Ghosts can be found within religion and animism...
Animism is a term used to sum up ancient tribal beliefs that animals, plants and all objects, even the inanimate, have spirits. Consequently, ghosts and spirits are found within primitive tribes around the world. Theoretically speaking, animism is found within most tribal societies and believed to be the basis from which other religions eventually evolved. Hinduism, for example, is believed to find its roots in animism, just as Buddhism later rose out of Hindu beliefs.
Most primitive tribes believe in an unseen realm, co-existing with the physical, earthly realm, and that people live on after death of the body. Thus, most tribal groups hold fast to beliefs regarding ghosts, spirits, and their interaction between the unseen and seen.
How Did Ancient Beliefs in Ghosts and Spirits Originate?
The common thread of beliefs found within animism may be due to various tribe members over time experiencing profound dreams, visions, out of body and near death experiences which perhaps teach the existence of ghosts and spirits. Animism therefore typically teaches the living are sometimes influenced by ghosts through visitations, messages, and even ghost possession. Tribal customs and celebrations may often center around such beliefs in ghosts and spirits.
More About Animism Beliefs
Interestingly, animism also, at times, holds beliefs in people having multiple souls or spirits, sometimes, within various body parts; or that spirits can possess objects. In animism, animals and plants are often believed to have a spirit (or soul), with some tribes believing in some form of reincarnation. Animism beliefs in reincarnation vary, as some believe certain animals can be re-born into human body form, or that human beings sometimes are re-born within animal bodies, etc. Sometimes, the teaching of animals as protectors of humans, known as totems, are also subscribed to. Often, ghosts of tribal members are also portrayed as guardian spirits, watching out for the well-being of family and friends.
To best describe the relationship between ghosts and animism, one just might as well state that animistic beliefs hold true to the existence of all sorts of spirits. The existence of more powerful spirits are sometimes subscribed to natural wonders, such as rivers, mountains, volcanos, forests, etc. Some tribes believe some nature spirits need to be appeased for good luck to befall them. Not surprising, fearful ghosts, spirits and monsters also permeate animism beliefs.
Animism seems to have been a universal, but fairly antiquated way of viewing the world as a whole, without much understanding in the workings of nature and science. Yet, even in all its primitiveness, animism's shared, common beliefs in the existence of ghosts, spirits and an afterlife still remain relevant, today.