Discovering Shadow

September 23rd, 2009

ShadowIt is commonly known among Wiccans and Pagans that we all have a shadow-side to our personality.  There are a few rituals that work with this, but we nearly always focus on developing our  light-side. Our Shadow is normally merely something to reduce in ourselves or simply put up with. Since Mabon is a period of balance during the year, it is appropriate to look at the balance between dark and light within ourselves.

The obsession with light in nearly all people creates and reinforces a state of imbalance between our light and dark sides. As humans, we are created from opposing forces. This makes us all inherently light and dark in equal measure. If we focus our energy only on our light aspect, it can cause many problems.

The problems created manifest in many ways. For example, if someone represses their anger, they can become passive-aggressive. Their repressed Shadow lashes out with vengeance when it momentarily escapes its confines. Addiction is another very common manifestation of a repressed Shadow. The nature of the addiction, whether it be to drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, sex, criminal behavior, food, etc. is related to the nature of the person’s Shadow, especially the repressed portion.

Another issue that occurs is a loss of passion and vitality. As our intellect and emotions come from our light-side, our passion, drive and courage come from our dark-side. This starving of the Shadow can result in a person losing the will to live, losing focus in their life, and in extreme cases, can result in a new, stronger Shadow (a demon as some would call it) to enter the person’s life and take over as their Shadow, consuming the starved old Shadow. I have personally seen this happen.

It is important to learn about the nature of your Shadow and to feed it the measure it needs. This does not mean that you should indulge in absolutely everything that your Shadow seeks, as that will cause an imbalance in the other direction, which leads to ruin. Instead, work with it and develop a sincere relationship with it. Don’t just try to learn about it to learn to control it. Know that it is a natural part of yourself and if you try to hurt it, you are hurting yourself.

There are many rituals that can help you discover the nature of your Shadow. Here is a simple, powerful one that can help you identify your shadow and open a dialogue of understanding with it.

  1. Setup a dark sacred space for your ritual using whatever method you prefer. Use dark imagery, such as any dark deities you work with, black or dark clothing, and one black or red candle.
  2. Banish the space in a deosil (clockwise) direction of all obstruction and limitations and any beings that may restrict you from learning about your Shadow.
  3. Cast a widdershins circle (counter-clockwise) using a wand. You may also use your first two fingers (index and middle) together instead of a wand.
  4. Bless yourself in your usual fashion with the four elements. Use a dark incense, such as Dragon’s Blood or myrrh.
  5. Call the quarters in the manner you feel most comfortable, though in a widdershins direction. Ask for their blessing and for their protection. Ask them to protect the circle and not let any entities enter other than the ones you call.
  6. Call your Ancestors, God and Goddess. Some suggestions for deities for this would be Hestia, Hecate, or Persephone and Hades (or their counterparts in your pantheon). If you prefer to not name deities, you may simply call them Dark Father and Dark Mother. Ask for their help in meeting and learning about your Shadow. Also ask for their protection from fear.
  7. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and relax all parts of your body. Let all tension and energy drain from your body to the earth below you (through the floor if there is one under you). Breathe deeply with your stomach. Feel the air move down the whole length of your torso to your belly.
  8. You can also accomplish the necessary relaxation by tensing up a part of your body, hold it a few seconds as tense as you can, and let it relax as much as possible. Do this with every part of your body, one at a time. Start with the top of your head and move down to the bottoms of your feet.
  9. Call to your Shadow. You may do this in a whisper if you prefer. Ask for it to show itself to you and allow you to learn about it. Ask for it to teach you its name, if it wishes.
  10. Focus on the center of your body. If you have trouble with this, it is an indication of an energetic blockage (which can be helped by Getting in Touch With Your Chakras). You can gently place your left hand on your center to help your focus.
  11. Imagine a blackness in your center, growing from the tiniest of points. Feel the inky-black energy grow, but do not be afraid. It will feel heavy, drawing you down into the chair, floor, or earth below you. Allow it to fill your body with its leaded black weight.
  12. You may feel your breathing become difficult. If this happens, remember that the Gods, Ancestors and Quarters you called all are there to help and protect you. They will not let you be harmed. Fear is the greatest danger here, for if you allow fear to take over instead of the inky-blackness of your shadow, you can increase the separation between you and your Shadow. Just focus on breathing deeply, allowing the air to flow smoothly from your nose to your stomach and feel the fear leaving your body as you exhale.
  13. Let the darkness within you just be there for a bit. Allow yourself to become used to it, as it is one manifestation of your shadow.
  14. As you become comfortable with this, you may start to sense images, sounds, smells or body sensations. These may be uncomfortable for you, such as pieces of painful memories. Allow these to come and go as they will. Do not try to resist them, as they are part of your Shadow.
  15. A figure may appear to you, or a beast of some kind, another manifestation of your Shadow. Or you may feel a disembodied presence within you. Speak to it in your mind. Ask what its nature is. What type of Shadow is it? What does it enjoy? What does it need to live fully and grow? How can you develop a deeper relationship with it? What is its name?
  16. Do not judge its answers. Since the Shadow works with your darkest desires, passions, fears, etc. you may find its answers disturbing or repulsive. Don’t let this bother you; simply acknowledge them.
  17. When you are finished, thank your Shadow for allowing you to meet it. Ask it to help you integrate and balance yourself with it better.
  18. Thank the Gods, Ancestors, and Quarters you called for their help and dismiss them in your usual fashion. Make sure to dismiss the quarters in a deosil (clockwise) direction.
  19. Open the circle by taking it back in the wand or your hand in a deosil direction. Touch the wand or your hand on your root chakra (Muladhara) and send the energy to strengthen it. This will help you integrate what you have learned.
  20. Document what you learned. You can do this in any form, such as writing prose, poetry, drawing a picture, or whatever other form you feel will help you best remember the details. Much of what you saw and learned my be disturbing or disgusting to you or to others. This is ok. Your journal is only for your eyes. If you prefer to write it in a code, this is fine as well. Just remember that it is very important that you document your magical experiences like this so you can review it later and gain further insights.

There are many different kinds of Shadows, so don’t go into this with any specific expectations as to what you will find. When you learn about your Shadow and allow it to be an active, balanced part of your life, you will find many of your fears will cease to have power over you. You will find it easier to work on enhancing other parts of yourself because your Shadow will not be blocked from the process.

This time of annual transition is a perfect time to start working with your Shadow. This begins a process of balancing your light and dark aspects and developing them in equal measure. When you accept your Shadow and understand it, you are freed from two of the most paralyzing forces in our society, fear and guilt, the forces designed to separate you from your Shadow and your inner core strength and vitality.

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