This time of the year always invokes certain emotions, memories, feelings within people, and while they are not all the same, they are all powerful in themselves.  The autumn solstice, for many people (at least in the northern hemisphere), marks the beginning of the time of darkness.  Days are shorter, nights are longer, the weather becomes cooler, and some people begin the next countdown to summer.  In mythology, the autumn solstice marks the decent of Persephone into the underworld, where she will spend the next 6 months in the darkness, and the subsequent mourning of her mother Demeter until her return to the earth in the spring.  In some belief systems, October is the month when the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest, allowing spirits to cross over into our world with greater ease.  For me however — I always love this month, as it signals the start of my favorite time of the year.  Homecoming.  Halloween.  Pumpkin EVERYTHING (yes, I am one of those people).  The coming of winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas….for me, this is when I really feel like I begin to come alive.  Ironically, New Years always seems to mark the end of the celebration, rather than the beginning.  Not that it brings doom and gloom and negativity for the next 8-9 months, but that after the first, things begin to wind down.  I find myself falling back into routine and habituation, doing things without really feeling much about them one way or the other.  This is not the only time of the year I feel “alive,” nor am I trying to say that I find no joy, enjoyment, or pleasure in anything starting January 2.  I get sparks of energy, creativity, passion throughout the year, sometimes lasting for days and weeks, but overall, January has marked the beginning of my descent.  This year, however, may be different.

Tonight brings a new moon, one of the darkest of the year.  It also, for me personally, marks the first week in this SouLodge session of working with the Shadow self.  The archetype of the Shadow self is that part of us that we hide away, ignore, try to pretend doesn’t exist.  I think that everyone can relate to this on some level, however you want to define it.  The problem with the Shadow, though, is that it doesn’t want to be hidden — it wants its own freedom to be expressed.  And the more we try to suppress it, the more pain and anguish we bring upon ourselves.  The Shadow self isn’t bad — it isn’t the “evil” side of us, the side that would destroy the world if allowed to run rampant.  Rather, it is the side of us that harbors our pain, our feelings of guilt or anger, the darker sadder emotions that we carry.  In other words, the Shadow is what we hide when we try to pretend that everything is okay — the side that is hidden by the mask of perfection.

Someone made a comment that began to provoke some of my own thoughts.  It brought up the truth that, at the end of the day, the last person we give any love or compassion to is ourselves.  We overwork ourselves, say “yes” to everything, avoid free time, all to avoid the accusations that we are “selfish,” “lazy,” or even “worthless.”  We overextend ourselves to prove that we are valuable, that we have worth, that we are not just wasting oxygen that should be reserved for the “more productive” members of society.*  At the end of the day, we give everything we have to others, leaving nothing for ourselves, running ourselves to exhaustion, not because we have an abundance to give away, but because the minute we attempt to fill ourselves up we face judgment and criticism.  While I think every person experiences this to some degree, I do believe that a majority of the burden is placed on women — we are supposed to be the “caretakers” of the world, so we are expected to take care of everyone else first, think of ourselves last, and then we are told whatever is left over can be used for ourselves, all the while being expected to have nothing left (because giving less than all we have is selfish). As a result, the feelings of exhaustion, depression, loneliness, guilt, anger, frustration, all continue to build and build, just to be suppressed into the shadow realms for fear of appearing weak.  And the more we shove into our shadows, the greater our burden becomes.

This year, this time of the year is marking my confrontation with my own Shadow self.  All of the work I have done this past year has begun to prepare me for this work.  It won’t be easy, nor will it necessarily be “fun,” but it is necessary.  I know all to well the dangers of suppressing the Shadow to the breaking point.  I don’t know that I’m prepared for what I will find, what I will be asked to deal with, what will come into view.  All I know is that it must be confronted, addressed, and acknowledged.

Just in time for the darkest night of the year.


*This point was also addressed in the book Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.