14 April 2013

Shadow Magick and Compassion

I've been doing shadow work for so long, I sometimes forget how ooky it can seem from the outside.  Yes, shadow work is dark, difficult, and sometimes scary.  And yes, the magick that derives from all that work is potent, sharp, and has the potential to break things.  But the darkness isn't the point.  The ooky spooky scary bits are there because if you want something special you have to earn it.  The ookiness is a means to an end, not the end in and of itself.  Shadow magick isn't about being angry and dark and wanting to hurt yourself or others - and if you approach it from that point of view you will either change in a hurry or deal with the consequences.  For the Shadow to work for you, your intent actually has to come from a place of compassion.

It's easy to hurl your anger into the darkness; but shadow work isn't easy.  Real shadow work is about facing the darkness and having compassion for it.  It's about coming face to face with your flaws, with your fears, and both forgiving yourself for your weakness and forgiving the world for allowing the thing you fear to exist.  It's not about conquering your fears; it's about learning to live with them.  Shadow work is about seeing yourself and the world around you clearly, warts and all, and learning to accept that truth.  The only way I've found to accomplish that without going completely mad is to learn to have real compassion. 

When I tell people that I'm a "black witch" or a "shadow worker," they will usually either say "what does that mean" or they will completely freak out.  The freak out is rare and it always surprises me a little.  You see, I don't tell just anyone that I'm a shadow worker - people whose only exposure to the spooky is television will inevitably react uncomfortably - I generally only tell other practitioners and I generally expect other practitioners to be able to look at my aura and realize that I'm not evil.  Sadly, that's not always the case.  There are always those folks who were taught that anything outside their particular brand of magick is evil (anyone who calls themselves a white witch will always react badly to someone who calls themselves a black witch, regardless of what either one means by those terms), and they do not tend to like me very much.  It's always a little disheartening to see that kind of knee-jerk prejudice in my own community.  I expect an abrahamic fundamentalist to object to what I do, I don't expect it from my own people.  It always makes me sad when people who should know better never bother too look beneath the label to find out what shadow workers actually do.  Maybe it bother me because my own reaction to something I fear is to find out all I can about it (this almost always alleviates me fears), so I have trouble understanding why other people don't do the same.

You see, people who are afraid of shadow workers are actually quite ridiculous.  It's almost impossible to become adept at shadow work without developing a deep rooted sense of compassion and understanding.  An adept has to learn to look at their own flaws every day without melting into a useless heap on the floor (this can be rather difficult), and one of the side effects of this skill is the ability to see those same flaws in others.  And let me tell you, it's really difficult not to feel at least some compassion for someone (regardless of how awful their behavior) when you see that their doing it because they have the same damned flaws you've got, that they just haven't dealt with yet.  It's hard to sustain anger with someone who you can see only lashed out because they don't know how to handle their own pain or fear.  This doesn't mean shadow workers all turn into Mother Theresa - hell no - but it does mean that our knee-jerk reactions aren't terribly violent and don't usually last very long.  The only "curse" a shadow worker is likely to lob at another person is one to make them see themselves more clearly and to develop a better understanding of what their doing - nothing more than what we voluntarily do to ourselves every day. 

Sure, the process of becoming an adept at shadow magick is difficult and often painful, but that doesn't make us bastards or masochists or anything else.  All it makes us is honest people who don't lie to themselves.  To be afraid of us just means you're afraid of yourself and we remind you of what you aren't willing to do.  Fear is a natural and healthy thing, just point it in the right direction.

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