Most people are familiar with power animals, animal spirits that support us with their strengths and energy medicine on our spiritual journey. But we can also have shadow animals. Shadow animals challenge us. They represent the darker side of ourselves and are often the figure in our nightmares or an image that we strongly resist. There are many shadow animals but some common ones are:
Working with shadow animals isn't what you would necessarily consider a good time. Well let's face it, shadow work, in general, doesn't have you jump for joy. It's like sitting and having a coffee with your friend but your friend is fear. That being said the minute you are willing to face your fear and invite the energy in, you can start to shift it from a source of suffering into a source of strength. Shadow work is about acknowledging the aspects of yourself that are usually marginalized or ignored because they are the parts you least like. It requires a lot of persistence and willpower. But it can lead to some big gains including deeper self-connection and heightened intuition.
Another aspect of working with shadow animals is that you can experience what's considered to be an initiation. This is an unpleasant interaction where you are attacked by your shadow animal. There are some stories of people who have almost died from a serious snake or spider bite as their initiation. But this initiation can be considered a gift, like the passing of a baton, or the marking of a significant milestone with a tattoo. How do you know if it's an initiation? It's significant, a stand out experience that will resonate deeply with your life at that moment and looking back you will notice that you gained and witnessed a positive transformation in the areas of the animal's strengths. I experienced an initiation with my shadow animal wasp.
While living in Victoria, Elliott and I decided to hike what's considered to be one of the more challenging trails, Mt. Finlayson. We made it to the top and were gifted with this amazing moment of watching several eagles gracefully gliding above us, it was a natural high. But on our descent we managed to get off trail, and had a difficult time finding our way down, about to hit a low. At the bottom and still off the marked path we ended up walking through more rugged terrain and I unknowingly stepped on a wasps nest. Cut to me flaying like a banshee, screaming and crying as I was stung repeatedly by ten plus wasps. This was the first time I'd been stung by anything and I've always had a fear of insects, with a particular dislike for spiders and wasps. Poor Elliott was trying to brush them off my shirt as they clung to the material and I wouldn't stop moving in panic. Eventually we managed to get them all off and me out of harm's way. My body was tingling from stings for a good hour afterward. And there were a few stingers still in my skin that Elliott found and removed when we were home. I literally stepped on the wasps home, I fully understand and appreciate their defence of it. I, a feisty incarnated elemental and Leo, am equally prone to family loyalty and defence. The spiritual meaning of wasp strongly resonates with me, and particularly for what I was moving through at that time. Wasp represents the female warrior spirit, feminine power, bridging the duality of life and death, a personal healing crisis, and life-affirming transformation. As well as the quality of an independent thinker who is goal-oriented. This initiation occurred at a time where I was at the deepest point in my personal shadow work and in a period that called for me to be uprooted. And wasp's medicine of balancing power, humility, and compassion was at the heart of my time in Victoria. It's worth mentioning too that right after as we were making our way out and back to the car we came upon a large dead stag head, half-decomposed. Elliott was like you have to be kidding me! As he knows I hate seeing dead animals and deer was my first power animal. The duality of life wasn't lost on me as I thought how beautiful these big strong antlers were as they sat on this dead rotting carcass. Needles to say that hike was a memorable experience of highs and lows.
Shadow animals are powerful spiritual work, and an initiation, no matter how unpleasant and scary, is a gift. Don't seek a shadow animal, they will seek you. And if a shadow animal has come into your life and you have been pushing it away or ignoring it out of fear, challenge yourself to do the opposite. I now periodically recognize wasp spirit, I call it in during ceremony or meditation, and I thank it for being a guide through the dark. It helps remind me of the importance of honoring my shadows and supports me in finding the light in the dark. And it indeed has left me feeling stronger.
If you're aware of a shadow animal or have had an experience with one comment below, I'd love to hear about it.
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