painting by tiana mystical woman in headwrap surrounded by leaves and moths exhaling
Magic, Occult, Tarot

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Finding Our Shadow with the Tarot

“When you light a candle it also casts a shadow.”

-Ursula le Guin

"Exhaling the Psychopomp, Opening the Void" by Tiana
“Exhaling the Psychopomp, Opening the Void” by Tiana copyright 2018

What is the shadow?

The shadow is the hidden parts of yourself that lie deep in your subconscious. The shadow is compiled of all the things we repress. The shadow holds the old internalized traumas, wounds and pains that still fester inside of us and turn into anxiety and ways that keep us stuck in dysfunction. The shadow seems scary, but it has so much to teach us about ourselves.

The shadow will bring itself into our awareness whether we want to face it or not. The shadow makes itself known when we need to do the internal work. We cannot escape the shadow side, it is apart of us. If we choose to focus only on ” love and light” we lose an opportunity to know ourselves in deeper more meaningful ways. Denying darkness brews phobias of reality and creates pain in ourselves and in the collective. Always calling on “love and light” instead of working through problems, perpetuates the spread of spiritual bypassing. We dismiss aspects of ourselves and concerns voiced by others. In avoiding “negativity” we create more harm. It creates hypocrisy and anxiety in us. When BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) voice their concerns around inclusivity, cultural appropriation, etc. in spiritual communities, online or in person, they are dismissed for bringing in “negativity” and are shooed away with “love and light”, this is spiritual bypassing. Working with the shadow can help us do the work to dismantle internalized racism, misogyny, and colonization, etc.

“The shadow is 90% pure gold” – Carl Jung

If we work to cultivate a relationship with our shadows we can begin to heal the parts of ourselves that we have trouble admitting exist. Sometimes it seems easier to hold onto the pain then to work through it. Walking through the threshold is scary, but if we are gentle with ourselves and rooted in our strength, we can come out the other side having learned so much about the dark aspects of ourselves. We can let what needs to die, die. We can compost the old patterns and traumas to make space for new growth.

We can use our shadows as guides, leading us towards deeper understanding and acceptance of our whole selves. The shadow and the subconscious is also the realm of creativity, sexuality, and intuition. Working with the shadow can bring these inner gifts up to the surface. We can cultivate healthy relationships with our sexuality, deepen our intuitive gifts and connect with our creative flow to feel inspired by the shadow. The shadow is a part of you, denying it will only prolong confusion and pain. When we face our shadows, we meet the roots of our dis-ease and can work to release our unconscious hold on them.

Remember that healing and working with the shadow is an always unfolding practice.

Tarot spread for working with the shadow:

In a quiet space, all alone, turn out the lights. Block out as much light as you can. Sit and meditate on the dark. Take deep breaths. Go inward. When you feel the time is right, light candles and draw your cards.

  1. This card represents you right now
  2. The source of pain, dysfunction and blockages
  3. What remains unseen or hidden by the shadow
  4. What in me needs to be loved?
  5. What needs to die and become compost?
  6. Where to go from here, what needs to grow?
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