What Is Shadow Work?
Last Updated: July 25, 2023
“Sitting spiritually” with yourself is a term loosely heard by many, and it really suggests time you need to take with yourself to reflect. This can involve anything from meditating, to journaling or even simply walking in nature and allowing yourself to just be still and observe the world around you. It’s important that we take time for ourselves because it allows us to reset our minds, clear our thoughts and become more mindful of our feelings.
Most witches have also heard “know thyself”, the motto famously explored by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. This phrase is a reminder for us to really take time and get to know ourselves better. Through self-reflection, we are able to become more aware of our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes, and gain greater insight into how we can be better people. Due to this, I’m providing a varied AF list of shadow work for beginner tips and ideas!
Through self-reflection of our dislikes and our weaknesses, we uncover the Shadow. Let’s dive into what this all means for you, your practice, and how it’s beneficial in our latest series: Shadow Work.
What is your Shadow?
Coined by the infamous Carl Gustav Jung in the early 1900s, your Shadow is essentially the dark side of you. It can include the sexual and the primal instinctual parts of you that you’d rather not share with others. It’s the parts of yourself that you don’t want to admit or even recognize exist, and it’s usually not pretty; Jung himself said that the Shadow may manifest in dreams as a monster or demon.
The Shadow can hold all your fears, anxieties, doubts, and negative beliefs about yourself – and everyone has a Shadow, as well as a Persona (mask) that they’ve learned to wear around society, a Self which is the centre of a person’s personality, an Ego as the centre of the conscious mind, and an Anima which is the feminine aspects of a male psyche or Animus which is masculine aspects of a female psyche. If none of these were to be explored, Jung suggests that we hinder our own psychological development.
Shadow Self and the Shadow Archetype
So when you hear “Shadow self”, it means exactly that – your psychological Shadow. It means those parts of you that you aren’t entirely comfortable with, and maybe it’s time to start getting acquainted with them. If you’re aware of your shadow self – you’re aware that you need to meet yourself with kindness and gentle compassion at this time. It’s like knowing a bully is a bully for a reason; find the reason why the bully behaves like they do, meet that with empathy, and it may change not only how you interact with other bullies moving forward but also potentially make the life of the bully so much better that they don’t continue to be the bully archetype anymore.
The Shadow Archetype is the shadow-side to every set pattern or behaviour (archetype) you can think of. From Angels to Zealots, they each have a shadow aspect that can be looked at and explored. An example would be the Artist archetype; in it’s light aspect, generally considered “favourable” of the two, the Artist is a creative force in the world that can provide solutions and beauty to everyday life. The Shadow Artist, however, uses their talent as an excuse to mistreat others such as displaying elitism, being rude unnecessarily, or relying on the Starving Artist persona when simple actions to move them closer to finishing their goals. If the Starving Artist persona was aware of their behaviour in a very illuminated way, do you think they’d continue to behave the same way? Maybe, but Shadow work can always be beneficial.
The importance of Shadow Work is to bring light to these aspects that you push away or neglect, and accept them to build on your own self-awareness, your triggers, and your perceived negative traits. We meet this with love and compassion, no criticism or trying to change who you are purposefully, but to accept these traits and bring them out with love so that if something happens in life that further triggers your shadow, you are more equipped to navigate those spaces.
What Is Shadow Work? Modern Witchcraft Shadow Work Meaning
Shadow work is where psychology, therapy and witchcraft merge for most witches. Shadow work is a way of diving into the depths of our psyche and working with our Shadow self with a soft respectfulness that can help integrate our parts. By consolidating all of ourselves with love, with empathy, then the outcome is self-assurance, self-confidence and an ability to handle life’s challenges (of which there are plenty, unfortunately). It’s not necessarily about the healing overall or the protection our future confidence can bring though, although these are very good motivators. Shadow work is important, and it’s not easy work, so it’s something that is considered useful with the aid of a professional from a medical or therapeutic team.
It’s important to witches because we need to know ourselves, our desires and our motivations in order to successfully create the life we want and the outcomes that we strive for. We don’t want to be met with resistance from our Shadow self, so it’s important to embrace all aspects of ourselves and work with them to create a unified version of Self. We don’t want to question our work, our magick or ourselves. When you’re casting protection magick for your home, you don’t want to question yourself if you’re even capable of doing it. When you’re connecting with your community online, you don’t want to be envious and projecting bitchy behaviour when that is usually not you at all.
If you understand yourself better, you also understand each other better too – your partners, your parents, your children, your peers and other loved ones. Each person goes through a journey in their life, and grows through this journey too, so shadow work as part of the reflection process can be very important. Shadow work can also help people who display shadow characteristics, by making them aware of why they are displaying such behaviour, and help them to gain perspective on how they can work to better their own lives.
Thomas Hobbes once said, “Whosoever looketh into himself, and considereth what he doth, when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, etc, and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know, what are the thoughts and passions of all other men”.
Shadow Work for Beginners
Shadow work for witches is something that I’d advise having a professional to help guide you, if the metaphorical door is too daunting for you to open alone. As a disclaimer I obviously have to mention for witches or non-witches alike attempting shadow work when you have traumas and mental health issues in your history, you absolutely should seek out support from your medical team.
If you’d rather go at it yourself, but don’t know where to start, then here is a small selection of suggestions. You’ll also find throughout the website now more ideas and solutions that you may find helpful too.
1. Shadow Work Tarot Spread
Use a specific tarot spread designed for shadow work, focusing on exploring and addressing your shadow aspects.
2. Shadow Work Journal Prompts
Write in a dedicated shadow work journal, using prompts that delve into your fears, insecurities, and unresolved emotions.
3. Shadow Work Activity Book
Create an activity book with various exercises, such as drawing, coloring, and writing, to explore and confront your shadows.
4. Shadow Work Guided Meditation
Practice a guided meditation that takes you on a journey to connect with your shadow self, allowing you to explore and understand hidden aspects of your psyche.
5. Shadow Work Moon Circle Gathering
Organize a moon circle gathering with fellow witches or pagans to collectively engage in shadow work rituals and discussions, facilitated with a professional (or have them approve planned activities for ensuring it’s a safer space).
6. Mirror Work
Sit in front of a mirror and observe your reflection, allowing yourself to confront and accept the aspects of yourself that you often hide or reject.
7. Inner Child Work
Engage in exercises and techniques that help you connect with your inner child, exploring any unhealed wounds or traumas from your past with the aid of a professional if necessary.
8. Dream Journaling
Keep a dream journal and analyze recurring themes, symbols, or characters that may represent aspects of your shadow self.
9. Shadow Work Candle Ritual
Perform a candle ritual where you focus on the flame and visualize releasing and transforming your shadow aspects.
10. Sacred Bathing
Take a ritual bath and envision the water washing away negativity, fears, and self-limiting beliefs associated with your shadows.
11. Energy Healing
Practice energy healing techniques like visualisations or crystal healing to address energetic imbalances and blockages related to your shadow self. If you go to a Reiki healer, please ensure that they have been trained appreciatively and not inappropriately.
12. Shadow Dance
Engage in a free-form dance session where you allow your body to express and release emotions associated with your shadow aspects.
13. Shadow Affirmation Work
Develop positive affirmations that address and integrate your shadow aspects, promoting self-acceptance and growth.
14. Art Therapy
Use various art mediums to express and explore your shadows visually, allowing your creative process to uncover hidden emotions and beliefs.
15. Shadow Work Rituals
Create personalized rituals that involve symbolic actions, such as burying or burning representations of your shadows that cause fears, to facilitate their transformation and integration.
16. Shadow Work Chanting
Chant prayers, statements or affirmations that focus on acknowledging and integrating your shadow aspects during meditation or ritual.
17. Nature Immersion
Spend time in nature, connecting with its transformative energy and reflecting on the cycles of growth, decay, and rebirth as they relate to your own shadow work.
18. Shadow Work Body Scan
Practice a body scan meditation, paying attention to physical sensations and emotions that arise in different areas of your body, highlighting possible shadow aspects.
19. Shadow Work Astrology
Explore your birth chart, looking for planetary placements and aspects that might indicate areas of your psyche where shadow work is needed. I’d start with Chiron, the asteroid, and you’re always welcome to book a session with me to learn more.
20. Shadow Work Divination
Use divination tools like pendulums, runes, or scrying to gain insights into your shadows and uncover the hidden truths within.
21. Queer Shadow Exploration
Focus on exploring and embracing aspects of your identity related to queerness, examining how societal norms and expectations have influenced your shadows.
22. Shadow Work Writing Ritual
Perform a ritual where you write a letter to your shadow self, expressing your intentions to acknowledge, heal, and integrate your shadows.
23. Shadow Work Support Group
Join or create a shadow work support group where individuals can share experiences, provide support, and hold space for each other’s shadow work journeys.
24. Shadow Work Visualization
Practice guided visualizations that take you on a journey into the depths of your psyche, exploring and transmuting your shadows.
25. Shadow Work Forgiveness Ritual
Engage in a forgiveness ritual, where you focus on forgiving yourself and others for past hurts, releasing the emotional weight associated with your shadows.
26. Shadow Work Body Movement
Explore somatic practices like yoga, tai chi, or qigong, allowing your body to move and release stagnant energy related to your shadow aspects, all without appropriating.
27. Accessible Shadow Work Worksheets
Create or find shadow work worksheets that are designed with accessibility in mind, considering factors such as alternative formats (e.g., audio or tactile). If you can’t find them, work with a support group to help create one.
28. Shadow Work Affinity Ritual
Create an altar or sacred space with objects that symbolize your shadow aspects, and regularly spend time with them, reflecting on their influence and integrating them.
29. Shadow Work Ritual Bathing
Take some time to incorporate a bath ritual into your Shadow work to wash any beliefs that don’t come with you with your transformation. Modify ritual bathing practices to suit your own individual needs though, such as incorporating accessible bathing aids or adapting the rituals for mobility challenges.
30. Shadow Work Community Project
Collaborate with other witches or pagans to organize a community project that focuses on shadow work, creating a safer and inclusive space for individuals to explore their shadows together, facilitated with a professional (or have them approve planned activities for ensuring it’s a safer space).
Shadow work is a deeply personal and introspective journey, so feel free to adapt these techniques to suit your own preferences and needs. You may incorporate more of your witchcraft path elements, such as working more with divination or on the astral realms, or using more fire magick or protection magick.
There are many ways to explore your shadows and find transmutation within them, so experiment and see what works best for you! Comment below any additional witchcraft tips relating to Shadow Work to help keep this page updated xox
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