I'm having a Samhain Celebration this Saturday and one of the things we'll be doing is a shadow work meditation. I went through the meditations I'd written in the past and nothing had quite the right feel. I wanted something that would be suitable for anyone, regardless of whether they knew anything about shadow work or where they were in their personal path. The following meditation is designed to open a path to understanding your shadow and to be a first step towards the power that shadow work can give.
Use whatever method of entering into the meditation that works for you. I like to visualize stepping through a curtain of mist. However you choose to do it, I suggest giving yourself at least 10 minutes after you've finished to process whatever emotions and thoughts come up during the meditation.
You stand at the gates of an ancient graveyard.The path is overgrown, the stones untended.The chill wind blows the last of the autumn leaves off the skeletal trees.The cloudy sky casts no light through the gloom, but you can find your way easily enough.You walk forward, feet crunching on the gravel.There are whispers on the wind, echoes of the past.This is a graveyard of forgotten memories - times gone by that will never come again, memories locked away, left behind, forgotten.
To your right you see a stone marking the memory of a fight with a loved one where you said unforgivable things.To your left you see the grave you made for things you’ve done that make you ashamed.These are memories you’d rather see remain buried, things you’d rather keep hidden in the dark.Look out into the darkness. Just how much are you trying to hide?
You continue along the path. Moss has grown across the path here and your feet squelch as you step.A chill breeze whispers across your skin and the darkness deepens.
You come around a large willow tree and before you stands a large, ornate mausoleum.The entrance is flanked with crumbling columns, ferns and moss growing on the ancient stones.In stark contrast to its aging exterior, the iron gate across the entrance is brand new.At the foot of the door sits a sad pile of broken padlocks, each one a testement to what cannot be contained within.
Silently, slowly, the gate begins to swing open.You step back in a rush to avoid letting it touch you.From the darkness within, a figure draped in shadow steps forth into the weak moonlight.Piercing black eyes stare at you from the deep folds of the cloak.The figure looks you up and down and you can feel its gaze penetrating to your very marrow.You know that it sees everything you are, everything you were, and everything you yet may be.
The figure steps forward once again, drawing back its hood.You gasp in shock, it looks just like you...well, you if you’d been locked away from sunlight and half starved for years.It smirks at your dismay and speaks.
“I am your shadow.I am the part of you that frightens you; that you’re ashamed of.I’m the part of you that isn’t so nice.I am everything about you that you loathe: too strong, too weak, too passionate, too cold, too willful, too selfish.
“You’ve tried so hard to bury me, to lock me away, but it won’t work.I’m a part of you, you know.You can no more be rid of me than you can be rid of your eye color. Oh yes, you can mask me for a time, hide me away, but I always come back.I don’t like being shoved away.I will fight it with every breath in your body.I will come bubbling up from the back of your brain to destroy your fragile peace.The harder you suppress me the worse I will make things when I get out.
“But I don’t have you be your enemy.Really I don’t.The only thing that makes me dangerous is your abhorence of me - I take it rather personally.I’d be your ally if you let me.I ask so little and can give you so much.Acknowledge me; stop being ashamed and afraid of me.Accept me for everything that I am, everything that you are.See me and see yourself.Take me out to play every once in a while, it doesn’t have to be so bad.A very little will tide me over for such a long time.The choice is yours.We can be friends or we can be enemies, but I’m not going anywhere and you can’t keep me locked up forever.
“Go now, back to your world of shining light.I’ll be waiting whenever you’re ready for me.”
The figure turns and pulls its hood back on and fades into the shadows.You suppress an involuntary shudder and turn back up the path to the gates.You look up at the sky and watch as the clouds part, revealing a sliver of growing moon.Your feet crunch on the gravel and an owl hoots in the distance.You reach the gate and step back through the mist.
I often kill time by browsing my amazon recommendation list. This has brought me to some of the best and worst books that now live in my library. The other day my list popped up with the suggestion that I read Michelle Belanger’s The Ghost Hunter’s SurvivalGuide. I was leery at first because I am not generally the author’s biggest fan. However, since the kindle version of the book was only $2.99 I figured what the hell. I was surprised to find that there was actually some useful information in the book, though not the kind I was expecting.
With a title like The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide I was expecting the book to focus on how investigators can protect themselves during an investigation. The book did spend about a chapter on this - discussing grounding and centering on a very basic level and an introduction to simple shields. However, the topic of protecting the investigator stopped there. Instead, the vast majority of the book focuses on how to cleanse a haunted house. So if you’re looking for a book that gives basic “how to deal with negative energy in a dwelling” information then this might be a decent book to start with.
On the plus side, the book is well written. It’s organized as a story of a particular haunting investigation and house cleansing. Each chapter tells a bit of the story and then goes into some technical details of what was done. The story makes the book an entertaining read and thus worth the three bucks I spent on it. The techniques she discusses for removing attachments and getting rid of stagnant energy are all good solid techniques if you’re unfamiliar with the practices. If you already have any proficiency with energetic cleansing then you really don’t need this book. (I’m certainly biased but I think most people would be better off getting my book instead.)
I guess my biggest problem with this book is that it’s really not what I expected from the title and the book jacket description. This is not a book for paranormal investigators. The actual “investigation” that’s discussed in this book is really just Belanger getting the psychic lay of the land and isn’t what I’ve come to expect from people that use the term “ghost hunter.” I tend to lump ghost hunters with paranormal investigators – folks who go into purportedly haunted place and try to gather some kind of tangible evidence that something beyond the mundane is going on. When I get a call from someone who wants my help dealing with a haunting I will basically do what Belanger outlines – go to the house, get a feel for it and then do the appropriate cleansing- but I don’t call myself a ghost hunter for doing it. That’s not being a ghost hunter, just a good witch.
So yeah, I give this book a solid “meh.” I didn’t really like it, but I didn’t really dislike it either. Belanger’s techniques are all well explained and will actually work if done correctly, but they’re really not for ghost hunters they’re for people who specialize in banishing. If you’re a ghost hunter who wants to transition to performing cleansings and banishings, then this might be the book for you. There are better books out there on basic psychic protection whose techniques will be far more valuable to paranormal investigators.
Sorry this post is a few days late; this week seems to have eaten my brain.I went to a CLE (continuing education for lawyers) yesterday and met my husband in town for dinner.We then drove home (I take the bus to work).This morning I go to the garage to go to work and there’s no car.We forgot to swing by the park and ride and pick up my car last night.This did not start my day off as I had hoped.Ah well.
So, last weekend I finally went to the Seattle Metaphysical Library.I’d passed the sign on the sidewalk many times but had never managed to be there when it was open.On Saturday Rae and I were enjoying an afternoon in Ballard and it happened to be open so we went on in.It’s really quite nifty.It’s a decent sized room in a building basement, reached by a long, sparse hallway.If you happen to be in the area when they’re open (2-6pm most day) I recommend popping in.We were the only people there other than the volunteer working that day so we decided to sit down and have a chat on metaphysics (what else would we do?).
Eventually we got talking about ghosts and hauntings and the gal working at the library asked for my opinion on Poltergeists.Poltergeist activity consists of things like objects being moved by unseen hands, knocking heard in the walls or on floors, doors slamming, or lights turning on and off on their own. Poltergeist activity is not subtle and can also be scary; it is one of the only kinds of hauntings that can actually cause physical harm (usually from flying objects).
These types of haunting are quite rare and have caused a lot of controversy as to just what causes them – ghosts or people.Some people say that all “poltergeist” activity is caused by people with latent psychokinetic abilities (they can move things with their minds but don’t realize it). This theory tends to look to adolescents (particularly pubescent girls) or people who are emotionally disturbed for the cause of the activity.It’s true that extreme emotions (often caused by trauma or stress) can cause latent psychic abilities to manifest, so I believe that in some cases poltergeist activity can be caused by people.I know from personal experience that poltergeist-like things often happen around people who are first learning to use magick.Something about opening up new areas of the brain and flexing psychic muscles causes things to go a bit haywire for a while.I once accidentally made a terra cotta pot explode because I was having a bad day and hadn’t yet mastered grounding – I’ve long since fixed that little issue.
However, I do not believe that all poltergeist activity is caused by people. There are instances of poltergeist activity that do not involve a particular person being present, don’t match up to emotional states in the location, or otherwise don’t appear to have anything to do with a particular person. In these cases a spirit, often that of a mischievous child, is a possible cause.It’s also possible to get poltergeist activity that’s caused by non-human entities.There are lots of things out there that want to get people’s attention, from goblins to faeries to infernals, that can potentially cause poltergeist activity.
The only way to know what’s actually causing poltergeist activity is to really pay attention to what’s going on.Keep a log of all activity.Record what happens, when, to whom, and under what conditions.The more information you have the better.If the activity only happens when your 13 year old nephew is over – and then happens consistently, then he is the likely cause.If the activity happens at dawn and you always see sparkling lights when it happens then you might have a faery issue (or brain issues if you’re the only one experiencing things – never discount the mundane!).If the activity happens all throughout the day, is accompanied by a horrid smell, is extremely frightening or even physically harmful…well…then you might have a very big problem.In any case, pay attention to what’s going on and do your best not to jump to conclusions.It’s a big world out there and there are lots of potential explanations.
As any long-time reader knows, I teach Dark Arts at the Grey School.I love teaching magick for so many reasons, but right at the top of that list are all the things I learn from my students.A few days ago a student asked me a question that touched on something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now.What he asked me was just how much of what I teach I actually believe in and to what extent.On the surface it seems like a pretty flippant question, but in reality it’s a very good one.As someone who teaches people fantastical things like how to fend off psychic attack and how to banish monsters, yet is a stable and educated person who holds a normal full time job I actually spend a fair amount of time thinking about just how I define my reality.
Really, it’s a question that comes up almost constantly, though usually in very subtle ways.Anyone who has mundane friends who do not believe in “any of that weird psychic stuff” has probably been asked, “You seem like such a smart person, how can you believe in all that?”It’s rather like having someone with opposing political views ask how you could possibly vote for the (insert derogatory term of choice) that you like so much.I know those folks don’t mean to demean my entire paradigm, but they do.Being the obstinate sort, I like having an answer ready for my critics and sincere seekers alike.The following is what I told my student.
Yes, I do believe in magick and monsters because I've had undeniable experiences with both. That being said, how I define magick and monsters is rather particular.
In my experience magick is just the practical application of quantum physics to thought and intention. In his book Real Magick, Isaac Bonewits describes magick as atomic-psychokenesis – the ability to affect the sub-atomic world with the power of the mind.Science has proven that the human body works by transmitting electrical signals from the brain to the rest of the body.It has also proven that the human body emits certain electrical signals (like those read by CAT scans).Magick assumes that those sub-atomic particles that are naturally emitted by the human body interact with sub-atomic particles in our environment (no stretch of scientific credulity there).Magick further assumes that by focusing our minds we can subtly direct these emissions to encourage the world around us to conform to our will.That would be the bit where we’re making a bit of a leap.Quantum physics has shown us that the way sub-atomic particles behave is affect by people observing that behavior (see the Uncertainty Principle), so is it really so strange to think that what happens accidentally could be done deliberately?
Another teacher at the Grey School, Jymi X/0, looks at magick as a way of shifting the waveform of reality.In any given situation there is a bell curve of possible outcomes, those at the center being the most likely outcomes and those on the edges being the least likely.For example, when I catch the bus in the morning it’s very likely that the bus will arrive reasonably on schedule, that I’ll get on it, and that it will take me to work – that’s the center of the bell curve.There’s a less likely change that my bus will arrive and take me to the wrong place – towards the edge of the bell curve.There’s an even less likely change that I’ll get on the bus and find a million dollars in cash – the very edge.Magick is the art of using all the mundane options at your disposal plus the mind to shift the position of that bell curve to make your desired outcome in a situation more probable.
I look at magick as nothing less than due diligence – do everything you can physically and then do everything you can psychically.That’s what I believe magick is.
As for monsters, my life is occasionally weird. Really weird. Like reality bending and things knocking on walls and moving my stuff weird. I haven’t ever experienced monsters as truly physical beings.I’ve always experienced them as the metaphysical (energies and forces that exist beyond what our normal senses can perceive).There are forces that I cannot see with my physical eyes, but that I can see in my minds eye and they interact with me as if they were intelligent entities.Treating these forces as if they were particular kinds of monsters (based on what kinds of behaviors they exhibit) gives me the results I want from the interaction (usually to make them go away or at least stop being obnoxious). Does this necessarily mean that what I'm dealing with is an independent entity that identifies itself as an imp or a pixy? Nope. Could this just be my brain's way of trying to make sense of things that are outside of my experience? Sure. However, this has been going on for a very, very long time - all my life really. Over the years I've kept treating the metaphysical as various creatures and magickal forces and it keeps working. Correlation does not equal causation, but over a long enough time period 100% correlation can effectively be treated as causation.
Basically, my experience and every intuition I've ever had tells me that my belief system works as a way of dealing with the world. Do I have occasional bouts of doubt?Of course. Sometimes I feel like a crazy person and doubt everything I've ever done. But eventually something will happen that will once again show me that my way of looking at the world works and that's enough for me.
Welcome to October – my favorite month of the year. I love nothing better than to sit in my library with a cup of hot mulled cider while listening to the autumn wind, watching the rain hit my patio. This time of year sets all my magickal senses on overdrive and pushes me to new dark magicks. One of the things I’ve been working on of late, and seems immanently appropriate, is a meditation for integrating the shadow and I’d like to share it with you.
What does it mean to integrate the shadow? As I’ve talked about before, the shadow is one’s own dark side – not evil, but dark. It’s the bits of selfishness, pettiness, ignorance, arrogance, and the like that you’re not so proud of. Everyone’s got a shadow and one of the things that separate the good from the great is how much someone owns his or her shadow. Good people know they have a shadow and do their best to suppress, ignore, and generally pretend it doesn’t exist. Great people get to know their shadow and actually make friends with it, turning their weaknesses into strengths – that’s integrating the shadow.
Integrating the shadow is not easy and it’s not something that can be done all at once. In fact, it is the work of a lifetime. We’re all constantly growing and changing, and our shadow changes with us. The only way I’ve found to effectively integrate my shadow is to do it in small chunks. Find a small thing about yourself that you identify as being part of your shadow, something about yourself that makes you uncomfortable. It can be something small, like getting unreasonably annoyed when you miss a green light, or something large, like not being able to trust anyone, as long as it’s something you’re not really ok with. (If it’s something that makes other people uncomfortable but you’re totally ok with it’s not a part of your shadow, it’s just a part of you.)
The first time I ever integrated a bit of my shadow was during a meditation many years ago. For as long as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated with magick, the occult, death, and monsters. Unfortunately, I was raised to believe these things were not the sort of thing a young lady should spend her time thinking about. Basically I was taught that everything I now relish was pretty much evil. This denial led me to put all those lovely dark fascinations firmly into the realm of the shadow. My original plan had been for the meditation to take me into the underworld so that I could get a better look at my shadow and to lock it down even further. My shadow had other plans for me that night. It rather ran away with me.
The meditation began, as planned, with me standing in a large cave before the gates of the underworld. As I stepped through the gate I felt some of the most incredible searing pain I’ve ever felt in my life (I hadn’t realized then just how real astral travel can be) and I realized that the gate wasn’t a simple gate, but a tunnel about 20 feet long with another gate at the other side. I had to literally drag myself across the floor of the tunnel, blind with pain, until I got to the gate that led to the other side. When I finally got to the other side I was immediately seized by a dark figure who began to beat me. We fought. It hurt. A lot. The more I fought the worse things got. Finally, rather than trying to block the blows I shifted the fight from the physical to the magickal. I began to feed off the dark figure’s energy. I fed off the darkness and became one with it. As I fed the pull between me and the dark figure got stronger and stronger until I actually consumed the dark figure, like Kali eating a demon. What I had just done was integrate a part of my shadow, without even knowing it.
So here is a meditation to take you through a slightly tamer version of that experience:
Integrating the Shadow - Meditation
You may want to do this meditation inside a protective circle. Sit or lie comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and relax.
You are standing in a dimly lit room in front of a very large mirror. It stretches from the ground to above your head and is wide enough that your outstretched arms can’t reach the sides. This mirror shows you your shadow self. Look at yourself in the mirror. It’s you, but it’s not you. This is your shadow, a bit darker, more sly, perhaps with an edge of cruelty in its eyes.
As you look at yourself you notice the mirror’s surface begin to ripple like wind blown water. Your reflection winks at you and steps back, a hand beckoning you to come through. Carefully, you step through the cold surface of the mirror and into the mists.
Your shadow reflection is standing just in front of you. It’s you, but it’s not you. Your shadow looks you in the eye and you can see that it knows you. It knows all your secrets and hidden thoughts. It’s made of those secrets, the bits of yourself that you would hide from the world. Your shadow doesn’t like being caged on the other side of the mirror. What would happen if you let a bit of your shadow out into the light? Do you really know? Are you afraid to find out?
Your shadow reaches out and grasps your wrist, hard. You feel it’s fingers digging into your arm, deeper and deeper, until you cannot tell where your wrist ends and its fingers begin. You look down and see that your shadow is beginning to fade into your flesh. You have a choice, pull away now and only have a small piece of your shadow flow into your waking self or close your eyes and embrace your shadow- taking in all that you can. The choice is yours.
*pause to allow the shadow to integrate as much as possible*
When you open your eyes your shadow is gone. You can feel the lingering energy of its presence, but it is nowhere to be seen. When you’re ready step back through the mirror, more whole than when you came through. Take a moment to feel the difference. When you’re ready, open your eyes.