Shadow Aspects & Tarot
Part III – The Light
The third part of shadow aspect work involves balancing the shadow aspect we have been working with by cultivating its corresponding light aspect – this process follows the same pathway as the previous work focusing on our shadow – having completed that, we are in good form to bring about our light and make it shine for all the world to see!
Choosing your Light Aspect:
Once again, we are going to consciously choose the light aspect we would like cultivate in order to bring balance to our shadow aspect. As my shadow aspect work focused on understanding the self-doubt I was experiencing in terms of my creative work, the trait of self-confidence was an easy choice in terms of choosing which light aspect to work with. Not all light aspects are going to be as blatantly obvious, so it may take some exploration and creative thinking to determine how best to define the personal power you wish to embody. Ensuring that the chosen light aspect is clear and specific is the most important first step on this stage of the journey.
Setting up a Timeline & Goals:
Light aspect work as outlined here takes some concentrated energy – you will want to set aside space to attend to it undisturbed. My process involves an initial 5-card tarot spread addressing a chosen light aspect, after which each card is then the focus of a pathway meditation. I meditate with each card twice, so if you plan to do the same, you will need 11 days total at a bare minimum to do the spread and the 5×2 pathway meditations. My advice is to pad this schedule out by an extra 5 days, as the demands of everyday life or situational changes may mean you don’t have time or feel up to the work on a particular day.
For those of us who practice Witchy Ways, a 15 day timeline allows us to work with the phases of the moon. Pulling the spread on the New Moon and then working with our shadow aspects as the moon waxes and finalizing it on the Full Moon will assist in the goal of building the positive effect this light aspect will have on our lives.
Whether choosing to work with the moon over the full 15 days, arranging your schedule to meditate daily so that it only takes 11 days, or opting to meditate with the cards only once so as to compress the process into 6 days, the important thing is to see the work through to it’s end – to just pull the spread and not participate in the meditations is unlikely to give as profound results as seeing the process through to it’s completion.
It is equally important to have a clear idea of the goal you are looking to achieve, and to state that goal precisely – in my case, it was understanding and thereby developing self-confidence in relation to my creative work. That little bit at the end of “in relation to my creative work” makes all the difference to my goal statement – make sure you are aiming your energy exactly where its effect is desired!
Ready to dust off that inner light and let it shine for all the world to see? Make sure that you can CLEARLY state your goal, get your cards, do whatever it is you do to get into the right space for working with them, and then pull the cards as positioned in the following spread:
Reading the Spread as a Whole
To illustrate this spread in-action, I am going to share my own personal reading from my recent light aspect work regarding developing self-confidence in relation to my creative work:
Card 1: What is the nature of this light aspect?
The Pole Star: The overall theme of this card is guidance, of having a steady compass point to navigate from, but there is also the theme of self-empowerment, and the seeker being at the end of a time of struggle. The nature of self-confidence *is* that empowerment and guidance which gives us the courage to shine like the goddamned supernova that we are! Interestingly, self-doubt is a shadow aspect of this card.
Card 2: What is my current relationship to this light aspect?
Four of Arrows – Frustration: Could this card be any more blunt? Yes, I am supremely frustrated that I would have a dearth of self-confidence in regards to my creative work. I am frustrated bc it doesn’t make sense to not be confident about it! When this card arises, I always ask who the seeker relates to most: the hunter or the hunted? In this case, I identify with the hunter, wasting my energy on a misdirected concept. It’s time to take myself in-hand, center and stabilize, and change my relationship to self-confidence to where I am consistently hitting my target.
Card 3: What is the work that must be done to develop this light aspect?
Nine of Bows – Respect: Ah, The Woodwose – we meet again! As I learned from our meditation together, I have a need to establish, defend, and enforce boundaries when it comes to my relationship with having a lack of confidence. Here he appears again to reinforce that concept and make sure it is an idea which is driven home.
Card 4: What is the quality I need to embody in order to develop this light aspect?
The Seer: Representative of insight gained by self-reflection, The Seer represents the ability to manifest inner work as external energy and power in the physical reality. This is the Emotional Alchemy of shadow aspect work – the positive application of the will resulting in an outward material effect. The Seer can see what is not readily apparent, and signals that it is time for me to bring that into my practical daily life to a profound effect. She is the maturity of inner work pushing outwards as manifestation.
Card 5: What is the outcome of undertaking this work?
10 of Arrows – Instruction: In terms of this spread, I read this card as reaching out to my “inner child” -aka- the immature part of myself that lacks confidence. I am going to become my own teacher at the same time as being a student. Successfully completing this spiritual work will grant me with skills that allow me to inspire and guide others towards such work, in “a rising tide lifts all boats” manner.
I have to admit that when I first laid this spread I was *ahem* lacking confidence, and a little disappointed by the last 2 cards in the spread. After completing my pathway meditations with these cards, I came to see them as the gifts that they are, and The Woodwose who is a repeat from my shadow aspect spread revealed yet another layer of his wisdom to me.
The Pathway Meditations
My advice is to allow the read from the spread to sink in for a day or two before undertaking these meditations. Once you feel that the information gleaned from the spread has been fully absorbed, it is time to work with each card individually.
The beauty of pathway meditations lies in the fact that no two people are going to experience the card the same way. Meditating with the cards as an immersive experience delivers a message that is exclusively attuned to the individual experiencing it. It is my suggestion that each card be meditated with twice in order to fully unlock these unique messages.
The basics of the pathway meditation are simple enough: place yourself in a quiet, comfortable space where you will not be disturbed. Candlelight or dim lighting is often suggested to assist with stepping away from the physical space we inhabit. Hold the card you are working with before you, and drink in all the visual details that are there on the card – when you can see the card clearly in your mind’s eye, close your eyes. You goal here is to bring this scene to life; to enter the scene as presented on the card. Ideally, you will see this world as three dimensional space, and observe different perspectives as you move about in the scene on the card. This skill does take some practice – if you find the visuals are not coming in clearly, focus again on the visual information as presented on the card, and then fully enter the scene and experience it as your reality. Feel the sun on your skin, or the breeze ruffling your hair. Listen for the sounds that would be present, try to smell the scents – the more real and immersive an experience you conjure up, the more you stand to gain from it.
If there is a character in the scene, feel free to interact with them. Approach them and engage them in conversation. Ask them a question, or simply allow them to speak to you of thier own accord. Observe what they are doing, how they fit into the environment they occupy, and how they react to your presence. Become aware of thier overall energy, and how that applies to the message of the card.
Rather than trying to direct the flow of this immersive experience, allow yourself to be swept away on a stream of consciousness. Do not feel pressure to log time in this space – some messages will become clear within minutes, while others may take repeated visits. When you break from the meditation, write out your experiences in that same free-flowing stream of consciousness to truly capture the essence of the meditation.
Pathway Meditations – a Personal Approach:
Applying the above techniques as a base, my personal approach to a pathway meditation involves a minimum of 2 meditation sessions with each card, allowing 24 hours of rest between each session. In the first, I enter the card as an observer. I interact with the scene and it’s inhabitants as my own self, and then allow that experience to rest with me before entering the card for a second time. On the second meditation, I enter the scene as the main figure on the card. I experience the sights, sounds, and surroundings as the embodiment of that character and thier particular energy. If the card has more than one figure, I rest for a day and then come back to experience the card while embodying the other character’s energy as well. Each immersive experience brings a new level of understanding, the results which can sometimes border on being shocking and/or emotionally charged.
As an example, I will share 2 of my pathway meditations here. Keep in mind that these cards were randomly drawn to address the light aspect of self-confidence, and the meditations focused on how the card related to the position it held in the spread. What is written here is stream of consciousness after emerging from the meditation:
1st meditation: I enter as the hunter, climbing up a rocky hill. I spot my prey on a cliff above me. I feel anxious anticipation as I draw out my bow and arrow, watching the ram as he prepares to leap. In a burst of energy, the ram leaps and I simultaneously release my arrow, which passes behind the ram, who leaps to safely and bounds away. In my desperation to hit my target, my actions became hurried and erratic instead of calm and calculated… Had I been self-confident rather than panicked, I would have seen that I had the option to slow down and compose my actions. Rather than acting out of desperation, I need to act out of assurance, and the belief that I am already successful.
2nd meditation: I enter as the goat, standing on a rocky outcropping eating grass. My sensitive ears pick up on a sound, and I swivel my head around to face that direction. I see a hunter climbing up towards me. As I stand chewing grass, the hunter gets into position, and prepares his bow. As he pulls the string tight and prepares to release his arrow, I leap into flight, easily dodging his arrows. I land neatly on a small outcropping of rock, look back, let out a “baaa!” and hop my way up and around the mountain, out of the hunter’s range. My natural strengths instincts, and abilities have ensured another day of survival.
My relationship to self-confidence is currently in development. I need to remember that it is slow and steady that wins the race, and that composure ensures precision and success. Like the goat, self-assurance can come from refusing to doubt my natural abilities and sense of timing. My artwork and animation is me doing what I do best, what comes naturally to me. There is no need to doubt myself when I am in my natural element.
1st meditation: I walk up to The Seer as she stands transfixed, gazing into her scrying bowl. She seems stern and serious, and I feel like I am interrupting her. She looks up and greets me silently with her eyes, and then invites me to stand beside her. She wraps her free arm around me, encouraging me to look into the waters of her bowl. A leaf falls in, ripples the water, and she scoops it out and places it gently on the rim of the bowl. She then stirs the water with her hand, and we watch as the ripples reflect and shimmer. I look and gaze into the bowl until long after the the water is mirror-smooth once again, but I do not see anything other than the bottom of the bowl, and the reflections on the surface. At long last, I turn to the Seer and ask her what it is I am supposed to be seeing – what does the scrying bowl say about self-confidence? She bursts into a manic energy, turns to face me, and gripping both my forearms in her strong hands, she smiles and says “Nothing. That you would be so bold as to question my method instead of simply accepting that you were supposed to see something is self-confidence itself!”
2nd meditation: I enter the body of The Seer, standing above my water bowl. I ripple the waters with my free hand, and gaze into thier bright reflections. I feel my gaze becoming more intent, and I feel myself lowering, and becoming closer to the water. Suddenly, I am a miniature version of myself, nude, and I am diving below the surface of the water. I swim down, down to where it is dark, and catch a gleam of something. It is a golden ring, and I grasp it to take it with me as I swim back to the surface of the water. Breaking the surface with the ring, I look up at my gargantuan self. I enter the body of The Seer, and the miniature version of me is no more. I place the ring on my finger, and look down into the bowl once more. It is a mirror-smooth reflection of myself.
“Seeing beyond the obvious” is how I often sum up this card, but in my meditations it became clear that the message The Seer held for me is “KNOW THYSELF” – she is asking me to know myself well enough that I may sidestep my own ego and gain access to being able to see myself as others see me – in terms of my artwork, this would be seeing my success rather than the areas where I made mistakes or could have done better – it is the gift of being able to see myself outside of myself.
The above details just two of five 2-session pathway meditations I performed with each card from my Shadow Aspect Spread reading. As can be seen, the messages received from the cards while immersed in thier scenes can be surprising in thier depth, and emotionally moving. The old chestnut of “expecting the unexpected” certainly applies here, yet for those willing to hone thier skills of visualization and explore the journey that a pathway meditation can take one on, even expecting the unexpected may fall short!
Bringing It All Together…
The Speak of Secrets process of working with the shadow and light aspects is purposefully mirrored as a means towards understanding both halves of ourselves. Uncovering our shadow aspect selves and addressing them with loving kindness rather than fear facilitates the process to enter a healing and unifying state, which to me, is one of the best uses of working with the tarot! This method can be effectively applied anytime you feel the need to investigate the root cause of an action or response you do not fully understand within yourself. Working with the support of the lunar cycles can be a great assist, but even for those who do not follow a path of Witchy Ways, commemorating the conclusion of this work with some form of ritual, celebration, or simple recognition is well deserved!
It is my hope that these exercises and methods will serve you well on your journey to self-empowerment! I welcome you to adjust or add to the process as you see fit, and I thank everyone who has thus far shared thier experience of working with these methods as outlined. If you have been inspired by this work and care to leave feedback, it is always most welcome and appreciated.
Love your shadow, love your light, and love yourselves!