Articles/Essays From Pagans
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Little Dog, Big Love
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A Child's First Yule
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What Exactly Is Witchcraft?
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Pollyanna Propaganda: The Distressing Trend of Victim-Blaming in Spirituality
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Faery Guided Journey
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Magical Household Cleaning
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
An Alternative Conception of Divine Reciprocity
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The Fear of Witchcraft
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Magic in Sentences
The Evolution of Thought Forms
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Revisiting The Spiral
Lateral Transcendence: Toward Greater Compassion
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Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Energy and Karma
Community and Perception
December 20th. 2015 ...
Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
The Dream Eater--A Practical Use of Summoning Talismans
Native American Spirituality Myopia
A Dream Message
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents
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Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
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Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
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Why I Bother With Ritual: Poetry and Eikonic Atheism
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Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism
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March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
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On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
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Magick is No Illusion
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The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
Pagans All Around Us
Broomstick to the Emerald City
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
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I walked through the meadow with grace, toes brushing the long, wavy grass. Soft, golden sunlight warmed my skin. My face was uplifted to the clear, dimming sky. A gentle breeze ruffled my hair. And then I saw it, there, between the trees. The shadow. Eyes glowing red and piercing, it seemed to stare straight into the core of my being. I jerked myself out of my meditative state so fast I felt like I had spiritual whiplash when I opened my eyes. I didn't meditate again for a month.
Nothing on this plane or any other has scared me so deeply as my own Shadow. It's a force I previously tried everything to get rid of, from simply ignoring it to trying to destroy it outright. Nothing worked, and I had begun to think I would forever be plagued by this terrifying monster that haunted my every footstep, my every meditation and trance. I began to think I had been cut off from the Deities, that I would suffer with this thing forever. The more I tried to push it away, the closer it seemed to come. I got pounding headaches every time I tried to contact Deity. I couldn't focus on anything. I was terrified to even try to do a magickal working. I felt defeated.
The concept of an inner Shadow, also known as the Gatekeeper, is a well-known idea to many Pagans. And yet for all of that, you're hard pressed to find a book today that talks about the Shadow Self with any amount of detail. I would like to now write about the Shadow Self, how to understand it, and how to face it, so that others will not suffer the way I have suffered.
The all-elusive Shadow is that which must be overcome, accepted, understood, by a person. But what is it really? Is it that weird next-door neighbor who stares at you too much? Um, no, not quite. The Shadow is, essentially, a piece of yourself that has been split off. It is a piece of your soul that has gone rogue, no longer serving as a fully functional piece of the whole.
There are a variety of things that can cause such a split to occur. These instances often involve traumatic experiences, serious emotional or spiritual upsets, or even long-standing emotional or mental obstacles such as depression and anxiety. From these things, the shadow can take many forms. If you're the sort of person who loves to keep the peace and was told anger isn't comely, your Shadow may symbolize anger. A rape victim may have a Shadow that is made up of those worst memories. Someone who has been in a natural disaster may have a Shadow that brings on the feelings of being in a tornado, completely out of control. While one person may only see their Shadow in their dreams, another may only see it in their meditations.
Whatever forms the Shadow may take, just know that it is completely unique and individual to your life. No one else will have the exact same Shadow that you do. It is important that we are able to correctly identify it, though, because no one wants a worried friend to arrange a surprise visit from an exorcist when you're trying to meditate. Once we have identified the Shadow (and politely told the exorcist that we are perfectly fine) , we must then learn to understand it.
It might be hard to imagine understanding something that scares you, or may even cause you pain. That would be like me asking you to learn to understand the benefits of the Medieval Iron Maiden. But hear me out.
While the Shadow terrifies many people, it can also bring great healing and hope to people who have been suffering. When you understand your Shadow, you understand a part of yourself that has been in the dark for a very long time. Much like how the tarot offers us insights into problems in our life, our Shadows offer us insights into our very being, why we are who we are and what makes us tick. Our Shadows are our deepest, darkest, secrets, and our deepest fears. To understand our Shadow is to understand ourselves.
So how does one go about understanding their Shadow? As I said earlier, you must look back in your life, and at the shadow itself, to understand where it comes from and why it is here. For instance, why does it feel the need to terrorize you whenever you think about new relationships? Maybe it's your subconscious's way of trying to remind you of a past relationship that ended badly. Your Shadow is, in a way, trying to keep you from being hurt again. It's your own internal fear, come alive. Having your Shadow arise can be scary, depressing, and painful, so of course you'll want to make it stop as soon as possible. But look, the first steps of facing your Shadow are complete just in identifying and understanding it! The first step to healing is understanding the sickness, after all.
The hardest part is the end. Facing your demons, facing your Shadow. Facing the Gatekeeper and being able to say, "I enter in perfect love and perfect trust" without fear. The biggest mistakes made in facing the Shadow is thinking that you can destroy it, that it doesn't actually exist, that you can ignore it and be just fine. Those three ways of thinking are not only incorrect, but can also be harmful to the practitioner.
Telling yourself that your Shadow doesn't exist can give you a sort of false sense of confidence and security. Telling myself that Black Widow spiders don't exist doesn't mean I'll be immune to them if one happens to bite me. Telling yourself it doesn't exist can also make you feel high and mighty, like you're more spiritually accomplished than people who have their own Shadows to face. Obviously, such thinking can be insulting to others and harmful to your state of mind. As for simply ignoring your Shadow, well, ignoring it isn't going to make it any better. If anything, it only exacerbates the problem.
So how should you go about facing your Shadow? That's the question of the day, and honestly it's different for everyone. You have to ask yourself if you're ready to face it head on. If you try to approach your Shadow out of stubbornness or delusion, you may make the problem worse by approaching it and still feeling afraid (even if you won't admit to it) . You have to be absolutely sure you are ready to look your Shadow dead in the eye (or whatever equivalent your Shadow has) and ask it for its name. To know its name is to know its source. Knowing its name will give you the power to understand and overcome it. When you are ready to face your Shadow and whatever harsh truths or memories it may bring, you are ready to begin healing.
Healing might take only weeks, for others it may take months or even years, but however long it takes, you cannot give up. Remember that as you face your Shadow, you are facing yourself, and that to accept your Shadow is to accept yourself and to heal your soul. Giving up on healing your Shadow would be giving up on yourself. Progress may be slow, you may take one step forward and two steps back, but any step forward you make is a cause for celebration. Being brave enough to face your Shadow in the first place is a huge accomplishment, as I myself have found out. Don't be discouraged.
May the Divine light your path, even as you look into the darkest pieces of your being.
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