Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again….
As I told you before I’ve always been a moonchild. I love the night. The dark gives me a safe, cosy and peaceful feeling. Life slows down, I slow down. I enjoy walking my dogs in the middle of the night. Deserted streets, the sound of silence, soft moonlight. A ship blows its horn in the distance. A lone cyclist races home through the dark. A pub owner turns off the light and closes the door. He smiles and nods. He knows me, a fellow night owl…
I really don’t understand why ‘dark’ or ‘black’ has a negative connotation. I’m not afraid of the dark, on the contrary. Dark isn’t negative, just the counterbalance of light and just as much part of life! You need to embrace your shadow to be able to enjoy the light…
Of course there is also an entirely different league of darkness, the evil that hides in the dark and gives the dark a bad name. That’s not what I am talking about here. I won’t encourage a murderer to embrace his shadow… What I mean are our less-desirable features like jealousy, impatience, bad behaviour, insecurity and the like.
It keeps surprising (and at times annoying) me though, that quite some pagans seem to have a problem acknowledging and accepting their shadow or ‘dark side’. I hear a lot of love & light messages. Sometimes when people react with ‘lots of love & light’ I think: NO! I need to feel this now. I need the darkness, being alone with me, myself and I. Of course they mean it well and it’s great when people show their compassion, but still it might be a good idea to leave it up to the other. Nothing wrong with love and light of course, but it is if there is no room anymore for the other side. Even worse, a lot of people (try to) ignore their not-so-light side.
I’ve had numerous chats and online discussions with people about this. Some call themselves ‘light workers’. Again nothing wrong with that in itself, but personally I want to work with ‘all of me’. I strive to be a good person and I believe I am basically, but I also have another side and so does everyone else. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, no need to hide. The harder you try to cover it up, the harder it will come back to haunt you. To me it’s much better to give that side of me attention too. I try to find out why I feel depressed, jealous, unsatisfied, etc. or why I act in a certain way. I explore the possibilities to do something about it. If that’s not possible, at least I try to acknowledge it. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not. Hey, I’m only human… and so are you!
When I was studying with Phyllis Curott, one of the workshops she gave us was called ‘Dancing with your shadow, an intensive workshop devoted to self-discovery, healing & empowerment’. She taught us that your shadow is not the reflection of your limitations, but rather a teacher and guide to a life of wholeness and happiness. We worked together to uncover our shadow beliefs, insecurities, weaknesses , etc. The dark qualities you bury, deny or project onto others can be a source of self-knowledge, freedom and fulfilment. That’s what Phyllis promised us, and that’s what we got…
It was quite the revelation, that workshop. We went in deep, very deep. We laughed and cried together. We did several meditations, shamanic journeys and exercises to meet and interact with our shadows. Some I knew, some were ‘sort of new’ to me. As was to be expected a well-known and long-lasting issue in my life surfaced, and to my surprise I really made progress. Make no mistake, let me emphasize that witchcraft is by no means a substitute for therapy! Still, in a certain way this shadow work brought me more than 20 years of therapy… A completely different approach made the difference I needed, caused a breakthrough and set things in motion, finally. To me an important part of witchcraft is learning and developing myself. A recurring theme in my life is balance. It’s something I work on all the time, so it’s no surprise it comes up on my spiritual path too. That’s why I need to give attention to both sides, it’s the healthy way to do things if you ask me.
‘Shadow work’ is a Jungian term that refers to practices that creatively engage repressed or hidden aspects of the self. It can be done on your own, but if you work in a group that can certainly be a synergetic bonus. 1 + 1 = 3, if you understand what I mean. Be prepared for some difficult themes to surface, but if you work through it the reward can be huge.
If you can’t find a workshop or group to work with, or just like to work alone, there are also books that can help you. I just name a few, by no means the only ones, just some books that I like on the subject of shadow work.
- Vivianne & Chris Crowley – Your Dark Side: How to turn your inner negativity into positive energy
- Jane Meredith – Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul
- Yasmine Galenorn – Embracing the Moon: A Witch’s Guide to Ritual Spellcraft and Shadow Work
So, how about you?
Do you know your shadow?
Do you ignore it, embrace it, work with it?