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The word animism comes from the Latin term anima, which means breath. The term animism was first used in reference to African cultures by the British anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor in his book Primitive Culture in 1871. Tylor defined the term as a general belief in spiritual beings. After Tylor, other anthropologists used the term to refer to African religion, usually contending that all African religions have as a minimum the idea of material and immaterial things having breath or a soul. This minimum constituted for these authors the idea of a religion that was one of the oldest forms of belief on the Earth. Some even tried to date its origin to prehistoric times on the African continent.

The idea that a soul existed in ...

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