Shadow Energies - Prey Animal Aspecting

by Wildspeak

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:

- Ant
- Flea
- Bee
- Wasp
- Mosquito
- Fly
- Tick
- Spider
- Snake
- Horse
- Raven / Crow
- Wolf
- Hyena
- Cuckoo

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 they're ugly?

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 fear:

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?

Powerful Medicine

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, or ignore.

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 animals) 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 process.

Of course the process might also be very fast! You might have a lightning bolt of realisation and suddenly go 'yes! I do hate that about myself, and 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.

Prey energy is everywhere. Almost all animals have adaptations that they have assimilated that assist them as 'prey' animals, even as they have adaptations that help them to predate on plants or other animals. There is no one animal that is solely a 'prey' animal, or solely a 'predator.' All animals are at risk of being predated upon (some much more than others) and all animals are predators to a degree, whether they hunt 'grass' or 'algae,' or catch and kill deer for breakfast. The same goes for humans!

Through my own observations of the online and offline pagan communities today; many people seem to have totems or guides that are carnivorous or omnivorous. Herbivorous animals tend to be left by the wayside, with a few exceptions like horse, rabbit and deer. Herbivorous animals are even outright disdained for being the weaker animals. This potentially originated from a time when animal predator energy was respected as being the stronger and more necessary energy among hunters in hunter / gatherer societies. It's certainly been bolstered by the belief these days that many predatorial animals (particularly apex or 'top' predators like tigers) are charismatic and cool. And who can blame them? There's a certain showiness to having lynx as a totem, instead of harvest mouse or sparrow.

Aspecting with animals that are more classically thought of as 'prey' animals (such as most herbivores) can help us to understand how we can better protect ourselves from danger and predators. It can help us to conserve energy and live efficiently, and can also help us not to underestimate animals that are often thought of as 'prey.' It allows us to access deep wells of power, endurance and persistence which can complement 'predator' aspects and aid us - I believe - in achieving a greater sense of wholeness or balance.

Aspects of the Prey Mentality and Adaptation

CAMOUFLAGE - Developing colouring or patterning that is bland and matches in with the landscape is a successful defense mechanism that can be used to prevent any confrontation (it is also, on the other hand, employed by some predators to aid their ability to move closer to an animal).

From a prey perspective, avoiding confrontation conserves energy and in turn helps us to better observe our surroundings without being observed. We can use such techniques while journeying in order to move more freely in some parts of the Otherworld, and often we become better able to spot those who use camouflage once we ourselves have tried it.

Likewise, camouflage can also be used to further enable our ability to façade in the everyday, or perform the sort of mundane shapeshifting that allows us to fit in with different groups of people in order to best afford conflict that is unhealthy or unhelpful without sacrificing the parts of our personality that we wish to keep. In other words, we can learn how to change ourselves to 'fit in' better, without becoming a doormat, or losing a sense of who we are.

Animals to consider working with to specifically aspect camouflage: pronghorn antelope, ibex, chameleon (as both prey and predator), arctic hare, tawny frogmouth, Malaysian horned frog (and many other frogs and toads as both prey / predator), sloth, flounder, kangaroo, meerkat, many caterpillars / fish.

ALERTNESS - Most prey animals cannot afford to sleep as much as many keystone or apex predators, and predators in general. Animals that tend to sleep the most, are those which hunt meat and need to feed less often, or that are at less risk of being predated upon. The animals that sleep the least; like the horse, do so because they must protect themselves and their herd from other horses and predators.

Remaining alert is the act of continuously and consistently giving something your attention. It can be very handy for people who have projects to complete, those who have exams they wish to study for with consistency, and those who wish to simply foster a greater sense of 'awakeness' into their lives (remember to balance this with rest, because we're not horses). In short bursts, aspecting with prey alertness can allow us to scan situations with greater perception, and apply ourselves with greater concentration to immediate projects.

Working specifically with animal alertness can also help us to distinguish the difference between useless anxiety, and useful 'stress' or awakeness. This can be very handful in contemporary times, where instances of anxiety and those with anxiety disorders are growing. Learning to differentiate between healthy stress; and worry that impedes us from everyday tasks can make the difference between health and ill-health.

Some animals to consider working with to specifically aspect alertness: horse, donkey, giraffe, elephant, sheep, kangaroo, cow and goat.

DEFENSE vs. OFFENSE - Many animals when acting as prey, are very fast movers, and adept at running or dodging, or they use camouflage and simply 'avoid' confrontation. Aspecting with defensive strategy, instead of offensive strategy, can allow us to better conserve our energy and teach us to see when it is beneficial to step back from confrontation.

In everyday life, this can be made manifest in the act of withdrawing from a situation before a confrontation can even take place. It can appear in having the sense to not walk down a dark alleyway, or in simply avoiding people who feel dangerous.

While confrontation is certainly necessary at some points in our life, it is not always necessary. Aspecting with prey animals to learn when to avoid, walk away or recognise when something is not worth your time, will enable you to conserve energy for healthier or more realistic goals.

Animals to consider working with to specifically aspect defensive mechanisms: almost all deer, antelope, rock wallaby, rabbit, bat, sparrow / swallow, butterfly, dragonfly and mouse.

GROW UP - Some newborn prey animals are precocial, meaning that they're able to walk and run within the first few hours of being born. This is important, because they are most at risk (along with the sick and old) of being predated upon.

Precocial behaviour teaches us how to learn something quickly, particularly if an old habit or negative behaviour is literally causing us to be predated upon by ourself (such as our own self-hatred), or by others.

One thing to beware of when aspecting with precocial animals, is that this sort of aspecting should not be done over the long-term as it can be very draining. It is most useful when there is a particular block that you are up against and cannot seem to get past. It is not for learning lessons over a period of time. Aspecting with precocial behaviour can lead to a burn out of energy. Try it in small doses if you're not sure how you'll go with this sort of prey aspecting, you should notice some success within about a day or so of aspecting with this specific type energy if it is working well.

Animals to consider aspecting with for precocial qualities are: many birds are precocial, like malleefowl (which are superprecocial, and have full wing feathers upon birth), scrubfowl, brush-turkey, chicken, guinea pig, hare and many hoofed animals.

IMMEDIACY - Prey animals must react on instinct immediately (as must predators, but we're talking from a prey perspective here); they cannot afford to question a fear or startle response. Worse, they can definitely not afford to ignore it. Responding with immediacy can be the difference between getting away from a pride of lions, or becoming their dinner.

Working with prey animal immediacy can teach us not to 'hum' and 'hah' over important decisions; particularly ones pertaining to our health and our quality of life. It can be very scary to make important but necessary medical decisions, or decisions regarding promotions at work, or even decisions within a relationship (whether to cut it off, have a break, or keep going at it).

Aspecting with immediacy teaches one how to see through to the heart of the matter and trust one's instincts. This sort of aspecting is particularly helpful for people who have damaged instincts due to abuse, who need to learn how to reconnect with their own inner trust and truths.

Animals to consider connecting with for immediacy are: most species of hoofed animal like horse and deer, bat, mouse, insects (like fly),

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS - The most popular prey animals, and many of the most successful (like the rabbit) live communally.. I don't think it is any coincidence that some of the bigger 'prey' animals that live in numbers, like the elephant and cape buffalo, are considered some of the most dangerous animals in the wild; and the bison is sometimes considered more dangerous than the wolf in America. When you have the strength of your herd or pack behind you, you become a force to be reckoned with!

There is of course the idea that if you surround yourself by others, you are less likely to be 'singled out.' Some people like being singled out, or standing out in a crowd, but just as many people don't enjoy this sort of attention and prefer to blend in. Prey aspecting with communal animals can help you to 'blend in' more effectively while you are still figuring out where you stand in the crowd.

Additionally, when you surround yourself by others in a community, you lend your strength to them, but they also lend their strength to you. It can be a very empowering experience to be in an offline or online community of people who have similar beliefs to yours, who will help you and protect you in a heartbeat. Likewise protecting someone else with a similar cause to yours can remind us of our inter-relationships with others and how important they are.

Animals to aspect with for a strong sense of community are: elephant, cape buffalo, bison, hippopotamus, horse, many hooved animals like deer, rabbit, hare, kangaroo, wallaby, parrots like the galah, black cockatoo, budgerigah and lorikeet, insects like the bee and ant.

In Conclusion

This is just a peek into the ways that you can consider working with 'prey' animals, or prey animal characteristics, in order to better your own connection with nature, others, and yourself. As you work more extensively with animals that you may think of as prey animals, you will see that they carry very strong characteristics of predation as well.

No animal exists solely in the realm of prey or predator; but sometimes singling our characteristics of prey-type adaptations, and predation-based ones can help you to aspect with those characteristics and develop closer relationships to animals with such characteristics.