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by Cheryl Rompa

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Samhain 2003, Vol 3-1
MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly Web Magazine for Goddess Women Near & Far
Looking Into Our Shadows

Looking into our shadows can be a challenge, and to do it without losing the connection to our community is tricky for most of us. It is often difficult to evaluate what the pull into our shadows is all about, and it's even harder to determine if we've been pulled into an old and familiar emotional state like depression or if we're moving into a new mystery that needs to reveal itself.

Sorting through our shadows will sometimes take us to the core of our wounds. Naturally, this can hurt a lot. Often when we are hurt we retreat into old patterns that are not working for us anymore. By trying to keep the shadows at bay myself, I have learned that our shadows will demand their time and attention, no matter how we may run from them or try to ignore their pull. Ultimately, we will have to face them or things just become grayer and grayer and grayer until everything seems to disappear into nothingness. When that situation happens, it is easy to lose our connection to our friends, our family, our communities, and ourselves.

I probably should define "shadow" as I am using it here. Even those of us who call ourselves witches may not be on the same page when we use terms that are common to us. For this article I've taken my definition from Webster's Dictionary:

shadow: To conceal; to hide; to screen. [R.] or to protect; to shelter from danger; to shroud. An imperfect and faint representation; adumbration; indistinct image; dim bodying forth; hence, mystical representation; type. [1913 Webster]

For me this definition includes our (witch's) use and meaning of the word. Our shadow side is part of what we "hide" or hide from. We do "conceal" our Book of Shadows and use this as a "mystical representation" of the magical work we are doing. We "adumbrate"(1) emotional work that needs attention and we "outline" spell work that will help us achieve our goals. Our shadow selves do protect us from danger and give our young hearts shelter from abuse, neglect, and all the other hurts we may experience in our lives.

I look around our culture and see so many people trying in many different ways to deal with the shadows in their lives. A quick fix offered by our culture is a prescription for pharmaceutical drugs: We medicate people so they can get back to a productive life as soon as possible. Because we live in a capitalistic culture based on each person's ability to produce, we have allowed doctors and drug companies to convince us they have the magic we need. From that statement I don't want you to hear that I am completely against the use of medication to treat an illness. There have been times when I was so trapped in my fears and depression that I couldn't see a way out of the tunnel of my shadows. In those times, I needed something or someone to help me believe I could make it out of the fog that was entrapping me. I am not saying that a medical fix is never appropriate. What I am saying is that our culture is too quick to look for a pill to get us out of this shadow state and back on our feet.

Then of course there are the ways we self-medicate. For many of us, the use of addictive substances is our way of trying to reach into our shadows and heal those wounds and fears. The only problem with the "magic pill" is that the connection to spirit that we're looking for does not come in pill form.

What has made the difference in my life is my connection to the Goddess. By enlisting Her help (and it comes in many forms including words of wisdom from my Goddess friends, or books that I may read, or even a stranger's smile) I am not so afraid of my shadows anymore. As a matter of fact, I purposely look into my shadows during the dark time of the year, that time between Hallows and Imbolc.

Here in the Midwest we have a long winter to explore what we may be concealing from ourselves. I use this time of the Mother's rest and the dimming of light to ask the hard questions I might otherwise keep hidden. I purposely pick an unwanted pattern of behavior and go into the shadows of that behavior and search for the mystery. There may be a reason the behavior is still working for me and I won't necessarily want to change the behavior, but if I discover that this old coping mechanism is not working for me then I seek out something to replace it with that will take me where I want to be in my life. This can be a long process and I find that sometimes my changes are slower than I'd like them to be, but I've also experienced the benefits of this practice as my life blossoms with each spring's flowers. By going deep into the dark soil of my life and looking for what needs to grow and what needs to be pruned or lay fallow, I allow myself opportunities to become more and more authentic.

Between the cold and snowy weather and whatever fears may be lurking in my shadows, it makes it harder to get to the homes of friends and family for spending time together, and I can lose touch with my community. This is a problem for many women when working through our shadow issues. Whether it's our fears or the cold and darkness of the winter season, it can seem as though we are all alone during this exploration into the shadows of our lives, so it's important to remember that even though no one can go into our shadows with us we are never there alone. The Goddess in all Her wisdom knows when we are afraid and if we listen to our most authentic selves we will hear Her voice in our songs and listen for Her message in our hearts.

May the Goddess give you peace of mind, clarity of direction, and comfort to your heart and may you remember your connection to your community during this time of the shadow.

Blessed Be!

1. Adumbrate \Ad*um"brate\, v. t. [L. adumbratus, p. p. of adumbrare; ad + umbrare to shade; umbra shadow.] 1. To give a faint shadow or slight representation of; to outline; to shadow forth.

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