In religious studies and anthropology, animism is an umbrella term for various religious beliefs that focus on the belief that animals, plants, and physical objects are inhabited by supernatural forces seen as spirits or souls. Some of them are personified and some are portrayed as male or female. These supernatural forces can have a positive and negative influence on humans and societies. Specialized religious figures, like shamans can, in turn, influence these forces through rituals and sacrificial offerings.
British anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917), in his 1871 book Primitive Cultures, designated animism as the first stage in the process of evolution of religion, and, hence, the basis of all other religions.
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