October opens the door to the shadowy forests beyond the Veil – a place of deep darkness, where we can revel in the mysteries of the night. A place we can interact with the spirits of the past. A place where we confront our own memories, experiences, and skeletons. A place where we come face to face with our own shadow. The only way out is through, and the only light you have to guide you is the one you have inside.
What is the shadow?
Your shadow is the collected mass of your pain, shame, and sorrow, and it has a voice, a way of being in the world, and an energetic frequency. There are also treasures in your shadow! Your sexy magic, creativity, and ability to believe in miracles are underneath all that other stuff. Your shadow, if left unacknowledged in your subconscious, can be projected onto others and create karmic entanglements that take generations to reconcile. By engaging and integrating your shadow, you embrace all parts of you and step fully into your power.
Samhain and shadow season
Shadow comes out in the shadows, and Samhain (or Halloween) is shadow time! Samhain encourages us to look at death, spirit, and transformation as symbolic and natural parts of our own evolution. The Veil between the dead and the living gets thinner as the nights grow longer, and our shadows progressively become unavoidable. Our shadow finds nourishment in darkness – in the deepest depths of our being. This is a powerful time to honor the darkness and further integrate it with the light. Ask yourself: What part of yourself scares you the most? What part of yourself needs to die, in order for something else to grow in its place?
Samhain, the start of the Celtic New Year, is celebrated on the night of October 31. It’s a time when we say goodbye to many things – to the spirits who have crossed the Veil to commune with us, to the crops and harvests we lost this year, and to the year itself, with all its blessings and challenges. Instead of creating resolutions on January 1 each year, most magical practitioners set intentions on November 1, which for us is the real ‘start’ of the year ahead. At Samhain, we honor the rebirthing process, the little death you can have while still alive, to cut off that rotting limb of energy that you keep dragging around. That old trauma, that leaking wound, the piece of you that is longing to die but you keep reviving for what are probably good reasons. And yet how much more alive, more vital, lighter, better you will feel once you cut it off? Once you let the blood flow. Once you recognize that it’s best to let the dead have what is dead and keep what is alive for the living.
Dia de los Muertos and the shadows of the past
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is observed on the first and second days of November. It’s a time when the Veil between the living and dead is lifted – when we honor the importance of the living as well as the dead, the full cycle of life. During Dia de los Muertos, we invoke the souls of our ancestors and support them on their journey. We honor their influence and presence, thanking them for the gifts they’ve passed on to the living, and remember the life they helped create in each of us.
The only way to communicate with spirits of the past is to acknowledge them. Your shadow works in the same way. You have to accept and acknowledge its presence, and then you can see it, communicate with it, and integrate it. Your shadow is beautiful and significant, and not any less deserving of love and attention. Look at it. Work with it. Soothe it. Talk to the literal and symbolic ghosts of your past. If you don’t, they will continue to haunt you. Dia de los Muertos, like Samhain, is a powerful opportunity to honor and release what is already dead. This is necessary to keep on living and growing. What are you acknowledging? What are you releasing?
5 Lessons from The Shadow
1. Your shadow is YOU
Your shadow is your darkness. It’s the part of you that’s kept hidden from everyone else. It’s in the deepest, darkest corners of your being where you store the ugly bits. No matter how terrifying or uncomfortable it is for you to look at the darker aspects of yourself, it’s essential that you do. You must walk beyond the curtain and hug those creatures. Cradle them. Love them. Integrate them into your being. Your shadow cannot be destroyed, so when you abandon it for long periods of time, it will grow and seek its revenge. And it will not be pretty.
2. Your shadow doesn’t define you
But you can still learn from it. Everyone has a past and has to come to terms with their own darkness, but if we let every mistake define us, we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Appreciate your imperfections – human beings would not exist without them. Our beauty is in our ability to move on. To integrate, rebuild, and start again. Honor your ancestors and let your light guide you, so you can be the beacon of hope for future generations.
3. Your shadow-self is like a mirror
Sometimes, aspects of yourself will show up as a mirror to others. If someone displays unwarranted rage, they are projecting onto you because you are mirroring something to them that they struggle to process. And vice versa. Many people are unaware of their triggers, which are accurate teachers about shadow work that needs to be done. Think about a time when you felt irrationally angry at someone. Did you struggle to understand why? Did you attempt to? This is just one of the ways your shadow can sneak up on you when you don’t deal with it. You can damage potential long-lasting relationships with others because of your own unresolved issues. Let this be a comfort to those of you who have lost relationships in the past at the hand of your shadow self. If that relationship meant something to you, maybe it’s time to reach out.
4. Find the advantage in the disadvantage
One of the best things about understanding your disadvantages is being able to use them as your shield. When you use your flaws and disadvantages to your advantage, then no one else can use them against you. You create your own shield. No one is like you. No one. And this is a difficult concept to grasp in our more formative years. Anything that differentiates you from the pack is subject to immediate ridicule. These memories damage our self-esteem, and our differences can become triggers instead of strengths. What if you changed that story? What if you embrace your quirkiness? Your weird habits? Make a list of the things that make you different, and unique, and love yourself for them. When you hide your true self, you don’t attract people you can relate to. Embrace your flaws, your unique self, and you will find the advantage in the seeming disadvantage. You will be unstoppable.
5. Stop overreacting to people or situations
Overreacting is a clear sign of emerging shadow energies. When you overreact, you go beyond what a reasonable reaction should be and express deeper rage, sadness, confusion, or concern about a circumstance or event. This happens when an event triggers a painful or traumatic memory which feels like it’s happening again in the present – like a new version of the past. Now the current event takes on the added weight of whatever past event triggered in you, and the person on the receiving end has no idea. When you do your shadow work by excavating all your tricky sticky spots, you will no longer have them to serve as baggage in similar future experiences. You can surrender painful and traumatic experiences by simply allowing yourself to find and feel them, send love and light to them, and through that light, the healing begins.
You won’t be able to fully share your gifts with the world or experience your true magnificence unless you’ve confronted and integrated your shadow. When you become friends with your shadow, you embrace and accept all parts of yourself and traverse your world with courage. You live a great life, one that is only found by those who face the darkness and turn on the light.
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