Shadow As A Spiritual Force
Article ID: 12709
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Raven Digitalis
Posted: October 19th. 2008
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Greetings, fellow Pathwalkers! I decided to write an article focused on an element of spirituality that spans numerous traditions cross culturally, is viewed in a myriad of forms, and is applicable to Neopagan practice and philosophy. The element is Shadow.
Shadow, as a spiritual force, manifests in countless forms—just as countless as its equal-opposite counterpart, Light. At the same time, is there really any division between darkness and light… black and white… good and evil… or does reality operate and fluctuate in varying shades of gray? Personally, I tend to perceive reality, and all its facets, as a massive grayscale. All is One. While monotheistic religions tend to draw strict lines of division between “this” and “that” (generally the sacred vs. the profane) , polytheistic religions tend to recognize the duality in all things, but see both sides of the spectrum as sacred and holy in their own right.
In terms of the force we label ‘Shadow, ’ its existence is highly interpretive. What can be termed Shadow for one person may or may not be termed the same by another. Going back again to monotheistic viewpoints, Light is often aligned with the sacred, while Shadow is aligned with the profane. As Neopagans, we realize the folly in this type of hierarchical dualistic thinking: reality makes no distinction between extremes, and is indeed constantly fluctuating between them. There would be no day without night… no life without death… no joy without sorrow… both are equally sacred, and both must be examined for spiritual wholeness. Neither Shadow nor Light can be neglected for a truly holistic spiritual existence. Witches, magicians, and spiritual seekers of all varieties must examine all sides of reality’s divine spectrum.
The word shaman originates from the Tungus people of Siberia (Russia) , but is now frequently used to refer to particular practices of indigenous people across the globe, often including Native American shamanism, Amazonian shamanism, Aboriginal shamanism, and so on. Part of the shaman’s role—which can be seen in a variety of forms across the globe, yet all with similar characteristics—is to voyage the depths of darkness to uncover the Light.
Shamans are initiated through pain and trauma, or have inherent abilities borne from living on the edge of a social structure (out of necessity) . Shamans are venerated for their abilities, and are often simultaneously feared for their power. When shamans, and shamanistic practitioners, help clients, they often work to heal them from a platform of interpersonal darkness. Parallels can be drawn between this and Jungian psychology: it’s from the repressed, deeper portions of the Self that Shadow accumulates (to degrees either healthy or unrestrained) , and it’s from this deeper Self that the Light of Awareness is born.
Contrary to popular misinterpretation (even within some Neopagan circles, sadly) , the force of Shadow is not purely destructive, evil, or manipulative. At the same time, “black magick, ” predatory sorcery, and manipulation can be aligned to the Shadow-side… but there’s more to it than that. Much, much more.
I’ve just written a book called Shadow Magick Compendium: Exploring Darker Aspects of Magickal Spirituality (Llewellyn, Sept. 2008) . The book is divided into five Shadow ‘aspect’ chapters, in terms of how I have personally come to see the Shadow.
For the convenience of this article, allow me to review my own perceptive divisions of Shadow, and propose what can be included in each. I examine a number of these in Shadow Magick Compendium, but not all. These lists can easily be expanded, and even rearranged and altered to some extent, by any reader who has their own personal interpretations of Shadow and Light:
The Internal Shadow: The Internal Shadow is the darker side of human nature, and is psycho-spiritual. Herein exist portions of the emotional body that have been repressed by the mind. When denial occurs, thoughts are pushed to the back of the mind, and into the unrecognized Internal Shadow. When darker emotions palpably arise, such as sadness, anger, and apathy, it may be considered a conscious surfacing of the Internal Shadow. Just the same, a person may be aware (or somewhat aware) of their darker characteristics, which is the first step in working with one’s Inner Shadow.
The External Shadow: One’s External Shadow can be seen as a projection of the Internal Shadow. Gone unrecognized, the External Shadow can manifest through projection. For example, a person may believe that no one thinks they are smart, when the truth of the matter is that they do not accept their own intelligence themselves. External projection can happen in limitless ways, and can arise from any repressed beliefs. Also included in this definition of the External Shadow are the shadows of others. In other words, any aspect of ‘Shadow’ that is not your own can be considered external. External Shadow magick is that which relies on external forces, yet connects with and has effects on one’s internal reality, such as with fasting or godform assumption (invocation) . Demonic evocation, Qlippothic pathworking, and cursing can also be categorized here.
The Astral Shadow: The astral plane is a reflection of the physical world, and carries energies that are generally invisible to the untrained eye. The astral is the realm of guides, guardians, and ancestors. Thoughtforms, deities, dreams, and etheric beings exist on the astral, and workings concerned with these forces can be considered operations of the Astral Shadow. Naturally, the astral plane carries currents of darkness that are directly linked to the shadow of the human psyche and the natural world. The astral plane and physical plane are intricately connected by the Web of Life—the threads of Wyrd—and connects all portions of reality (both seen and unseen) to each other. Many of the deeper Mysteries of the Witch are indeed greatly astral, etheric, or energy-based.
The Shadow of Nature: As a prime example, the food chain may be considered part of Nature’s Shadow, as one life form must feed on another to survive. The “death” side of “life and death” can be viewed as a Shadow of Nature. The destructive aspect of Nature Herself may be included here, such as natural disasters and even poisonous plants. Additionally, shadowed aspects of nature like eclipses, the infinite night sky, the dying season, and the dark moon may be considered the Shadow of Nature.
The Shadow of Society: The unseen, hidden, suppressed, or overlooked aspects of our culture and society can fall under this category. Insofar as my own definition, the Shadow of Society is predominantly not a positive one. Skewed cultural worldviews, underhanded corporate crime, religious fanaticism, and self-serving politics can be considered a part of the Social Shadow. The Social Shadow is greatly shaped by the Internal Shadow, that is, devastating socio-political crime is often no more than horrid projections of certain peoples’ inner fears and psychoses. Personally, I feel that the most devastating aspects of the Shadow of Society are the two extremes of fanaticism and apathy.
A Meditation on the Shadow Self
The following is a meditation (originally published in Spellcraft Magazine, Australia) is designed to access fears associated with darkness. This is not in reference to physical darkness, but to darkness as a vibration. This contains repressed fears, forgotten memories, and subconscious habits—many of which influence our everyday lives. Of course, this does not make internal darkness inherently bad or malicious, but makes it something essential to navigate for personal development.
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (a student of Freud) termed this aspect of the psyche the “Shadow Self.” In reality, our internal shadows can take years, if not a lifetime, to accurately study and come to terms with. Mysticism and magick are ways to better Know the Self, and the meditation that follows is a suggestion as one step in the process. Please read through the meditation a number of times before enacting, as to not have to read the words when performing.
1. Situate yourself in sacred space, and have some comfy pillows to lie down on. Be sure to perform this meditation in darkness; the Witching hour (midnight) is preferable. If you can perform this on a new moon, all the better. Light a single black candle to partially illuminate the space, and cast the circle in your usual way. Summon the elements and dedicate the circle to your patron gods (if you have patrons) and the spirits of the nighttime.
2. When you feel connected, lie down on the pillows and declare your intent. Say something like, “Behold! Great spirits of obscurity and darkness, I now wish to enter the Shadow of my mind. I do not fear the darkness, but rather embrace it as a force of creation and mystery. Sacred spirits of the inner planes, I humbly ask that you guard me and guide me into myself, that I may grow and learn with patience and accuracy. So mote it be.”
3. With your eyes closed and your body comfortable, visualize the room around you. Allow your mind’s eye to focus on the room from your perspective, and feel the placement of your body in the room. Become aware of your environment, and visualize your body for what it is: a temporary vessel for your spirit.
4. While performing visualization, practice deep breathing. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Continue to alter your consciousness and become psychically aware of your body and the environment. Take a decent amount of time to expand your perception.
5. Now sufficiently aware, envision your astral body descending through the floor and into the earth. Descend only a few feet beneath the soil. You are comforted by the sensations of peace and stillness in this place. Open your psychic senses and feel the burrowing creatures and worms. Feel the roots of trees and plants brushing your body. Feel the damp soil, recognizing it as a centre of nourishment and (re) birth.
6. At this point, knowing that you are safe and protected by the bounty of the living earth, bring to mind two or three occurrences in your life that caused you great amounts of pain and emotional suffering. Take some time to remember these; some things may pop in your mind immediately, while others may be shrouded and even willingly repressed. If you happen to remember a large amount of painful experiences, you may wish to write these down after the meditation so that you can perform this again with different focuses in mind. Focus on the most traumatic, painful, and emotionally-breaking experiences you have endured in your life. If tears surface during the meditation, allow yourself to cry. Process each experience individually, remembering them even if you have already worked through them in the past. Claim your power.
7. Sort through each issue individually. For each one, take plenty of time to recall the specifics of each situation: how, exactly, did you feel at the time? What was your role in the situation? Were you a victim? How has the situation effected your personal development? How has it influenced your life, both positively and negatively? Are any of your current patterns of behavior or modes of reaction connected to the event? Spiritually, what could possible reasons be for having to endure the experience?
8. When you run through the event in your mind, you should feel a return of emotional weight. Now, envision your astral body—still submerged in earth—as covered with a dense, black tar-like substance. This represents the extent to which your mind still holds onto the event; the extent to which it plagues you now. When ready, visualize a healing soft blue colored light emerging from your heart chakra, radiating through your body and eventually to the dense astral matter surrounding your body. Envision this light conquering the astral junk, permeating through it. With a strong exhalation, envision the black substance breaking away from your aura, plummeting down into the earth. Envision the healing light surrounding your astral body, ensuring against its return.
9. Once you have performed this with each occurrence in mind, visualize your astral body rising up from the earth, through the floor, and back into your physical body. Wiggle your fingers and toes, breathe in deeply, and come to centre.
10. To close, state your intention, saying something like, “Sacred spirits here this night, I thank you for protecting and comforting me as I journeyed layers of my mind. I ask that I be able to understand and release these issues by continuing to face them bravely and accurately. Thank you for attending this rite. Blessed be.”
11. Take some time to come back to your body, and close the circle as you normally would. It’s a good idea to write down your experiences afterward, and spend additional time meditating on the intricacies of each experience of the past. Do whatever it takes to peacefully come to terms with the experiences of your past—each and every one of us has endured trauma to one degree or another, and every one of us deserves to heal and claim our power. Nothing is every fully released; our experiences are simply come to terms with and accepted. Everything in life, no matter how dark and painful, can hold profound lessons beneath the surface.
Shadow Magick Compendium: Exploring Darker Aspects of Magickal Spirituality, by Raven Digitalis (Llewellyn, Sept. 2008)
Copyright: Original article.
Included meditation originally published in Spellcraft Magazine, Australia.
Location: Missoula, Montana
Author's Profile: To learn more about Raven Digitalis - Click HERE
Bio: Raven Digitalis (Missoula, MT) is the author of Shadow Magick Compendium: Exploring Darker Aspects of Magickal Spirituality and Goth Craft: The Magickal Side of Dark Culture, both on Llewellyn. He is a Neopagan Priest and cofounder of the "disciplined eclectic" shadow magick tradition and training coven Opus Aima Obscuræ, and is a radio and club DJ of Gothic, EBM, and industrial music. Raven holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Montana and is also an animal rights activist and black-and-white photographic artist. He has appeared on the cover of newWitch magazine, is a regular contributor to The Ninth Gate magazine, and has been featured on MTV News and the ‘X’ Zone Radio program.
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