Birds, Liminality, and Human Transformation: An Animist Perspective on New Animism


  • Brian Anthony Taylor



animism, green spirituality, Dreamwork, Neoshamanism, Ecopsychology


In many pre-modern, non-Western, and indigenous cultures, birds mediate between humans and a divine realm. In mythology and lore they are widely associated with the survival of death. Edward Tylor’s definition of animism identified a belief in spirits that survive death as a key conceptual error to be rectified by the advance of scientific rationality. Recent reconfigurations of animism as an ecological and relational worldview treat the notion of discarnate spirits as a projection of Western assumptions that locate mystery and divinity beyond the natural world. This essay responds by arguing for a degree of continuity between new animism and the spiritualist traditions denounced by Tylor. An autobiographical account of a sequence of encounters with the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) and other birds appears to confirm their reputation as psychopomps.

Author Biography

Brian Anthony Taylor

Brian Taylor was a community development worker employed by users and survivors of the psychiatric system in Greater Manchester. He has a PhD in the Applied Social Sciences and is author of 'Responding to Men in Crisis' ( 2005 ).


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How to Cite

Taylor, B. A. (2013). Birds, Liminality, and Human Transformation: An Animist Perspective on New Animism. Pomegranate, 14(1), 108–127.