Tarot for the Modern Reader
The Shadow Self: How to Own and Heal Our Shadow Qualities
The Shadow Self, what is it and where does it come from? How is it formed, and how do we heal it? Why do we have it in the first place? These are all questions that come up when we begin discussing the shadow. No discussion about the shadow is complete without a dive into mythology, as all things related to the shadow are naturally related to the Underworld. The Underworld is the domain of Hades, or Pluto (who in the Tarot, rules the Death card). His sign, Scorpio, rules the card of Judgement.
We started this series of Embracing the Darkness with the Autumnal Equinox, the period where the Sun begins to tilt away from the earth, the days grow shorter, the temperatures grow cooler, and the harvest begins. Our gardens are no longer blossoming and blooming, they are shutting down as well, as we harvest the crop to sustain us through the fall and winter, until the following spring.
At the Autumnal Equinox, we stood at the threshold of darkness. That moment in time that we began our descent into the darker half of the year. For three months we slowly descend until we reach the depth of the darkness, the Winter Solstice. At which point we begin the ascent back out of the darkness. We won't reach the pinnacle of light until the Summer Solstice, and the lighter half of the year even, until the Vernal Equinox. Right now, we are in the quarter of the year that is perfect for examining our shadow self, or the darkness we have repressed.
If you've read enough of my articles, then you know that for me, Tarot rarely exists in a bubble. Much of what I write about often incorporates both Astrology and Mythology as well, as the three are so closely related. I find mythology as the basis for the other two.
In mythology, Pluto (or Hades), The Lord of the Underworld, rules the planet of the same name, as well as the Death card in the Tarot, and all have the same or similar qualities. The qualities of Pluto in mythology are the qualities we see when the Death card comes up in a Tarot reading or the planet Pluto makes a significant transit in our lives.
This time of year, the Autumnal Equinox and the 6 months following that we descend and then come out of the darker half of the year is most closely related to the story of Persephone. This is one of my favorite stories. Persephone is the maiden, the virgin, her mother is Demeter (or Ceres) the goddess of the grain. One day, Persephone strays too far from her mother, and is swooped up by Pluto in his chariot and taken to the Underworld.
Her mother, Demeter, searched and searched for her, and as she grieved, she allowed nothing to grow. The fields grew barren. Eventually, Zeus (Jupiter), Pluto's brother stepped in and fostered a deal. Persephone would be allowed to return to the world, however because she ate the pomegranate fruit given to her by Pluto, 6 seeds to be exact, she must return to the Underworld 6 months of the year as Pluto's queen. During these 6 months, Demeter grieves and nothing is permitted to grow. Upon her return, everything blooms and thrives once again. As you can surely guess by now, this 6 month period that Persephone spends in the Underworld, begins at the Autumnal Equinox. Here we step into the darkness, and the shadow.
What is the Shadow?
The shadow is a term coined by Carl Jung, that refers to a part of our consciousness, subconsciousness and unconsciousness. The Shadow is that part of our self that we choose not to see. As a matter of fact, we can't see it. It is our unconscious, our psychological blind spot. All of the negative qualities that we disown in our self, all become part of the shadow self.
These are the parts of our personality that are not seen by our conscious self, and the parts that we do not want to show to others. These include the perceived negative qualities of rage, envy, selfishness, power/control issues, and any other qualities we have been trained to feel ashamed of.
How Does the Shadow Form?
The shadow develops throughout our lifetime, but certainly begins in childhood. Even at a young age, we experience things like shame and humiliation, two of the most difficult emotions that we will do anything to avoid. So we bury deep within us those things that have caused us to be ashamed or humiliated by others. Shadow qualities can also be created by trauma or abuse of some kind, physical, emotional, mental in our formative years as well.
The Shadow is like a dark corner of the basement, or a locked closet. Everything that we repress, automatically goes to the Shadow. The traits that we deny or reject, are relegated to this territory that no one has admittance or access too, including our self. The shadow self is essentially trained into being. We all have one.
That's why these memories become repressed. They bring up difficult painful feelings that we would rather not feel, and that we certainly don't want others to know about, for fear of the humiliation and perceived judgement. If you follow astrology, this is the domain of the 12th house.
How Does This Come Out?
Naturally though, this judgment will come out, one way or another. As we continue to deny and repress our true feelings, our true self naturally needs to express the repressed emotions somewhere. We may become passive-aggressive towards others who do things that seem to bother us. We have a tendency to "judge" others, for the very things we internally and unconsciously feared being judged for.
This is called projection, and a prime vehicle for the shadow self to use. We "see" (and judge) in others, the very qualities that we have worked so hard to hide in ourselves FROM ourselves. These are qualities that developed in us, likely in childhood, in a myriad of ways. Every time we "hate" a quality about someone, we can ask ourselves, "how might this apply to me"? Be honest with yourself, after all, no one has to know but you. There are no "shadow police" coming to shame you!
With the help of our shadow self, we also can have a tendency to self-sabotage ourselves. We are afraid to take chances, to step out, to toot our own horn or stand up for ourselves sometimes. We may have limiting beliefs, negative self talk and harsh judgements of ourselves and others.
How Can We Heal our Shadow?
There is one thing that can make a shadow disappear- light. The way to remove our shadow qualities is to shine a flashlight into the dark corners or the closets of our personality. I know, that sounds fun! Facing the things that your conscious has purposely hidden to "protect" you. However, of course, it's not REALLY helping us is it?
We must give light, give recognition, and give a name to what we are repressing and hiding. We must face it and call it out, and even more so, recognize that the shame and fear that we feel over these repressed qualities is likely misguided and will disappear completely in the light, just like a shadow.
There are several ways to work on healing your shadow. They all revolve around doing the hard work of facing things that we don't want to face or accept. Where do you begin? One good way is to start noticing the things that trigger you, and write them down. Keep a journal of the things that bother you in others, or in yourself. Take note anytime you talk negatively or judge yourself or others. These events will start to give you a starting point to work with. As you dig deeper, it may be like opening a floodgate.
You can do this work alone or with someone else, such as a therapist or a compassionate caring support person. It can be addressed in therapy, and interesting enough, we may find that some of our negative shadow qualities even come from previous lifetimes. It's also possible to use hypnosis as a way of uncovering things that our psyche has covered up for our own protection, shielding us from things we didn't believe we could handle or face.
Working Together to Heal the Shadow
No matter when you are reading this, it is a good time to begin shadow work! However, if you are reading this blog post at the time of it's publishing or shortly thereafter, in mid- October, than I invite you to join us inside of our fb group Tarot for the Modern Reader, where we will be holding a 13 day long Shadow Work incubator. This is an opportunity to begin this work with others and receive support and guidance from the community as well as myself.
I will be posting a prompt each day to consider, and you can use whatever modality you like, tarot, free journaling or any other tool of your choice. I've curated a list of 13 carefully chosen questions and prompts for us, and I will be taking the challenge as well. It begins on Saturday October 19th, and culminating on October 31st.
Other good times that you are metaphysically aligned to work with the shadow are times that you are having any significant transits to your 12th house in your astrology chart, either natally or by progression, any significant Neptune transits such as the midlife Neptune square Neptune, or any Pluto or 8th house transits as well. That being said however, ANYTIME you feel the call, is a good time!
A final note, anytime you sit down to begin or continue working on your shadow self, call on your guides to help and support you. You may call on any relevant archangels, angels, ancestral guides such as deceased family members or loved ones, close friends that have passed over, spirit animals or your personal guardian angel. A simple prayerful request such as "guides of the highest truth and compassion, please watch over me and guide my work today with love and compassion", is a great way to invite your spiritual team to sit with you and help you with this difficult work.
I'd love to hear about your journey. Please know that while this work is not easy, you are not alone. Please join us in the group for this, or if you need a deeper level of support, you can always reach out to work with me directly. I wish you much success on this journey.
Join us in our Facebook group Tarot for the Modern Reader right now!
Other posts in the Ocktoberfest: Embracing the Darkness Series:
Week 1: Autumn and the Suit of Swords
Week 2: How to Use Halloween to Catapult Your Tarot Reading Business
Week 3: The Shadow Self: How to Own and Heal Our Shadow Qualities
Week 4: Death and Rebirth- Letting Go During Scorpio Season
Week 5: Halloween Rituals for Tarot Readers
I'm Liza, professional Tarot reader, writer and mentor, and this is Tarot Liza. Everyday we're working to bring our mission of delivering more value and Tarot education to the Modern Reader to life! Welcome! Read more...
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