Spirits

David Abram


pp. 127-8 honoring the supernatural

p. 127

"invisible forces ... the multiple "intelligences", "powers" and "spirits" ... throughout the the world ...

p. 128

move in the invisible depths of the sensuous ... . ...

The "spirits" or "invisibles" ... are ... manifold invisibilities moving within the visible landscape ... . ... As such, an acknowledgment of "the spirits" is part of the practice of humility."

p. 129 personal emergence

"we begin to engage ... as attentive participants ..., letting our actions draw guidance from the other partipants -- the other beings -- whose sentience is so richly entangled with ours. ... we emerge ..., shaking our senses free from their stunned immobility, ... opening our ears ... toward the the voices of silence. ...

How to hold our intelligence down here in the thick of things when our language keeps dragging us out ..., when our words and the way we wield them keep freezing the things, deadening their dynamism, closing them up within themselves ...?"

p. 130 conscious sensory experience, for plants

"what does it feel like to be rooted in a place, sipping minerals through root filaments that extend themselves, by taste, through the dark density underground, while drinking the sunlight, by day, with your needles? What is the sensation of transmuting sunlight ...? ...

It seems clear ... that sensations are being felt in the leaves themselves. Experience, for most plants, is simply a more distributed and democratic affair than it is for more hierarchically organized entities like us."

p. 131 origination of our awareness and of our sentience from outside the body and from beyond the material universe

"awareness originates outside the body and the bodily earth. ... It entails that our sentience ... must be a power that abruptly breaks into bodily reality from elsewhere."

p. 131 our sense of selfhood is derived from our dreams; our power of perception, through the invisibles

"If, however, I allow that this wildly fluctuating sensibility I call "me" is born of ... dreams ... through the world ... -- then a new affinity ... begins to blossom. For now ... I notice ... a curving field of sensations ... as a quiet ecstasy ... . It is an ecstasy of which I myself regularly partake by receiving ... a kind of empathy ... .

Just where is this empathic contact taking place? ...

Our perception ... is everywhere mediated by ... invisibles.

The reciprocity ... is enabled by a host of unseen yet subtly palpable presences, fluid and often fleeting powers whose close-by presences we may feel or whose influence we can intuit ... . Felt presences whose lives {i.e., transcendental existences} sometimes mesh with or move through us so seamlessly that they cannot be rendered in thought, but only acknowledged. Or honoured with simple gestures of greeting, and sometimes of gratitude."

{Veritable deities mediate connectivity betwixt waking-universe of waking-state consciousness and the one hand; and, on the other hand, dreaming-universe of dreaming-state consciousness. If if, these particular deities' abodes may be the vortices (also tunnels etc.) experienced in shamanry as portals-connecting-worlds.}

p. 132 addressing "unseen elementals" {"weak and beggarly elementals" -- Epistole to the Galatai 4:9}

"if we wish to open our awareness to the actual place we inhabit, freeing our {praeternatural} senses to perceive the ... {supernatural} reality that so thoroughly enfolds us, it is likely that we will have to welcome the spirits ... .

Whether we allude to them as spirits, or powers, or presences (or even ... as gnomes, elves, fairy folk or other "invisibles") it is only by addressing {i.e., praying to?} these unseen elementals that we begin to loosen our {praeternatural} senses, waking minute sensitivities that have lain dormant far too long. ...

By speaking of the invisibles ... as mysterious and efficacious powers we loosen {enhance} our capacity for intuition and empathic discernment, unearthing a subtlety {praeternaturality} of sensation that has long been buried in the modern {crassly materialistic} era. ...

The spirits are not intangible; they are not of another world." {Of course, that other world (the dream-world) is quite tangible to us whenever we be in our dream-bodies, as much so as the material (waking-)world is tangible to us while we be in our waking (material) bodies.}

{Most usually, they are largely intangible while we are in the waking-world (viz., to our material bodies), though largely tangible while we are in the dreaming-world (viz., to our subtle bodies) : they may be somewhat in the material waking world (at times -- when uncanny affairs are afoot), but are not so very much of it.}

Epistole to the Galatai 4:9 http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=178078698 & (Hellenic text) http://bibleapps.com/study/galatians/4-9.htm


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.