is a Shadow Energy?
shadow energy (more familiarly known as 'totem') is an animal
that challenges us somehow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
common shadow energies:
- Raven / Crow
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.
yourself the question:
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
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:
kind of 'animal' is it?
does it look like?
does it act?
does it move?
it hurt me?
I fear / hate it as much as other animals that can hurt me more
or in the same way?
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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
of the Prey Mentality and Adaptation
- 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).
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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
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.
animals to consider working with to specifically aspect alertness:
horse, donkey, giraffe, elephant, sheep, kangaroo, cow and goat.
- 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
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.
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.
to consider working with to specifically aspect defensive mechanisms:
almost all deer, antelope, rock wallaby, rabbit, bat, sparrow
/ swallow, butterfly, dragonfly and mouse.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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).
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.
to consider connecting with for immediacy are: most species
of hoofed animal like horse and deer, bat, mouse, insects (like
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.