Today was the most beautiful fall day here in Duluth. The leaves are almost at their peak, and while it was still warm, there was a brisk chill on the air.
Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. This is the season of back-to-school, of a zest for learning, of new intellectual beginnings, of harvest. This is the season of Halloween and Thanksgiving, my two favorite holidays. More than any other time, this is the season of the witch.
I thrive during the dark months. Summer feels too bright – like I can’t fully honor my dark self.
Now is the time for confronting your shadow.
This isn’t something that many of us desire to do. Our shadows are scary – they are pieces of ourselves that we bury for a reason.
But examining your shadow is essential for any witch. A diamond cannot be created without pressure, a pearl will not form without grit.
Witches work in the shadows. We explore that which cannot be fully known. That includes the inner mysteries of our identities.
As the months get darker, we naturally and instinctively turn inward. If you work the land in the Northern Hemisphere, you know these months as being the times of the last harvest, of getting your land ready for winter. It’s the time when we turn the crops over and put everything to bed. I’ve found that living in Minnesota, where we have a distinct summer and dark winters, there is a natural rhythm: Spring and Summer are the external seasons, where you’re out there and moving in the world socially. Fall and Winter are the internal months – a time when fewer people are out and moving around, there aren’t as many community gatherings, and this is a great time for deep meditation and reflection.
Getting to know your shadow
“That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.” (Carl Jung)
Carl Jung referred to the shadow as the unknown dark side of the personality. He theorized that when we are children, we learn that certain behaviors are inappropriate – that we learn certain impulses are socially unacceptable, and they become relegated to your unconscious. They don’t go away, we merely ignore them.
There are also theories out there that we will project our shadow traits onto others. For example, say that you are consistently tempted toward cheating on your significant other. You repress these impulses. But this may also mean that you are always looking out for a cheating partner. Perhaps you project that people in committed, monogamous relationships are flirting with you. They probably aren’t – but you are so afraid of your shadow, you see it in the most unexpected of places.
In witchcraft, your shadow has another layer of meaning. When most people envision a coven, they envision a group of people coming together in the dark of night. When I was first learning witchcraft, I found that I was more confident in my ritual at night. There’s a reason for this. There’s a reason midnight is called the “witching hour.”
Darkness allows space for the unknown.
Witches thrive in darkness. We thrive in the shadowy arts, in exploring things that we will never truly know. Shadow work is getting to know your shadow, becoming intimate with the dark sides of yourself in order to fully understand the lighter side. Going deep into your shadow, often, can also help to interrupt your depressive days. When you know your shadow, you will recognize the signs as it creeps again to the surface.
Going deep toward your darkest parts will allow you to live more fully in the present. It will allow you to grow toward greater self-acceptance.
What is shadow work?
Shadow work is going deep to build a relationship with those parts of yourself you’re most uncomfortable with. Shadow work will move you toward radical acceptance of your self – your whole self.
As someone who often struggles with serious mental health issues, I have found that shadow work is best when I’m NOT in the middle of a depressive swing. Rather, it helps me prepare for the next downward spiral. This is dark stuff – and it’s important to have a good foundation before you dive too deep in shadow work. Shadow work is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, but if it hurts too much … time for some light work. Your shadow will be there when you’re ready to confront it.
Shadow work is very different for different people. For me, shadow work has looked like a meditative journey, aided by ritual, tarot, and journaling. I have lived in shadows most of my life – it almost feels like second nature to me. Because it is so second nature to me, I have never felt the need to initiate myself into shadow work. There are many different practices, but a journal is essential.
Essential to any person undertaking shadow work is a journal.
In this journal, you will be honest and open with yourself. Really open. You will allow yourself to write things that you don’t want to confront. You may also want a tarot deck, as the tarot is a potent tool for exploring those things we don’t want to explore.
Each individual’s shadow journey is independent to themselves, and so it’s really hard to write a post that is an overview of this practice. Here are some ideas to get you moving on your own shadow practice:
- Pull the Devil card out of your favorite tarot deck. Create an alter of all the things that tempt you – fast food, money, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. Meditate on what the devil is trying to unlock in you.
- Work on shielding. Carry black tourmaline and hematite. Setting energetic boundaries will help you to determine if your fears are rooted in reality, or if you are projecting that which you are most afraid of in yourself on others.
- Journal prompt: What are you most afraid of in your relationships? How might you be embodying that which you are most afraid of?
- Journal prompt: Write down a list of the things that you don’t like about yourself. Next to this list, write down a corresponding list of all the good things in your life that have come from these “bad” traits. Choose one of these things and expand.
- Every night before bed, meditate on a black candle. Think back on the embarrassing or sticky moments of your day. Imagine these moments going up in flame. Accept what you need to accept.
- Grab a mirror. Light enough candles to see your reflection in the dark. Work yourself into a trance state (meditate, drink wine, whatever you need to do to feel that you are in a trance). Stare at yourself in the mirror. Really stare. Envision yourself melding with your shadow self. Allow that shadow self to come to the surface. Speak, or write, stream of consciousness. Go to sleep. The next morning, read what you wrote. What did you let out? Burn the paper if you need to let go of these thoughts. If you have found wisdom, write about why you may be suppressing your wisdom.
Want to get to know your own shadow, but aren’t sure where to start? I’m offering a Shadow Work kit in my shop. When you purchase this kit, I will write to you, and we will talk about what you desire from your shadow work. Then, I will write a custom ritual for you, and send you a box of provisions for your own shadow work journey. Check it out here.