So you’ve probably heard the phrase “light worker” which seems to have replaced the notion of a white witch, or maybe it’s an umbrella term for anyone who works with positive energy. Don’t get me wrong. Positive energy is fantastic. We are helping others, and teaching them to help themselves. Negativity is so off-putting and sending out good vibes into the universe is always a good idea. But with all these well-meaning intentions and white magic, we are neglecting the dark, the shadows. There is power to be had in the darkness as well. So, should you embrace your shade and become a shadow worker?
Let’s talk about it.
My background is in psychology, which I’ve mentioned this before. Anyway, Jung, a famous psychologist, talked about the shadow self, the darker parts of our psyche we keep hidden from others and may not even acknowledge ourselves. These thoughts, feelings, and urges dwell in the subconscious and unconscious mind. Sometimes we act on them and we aren’t even aware we did.
Have you ever done something foolish? Like contacting a jerky ex in a moment of weakness, when you were feeling alone and down? That was a little glimpse of your shadow self. Maybe you’ve gotten a secret thrill from doing something you shouldn’t do, even though it was bad for you. Yep, shadow self.
This shadow self feeds on fears, nightmares, and the darkness within. We often suppress this type of energy. It feels bad, wrong, maybe even dangerous. But I actually think it’s about balance. There can be no light without darkness. The sun needs the moon. Ever seen a yin-yang symbol? These forces balance one another out and in, some cases, they bleed into one another. Gray witches, for example, tread somewhere between the light and the dark.
I’ve realized I’m not all sweetness and light. I’ve gotten my hex on and I’ve been known to do a binding spell. Plus, I enjoy when someone terrible gets their karmic payback. Actually, I like to make some popcorn and watch. Have you seen the Wiccan meme? Do No Harm, but Take No Shit. Yeah, that sums me up.
I’m ready to examine the shadows. Hello, Darkness. What about you?
Shadow Work in Magic
So, how can you harness this power? Well, you’re going to have to look at the darkness within. You can draw just as much power from your dark side, as the light, but don’t get consumed by it. The idea is shadow work, not black magic.
Work with a Darker Deity
If you happen to be Wiccan, consider working with another deity. What area are your shadows in? For example, I have a lot of issues surrounding love. I’m very Queen of Swords when it comes to relationships. Therefore, working with Aphrodite or with a deity like Ishtar, might help me deal with those shadows, perhaps even heal them.
What about a darker deity?Like The Morrigan, a war goddess. Maybe a trickster god like Loki. Or maybe Kali, a Hindu death goddess. See what energies come from this work. This is especially true if you are going to examine a fear of yours. Just be careful which deity you approach and what your intentions are. It’s okay to flirt with the shadows, but don’t become consumed. Check out this post on deities for some more ideas.
I mentioned in this article that I’m drawn to Kalfu, a Voodoo loa, or god. I researched him for a fiction book I was writing and I couldn’t stop staring at his picture. Inexplicably, I just felt this instant connection, but I dismissed it.
He is the loa of the crossroads and the moon. Yes, I have a thing for lunar deities, since I also work with Artemis. This past week I had the strangest dream. And I think it was an invitation from him. I was on the crossroads at night, walking by myself, near a cemetery (another sort of crossroads between the dead and the living). And then I was approached by a large dog with glowing red eyes who spoke to me in French. I was concerned, but not afraid.
Examine your Nightmares
Keeping a dream journal by your bedside is an excellent way to examine your nightmares. When you wake up, immediately write down your dreams. You can do this on a journaling app as well. Do you have reoccurring dreams? Are there symbols which turn up again and again? Then read up on interpreting dreams and see what you find. It might give you insight into your character, your fears, your needs. These can all be used for spells.
For example, I had the same nightmare for months. I was in the backseat of a car, going very fast. No one was in the front seat, like the car was steering itself. No matter what I did, I couldn’t hop over the seats and take over driving, like an unseen hand was pressing me down. I finally figured out what the deal was. The real problem? I didn’t feel in control in my life. I was literally being taken for a ride and I couldn’t stop it. And that is a real fear of mine, not being in charge, in control. So, now, I’m deliberately letting go a bit in spells, letting the magic flow as it wants to. Not where I want to drive it. I’m doing this in other areas of my life and it’s been very freeing.
Lean into your Fears
What are you afraid of? Why? Where did this fear come from? Examine that. Work through it. You’ll be stronger and more capable when this fear doesn’t have a hold on you anymore. It won’t be able to stifle you, control you. Keep in mind, this will be a process. You might need the help of a professional.
What about magic? Is there a spell that scares you? I don’t mean the prickle on your neck kind of afraid when your intuition is shouting at you: Are you a crazy person? Don’t do that! I just mean, a little unease, discomfort. Are you doubting yourself? Afraid you’ll fail? Don’t think you are good enough, experienced enough to pull it off? Then this is the kind of spell you should try.
This is part of the reason I want to work with Kalfu. He is a gatekeeper between the living and the dead. I have avoided spirit work since I had a terrible experience when I was a witchling. Really, I had no business trying to work with spirit at that time. I didn’t even have any safeguards in place and my friends and I invited something scary into out lives. Eventually, we banished it, but I have been freaked about doing anything with spirits since then. I’ve even warded my place against them. The only time I’ve interacted with a spirit has been in my dreams, or a visit from my grandmother. But I knew both of those people when they were alive.
I mentioned a dream journal above, but this one would be about your shadow self. Exploring it without judgement, just acknowledging your darker aspects. Kelly-Ann Maddox has an excellent post with shadow work journal prompts you should explore. Remember, you can do this digitally if you like, and it doesn’t have to be about writing pages and pages. You can just jot down a few sentences. The most important part of this, is just acknowledgement of those shadowy impulses.
Work in the Dark. Literally.
I’ve done spells both during daylight hours and in the evening. There is an extra charge in the air when you are doing magic at night. Some people are afraid to do a spell in the dark, worried they might accidentally call something malevolent. In many ways, I feel magic is made for moonlight. I find that my spells have a different feel when I use lunar magic. It is a tad darker, and very powerful. Embrace the shadows and let the moon infuse your work with energy.
I don’t know about you, but I feel different at night, more released somehow. I think after the veneer of the workday has been washed away, I’m left with a truer version of myself. Do you feel the same way? Then work a little witchcraft at night and see what develops.
Work Darker Spells
No, I don’t mean go full on black-magic-witch-bitch. This could mean working spells that play upon your fears. This time, I’m not talking about the difficulty of working a spell. For example, doing some beauty magic when you have body image issues. Lean into whatever your fear is, embrace it, and conquer it.
Consider learning to hex, bind, or even curse someone. But only if they really, really deserve it. This is treading into gray witch territory, so only go there if you have been called. If your intuition is telling you to stay away from this type of magic, do so. Want some ideas? Check out The Witchy Mommy’s YouTube channel. She talks about insect magic, particularly the video on Spider Spirit Magic.
Samhain was practically made for darker rituals. During the darker part of the year, I feel a call to examine the recesses of my mind, the parts I ignore most of the time. At Samhain, the veil between the world of the living and world of the dead is thin. This sabbat is all about the unknown, the unconscious. Try doing a little meditation with The Moon tarot card. Consider scrying for a glimpse of the future.
If you would like to do spirit work, this is an ideal time to do so. Just be very careful what you conjure. You want shadows, not darkness. Check out the White Witch Parlour’s YouTube channel, specifically her Solitary Samhain Seance video. And her video on Channeling Spirits.
This is really just an introduction to shadow work. I’m going to be experimenting over the next few months and I’ll let you know how it goes. Are you considering shadow work? Or have you tried in the past? Tell me in the comments.