. . . in the Light Half of the Year
In every Pagan tradition I have been involved in, one of the few constants has been this – the dark half of the year is traditionally reserved for going within and the light half is focused on action and manifestation. This is particularly true in the Avalonian tradition that I practice. The dark half of the year is typically the time when intense shadow work takes place and we let go of what no longer serves us. The light half of the year, on the other hand, is the time for manifestation, filling the void with what we desire, and reaping the harvest from the seeds we planted in the dark half.
As a child, I was very afraid of the dark. You can therefore imagine my reluctance to engage in shadow work in my early years as a Pagan. Perhaps it is because I am naturally introspective or perhaps unleashing my shadows allowed me a freedom previously unknown to me, but I eventually came to realize that I liked the dark. I had found my comfort zone in the shadows and suddenly, it was the light that scared me.
The things we have traditionally been taught about light and dark in our society are woefully incomplete, for there is a beauty to be found in darkness and vulnerability to be found in the light. When babies are born, they typically don’t come into this world smiling. No, they come into this world screaming, crying for the loss of the safe, comfortable shadowy womb which was the only world they had known. Similarly, I realized I had found comfort in hiding in the shadows where no one could see me.
In contrast, it was in the light that I had to actually take a leap of faith and do something to manifest what I desired. If I failed, I would fail in the harsh light of day where everyone could see. Despite the intensity of the work I had done in the dark half to lay my shadows to rest, I would find at certain times during the light half of the year the ghosts of my shadows whispering in my ear, reminding me that no matter how far I had come or how many strides I had made, I was still an imposter.
How does one deal with an intrusion of our demons when we are dancing in the light? The methods below have helped me tremendously to quiet the shadow who trespasses on my spiritual work out of season without pulling me back into the intensity of dark half work:
- Honor the Shadow. Despite the bad rap that shadows get, our shadow selves develop as a survival or coping mechanism. True, these coping mechanisms often backfire as we get older but the shadow’s original purpose is to protect us. Just as one establishes an altar to honor ancestors, I have at times erected a temporary altar to honor the shadow self that has made herself known unexpectedly. I use a symbol to represent my shadow self – be it a poppet, a picture, or an item from nature – and give it a place of honor on the altar. Were there certain foods or items that this shadow aspect of yourself enjoyed as a child? Consider leaving offerings on this altar.
- Spend Some Time Listening to Your Shadow. Just as you might commune with a deity, spend some time listening to the shadow self that has made his or her presence known. Thank them for the ways in which they tried to help you when you were faced with pain, confusion, and trauma. Ask them what it is they want or need. What is it that triggered their appearance? Take some time to simply sit in the presence of your shadow self. When you feel that you have gotten to the heart of what your shadow self wishes for you to recognize at this time, take a moment to explain why their presence is no longer serving you and may actually be doing you harm.
- Letting Go. After about a week of honoring and listening to my shadow self, I have found it cathartic to let my shadow self go. Take the representation of your shadow self and respectfully release it from its tie to you. This can be done via any of the elements. Burning and/or burying work well. Releasing something in a body of water works, as does scattering the remains of your shadow self from a mountain. However you choose to release your symbolic shadow, be sure that you are not doing anything that will harm the environment. For example, if burying your symbol, you should consider using something compostable and/or of nature itself. If you desire to scatter your symbolic shadow self to the winds, consider using a leaf as your symbol. It is therefore important that you consider how you wish to release your shadow self before you decide upon a symbol to represent it.
This work is not intended to replace the intensive work necessary to uncover and confront our demons during the dark half of the year. Rather, this process allows one to put to rest the last, lingering remains of the demons that were recognized and released prior to the light half of the year beginning. Even in the light, we carry our shadows with us. Yet by acting with intent and acknowledging our shadows when they demand our attention, we can orient ourselves so that we are facing the light, and our shadows will ultimately fall behind us.