What is a Shadow Energy?
The shadow energy (more familiarly known as 'totem') is an animal
that challenges us somehow.
We fear it, or we dislike it. We experience an irrational
feeling of distaste or revulsion towards it. It is an
animal that we might kill, or avoid, or turn off when we
see it on television, and it is an animal that can feature
in our nightmares or that may even have attacked us in the past.
It is thought that we fear these animals because they teach
us the lessons that we don't want to learn, because we fear
what we might lose in the process and even what we may
gain. We may fear what the animal may tell us about ourselves,
often it forces us to confront harsh truths about ourselves.
What we dislike most about the animal, may be what we dislike
most in ourselves, or it might represent something that happened
to us, or is happening to us, that feels harmful and unpleasant.
In extreme cases, we can develop phobias of these animals. Or worse,
we may begin to kill them en masse if we get the opportunity.
It is called a 'shadow' energy, because like many aspects of
ourselves that we don't like, it is often marginalised and ignored.
Even spiritual people have a tough time confronting and
working with their shadow energies.
It is possible to have more than one shadow energy, and it
is possible for them to change over time. Almost everyone has
them. In some cases it's easier to know which animals we have
problems with than others, because they might be animals we
confront regularly like spiders or fleas. Sometimes it's more
difficult, it's an animal that's easy to avoid because it might
only be at the zoo, or in books.
Some common shadow energies:
- Raven / Crow
There are of course a lot of others! You might think of
fears and dislikes your friends have had in the past, or
fears and dislikes you have had.
Ask yourself the question:
If you fear 'spiders', you need to be very exact. Do you
fear ALL spiders? Or the poisonous ones? Or the fast ones?
Or the big tarantula ones? Do you fear all wasps? Even the
ones you've never seen? Why? What about cuckoos? Do you hate
them because they push eggs out of the nest? Or because you think
Ask yourself the relevant questions, WHY do you fear or dislike
the animal. Start simple. Write down some answers to these
questions and you can start to narrow down the nature of your
What kind of 'animal' is it?
What does it look like?
How does it act?
How does it move?
Can it hurt me?
Do I fear / hate it as much as other animals that can hurt
me more or in the same way?
Needless to say, one of the most powerful exercises we can do,
is confront our shadow aspects and work with them consciously
and subconsciously to create a working relationship with them.
This is a spiritual process, often initiated through meditation
and visualisation of the animal itself, and can force us to light
a candle to the shadows of ourselves that we deny, or suppress,
Shadow energies have powerful medicine, if we imagine that we
are trying to always improve ourselves and get closer to the
spirit and wholeness, the shadow animal can give us very direct
paths to this. Shadow energies are not gentle, they do not coddle
us, and sometimes working with them can involve tears, terror, and
even pain if the animal has attacked us in the past, but they
do show us very direct paths to the spirit, and to home truths
that once confronted, often show that the animal itself is not
half as fearful as we thought it was!
For example, venomous animals often force us to confront that
we too are capable of brutal, poisonous acts to get what we want.
There's no point denying it, and spiders and snakes (and other venomous
tell us that we need to not only confront this truth, but embrace it,
and eventually learn how to love and understand it. Through this love
and understanding, we reach a new respect of ourselves and the animal
through spiritual work.
Sometimes shadow energies will even become your primary 'totem',
or one of your more significant guides. If you are open and honest
with the animal and with yourself, you may even develop a powerful ally
who can help you in otherworlds, ritual and spellwork. You will also
become well-equipped to help others face their own fears and dislikes
of the same animal, because you will often know what you had to go
through to get to a place of understanding.
Taking your time.
Some people like fast results in their spirituality, the idea of
a long and protracted journey of hard work with little results can
be frustrating to say the least. But with shadow animals it is important
to understand that reconciling your shadow self, even aspects of your
shadow self, with your conscious self can be a difficult and ongoing
Of course the process might also be very fast! You might have a
bolt of realisation and suddenly go 'yes! I do hate that about myself,
I fear this, and I'm going to do *this* to fix it, why did I never
figure that out before?'
But most of the time this process is slow and ongoing,
and entirely worth it and rewarding in the end.
Don't force the process, sometimes you will not be ready at all,
and you will know when it happens. Be patient with yourself.
Respect and understand yourself and your spiritual journey as you
are learning to respect and understand your shadow energies.
How do you discover your Shadow totem? Do I have to go on some Spirit walk or can I do this Spirit work in meditation (in the comfort of my own home?)
I have recently started "Shadow" work (thanks to (Carl Yung) and discovered and embraced my "Shadow" which has brought me back to the beginning of my path of the Spirit. Therefore, I am starting this path again because, I still have a lot of shadow work to do and am willing and open to walk that dark path again now. I just need to know how. My previous Spiritual journey was painful and I am still reeling from my encounter with my self; also coming from a traditional Christian background; there are still shadows that I may need to overcome in my willingness to be open to this direction in itself. So I want to ask for your patience with me in this! Chuck