Animism (from Latin anima, meaning soul or life) belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls and that souls may exist apart from bodies. According to anthropologists, animism was the first step towards religion.
Early human beings thought that there were different kinds of souls. They believed that there was a soul that dwelt in the human body, the departure of which caused death. This, they believed, was the real soul. There was also a soul that appeared in dreams and which could travel in and out of the body. This was called 'spirit' or 'ghost'. This soul could dance and sing in one's dreams.
Animists believe that souls exist not only in human beings and animals, but in inanimate objects as well. They believe that the soul is indestructible, that it is able to live in an animal or an object, depart from one animal or object, and enter another in the form of reincarnation. Ghosts hover around the graves of human beings, and it is to appease them that animals are sacrificed and material goods placed with dead bodies at the time of final rites. Totems, the worship of nature and of different deities, the idea of evil spirits as well as the concepts of heaven and hell have developed out of the idea of the soul. [Momen Chowdhury]