What is shadow work?
For me, shadow work is seeking to explore, understand, and usually release, things that you don’t know about yourself.
The hardest thing about shadow work- is if you are working on something you already know it is not shadow work. It is about delving deep into the unconscious mind, where memories, emotions, contracts and promises you have made to yourself lay unhidden- yet still very powerful.
Shadow work is where my experience as a shaman & tarot reader really blend well together- because both involve helping a client to see things they weren’t fully aware of.
We will all experience stress and trauma in our lives, and it can be difficult to deal with at the time. Perhaps as children we simply didn’t know how, perhaps as adults our work or family commitments meant we didn’t have the time.
Stress & trauma doesn’t have to mean someone is to blame it can include;
Parent or partner ill or hospitalized
Family financial difficulties
Moving home, or school
Death of a loved one
Illness, accident or operation
My understanding is that as a way of dealing with the difficulties we create new promises (contracts) which are a sound way of dealing with the situation at the time. They help us to survive. They then get forgotten, lost in our unconscious, yet they still influence how we experience & process the world.
Examples might be “I’ll do it by myself” “loving hurts so I’ll keep single then” “I am a disappointment, don’t bother trying” “Everyone leaves in the end”
In my shaman practice I access these soul contacts through journeying on behalf of my client, visiting caves in the underworld to access hidden information. I then support my client in understanding and re-writing the original contracts. Creating a powerful affirmation.
In Tarot I use a modified version of a Celtic cross as a start to my shadow work;
1/ Representing you, right now
2/ Something you need to accept, integrate.
3/ Shadow card- you need to accept & release this
4/ Let this energy pass out of your life.
5/ Reflects your logical mind
6/Energies coming into your life
The card at the bottom of the pack adds depth and understanding to your shadow card.
How to read your shadow spread;
I often see posts about which tarot deck to use for shadow work. Personally I think (as with most things) which ever deck you want. The benefit of having a specific shadow deck is it allows you to leave the spread out for a longer time. To really meditate and connect with the spread, whilst still using your regular deck for readings.
I suggest you leave the spread out for a few days, meditate, make a note of your reflections, find the wisdom and meaning in the spread.
Then leave out cards 3 & the card at the bottom of the pack.
Shuffle the rest of the pack, and use this new mini-reading to really help you understand the shadow spread;
The key with reading this part of the spread is to really trust your intuition, let your mind make connections with your subconscious. Throw out the rule book of "shoulds" and let the symbols speak directly to you. There is no right or wrong way to read this spread, if it helps you then you have read it right.
Card 1; A wisdom, or blessing to be gained from this shadow work.
Card's 2 & 3; Advice as how to accept & release this shadow contract, or understanding.
I think this part of the spread could easily take several days, or longer. If you are finding it difficult (which is a good sign, shadow work is difficult, if it was easy you would have released it at the time) you can try;
Meditating on the cards individually
Mediating on the cards as a spread
Writing the story of the cards, using archetypes from fairy tales.
Automatic writing (writing using your non-dominant hand)
Entering the card; Literally hold the card, gaze at it and deepen your breathing, now imagine you are in the card, looking around, sensing with all your feelings
Most of all, take your time. This exploration might take sometime.
Express your emotions as they arise, and nurture yourself. It is not uncommon with deep shadow work to feel great sadness, anger, physical weakness, or to feel your body shake as it releases energy.
If you feel any of these symptoms seek to nurture yourself in whatever way feels right- a hug with a friend, a hot chocolate in bed, a walk in nature.
It can take time to process the information, to subtly adapt your life with your new understandings. Be kind to yourself.
And be prepared- the more shadow work you have done, the deeper you go, and the more difficult it can become.
My best advice, is to be kind to yourself, only go as far as you can each time.
(and in case you were wondering, yes this is a real reading, it is my most recent one for me & it is deeply connected with my path as shaman healer and a recent re-birthing I took part in)