Shadow work is a boiling of the bones… it is taking all of the scraps, everything labeled as “waste,” everything that would be banished and thrown in the trash, and turning it into to medicine. The real chicken soup for the soul isn’t warm fuzzy stories with happy fucking endings. It is making medicine from the poison. It is transmuting that which has made us sick into that which nourishes our strength. This transformative alchemical process is otherwise known as “healing.”
Shadow work calls for going into the darkness to have a meeting with our Self. There is a reason why are afraid of THE DARK… it is where our deepest fears, most disgusting perversions, and festering wounds live, but it is also where the best magic is made! That is because when we go into the darkness, we journey into the deep realm of our subconscious. And guess what?! Our subconscious is running the show… our show, from behind the scenes. When we choose to journey into the darkness, we are not on a quest to slay our shadow as a knight in shining armor would slay a dragon… NO! We are on a mission of profound peace so we can reconcile with all of those dark parts of ourselves that we have labeled as “forbidden.” This is a reclaiming mission that comes with a WARNING: this journey is not for the faint of heart or fragile mind. It is an inner journey that will take great courage but will yield life-changing, transformative results if we are willing to be honest with our Self. Embarking upon this journey requires leaving the judgment behind. We cannot reconcile with scrutiny! We must be willing to accept ALL that we uncover. AND we must make sure that we are truly READY for this journey before we embark upon it!
There is a reason these “things” lurk deep in the shadows of our subconscious… they have been banished to the realm of darkness on purpose whether we are aware of it or not. Their intention is to stay out of sight as a method of survival, and they are damn good at it. They have adapted to thrive in the darkness and will wreck havoc behind the scenes in our life if left to their own devices for too long.
Shadow work calls for bearing witness to our darkest desires that have manifested our most traumatic life events. Why would we want to look at, sit with, and make peace with the “things” of our nightmares? Why would we want to befriend our most painful life experiences? Why would we want to take ownership of the pain + suffering in our life? WHY??????
Because our wounds are here to teach us how grow into ourselves more fully; ALL OF OUR SELF, especially the shadowy parts. Where we hurt the most we have the most room to grow into. By being willing to look at what does not want to be seen can bring about life-changing revelations. It is how we shed light on how to move forward in a more WHOLE-istic way of living, shadow included. It is how we make medicine of the poison. It is how we transmute our deepest pains into our greatest strengths. Sitting in the darkness without judgment allows us to understand how on a deep “dark” subconscious level we called in our traumatic experiences to teach us our most valuable life lessons. We can understand how our traumas are catalysts for our soul’s evolution. Through this transformative alchemical process, called “healing,” we can learn how to hold both polarities of the darkness + the light with equal reverence, bringing us back into wholeness.
To understand what happens when we “heal,” we must first understand what has made us “sick” in the first place. Whether we are talking about an actual illness, injury, mental health issue, self-destructive behavior, abusive relationship, etc. we must understand that on a fundamental level, we invited this experience into our reality through our subconscious. It is not the shadow itself that makes us “sick”; it is our denial of our shadow’s very existence that creates the poison. By fragmenting and labeling our self into parts “good” + “bad,” we must accept responsibility for poisoning ourselves. This is a hard pill to swallow but this is the “healing” path that leads to wholeness.
Once you’ve uncovered your shadow, you will find that your shadow gets hungry, and you absolutely should feed it. Not so that you can create more poison or give your shadow more power, but so that you can nurture and give expression to your shadow in a healthy way. The most exciting part about learning how to integrate your shadow is learning how to make magic with it. This is when we can begin collaborating with our inner darkness to co-create an intentional way of living to our highest benefit. However, it is up to you to choose whether to continue on the poisoned path of denial or forge a new way.
Enter Ritual Magic: a dialogue with the darkness.
Your subconscious is responsible for the majority of your life experiences. It governs your patterns of behavior, repetitive thoughts, and will express itself continuously until made conscious. Your subconscious is in constant communication with you through signs and symbols. The imagery in your dreams is often one of the ways that your subconscious is trying to communicate with you. Dream interpretations have many insights to offer, but often the language can feel quite cryptic, and we can feel lost in translation. Everything is a metaphor in the language of the subconscious so we must learn how to speak in a way that our subconscious mind can understand. When we do ritual magic, we work with the cycles of nature, assign symbolic meaning to objects, and perform intentional actions to get our message across. Once our message has penetrated the fabric of the subconscious realm, our subconscious does all of the heaving lifting for us. It is in the womb of darkness that the miracle of creation is birthed. Be hold, MANIFESTATION!
The ritual described below is just the beginning of making peace with your shadow so that you can open a dialogue with your subconscious mind. It is an introduction, if you will. Once an alliance has been formed, ritual magic is where the co-creation between our inner darkness + light can begin!
***We cannot manifest our heart’s desire into our reality until we have integrated our shadow. If we don’t make a peace offering, our shadow will continue to sabotage us. Remember, our shadow is not an enemy. It is a teacher + an ally if we are willing to reconcile. Magic + manifestation requires us to hold BOTH POLARITIES OF DARKNESS + LIGHT with equal reverence in order for what we want to manifest TO TAKE SHAPE! Think about trying to make a drawing with only one shade…. Hint: You wouldn’t be able to see it.***
RITUAL: BOILING THE BONES
This ritual is a medicine making rendez-vous with your shadow.
On the night of a Full Moon, cook a chicken (with bones). As you eat the chicken, save all of the bones, cartilage and any raw veggie scraps from any other meals in a container in the freezer. Collect as many bones + scraps as you can. (If you're vegan or vegetarian, just skip the chicken).
For this ritual, you will need:
- A candle
- A cauldron (or a big soup pot with a lid)
- A bathtub (a human cauldron)
- A water bottle (NOT GLASS)
- All of the bones + scraps you collected
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2-3 towels
- Epsom salt (optional, but a great addition)
- Journal/book of shadows
Half way between the Full Moon + New Moon, journey into the darkness.
Turn off your phone. Request your roommates + family members not to disturb you at this time. If you can be home alone for this process, even better!
Put all of your bones + veggie scraps into your cauldron. I like to fill almost my entire pot. Then fill the rest of the pot with filtered water. Spring water is even better if you have access to it. Add a dash of apple cider vinegar to the pot to help extract the minerals from the bones and break down the collagen in the cartilage. Bone broth is incredibly beneficial for your hair, skin, joints, immune system and digestive tract! Bring the pot to a simmering boil with the lid on, and leave the pot on the burner for 24 hours. Check on your cauldron and stir periodically. Remember that you are making medicineso go into this process with love, gratitude, and intention. Speak your intentions out loud, and call upon your spirit guides to assist + protect you in this process.
As the pot is simmering on the stove, draw a really hot bath. Add 2-3 cups of Epsom salt (if you have it). Light a candle and place it next to the bathtub. Put it in a spot where it is not in danger of being knocked over. Place your water bottle next to the tub as well. Make sure it is within reach when you are soaking in the tub. DO NOT use glass. You will be in the dark and you do not want to risk having broken glass in the tub. Close the curtains, and turn off the lights. Put a towel under the door to block any light (the darker the better! Pitch black is best). Put another towel or a rug on the floor next to the bathtub. Get into the bath and blow out the candle.
And sit… in the total darkness…
For as long as you can…. See what comes up, and sit with it. Yes, this is intense… Trust that what comes up is surfacing to be healed. Offer this dark part of yourself your love + gratitude.
When you are ready to get out of the tub, be very careful. You may feel overheated so do not stand up. I found it very helpful to crawl out of the tub using my arms and legs. Remember that you are doing this to meet your shadow and become one with the darkness, so if you feel like a wet, messy, slimy, creepy, crawly “thing” getting out of the tub, THAT’S GREAT! OWN IT!!!
***The most important thing is to be careful getting out of the tub so you don’t fall or hurt yourself… prepare for your exit BEFORE YOU BLOW OUT YOUR CANDLE to insure your safety! Remove any glass, electronics or any other potential harmful objects AWAY FROM THE TUB!***
I repeated this process 3 times, lying on the bathroom rug in between. Just see what comes up. If you need to cry, go for it. Whatever comes up, accept it; ALL OF IT! Do not judge it… judgment is what got you here in the first place, remember??? As you sit in the darkness, your other senses will expand. You may feel your third eye activate. Trust that what is coming up to the surface is ready to be healed.
When you feel you’ve given your bones a good boil and are ready for the ceremony to end, do so gently. You’ve just opened yourself up pretty damn wide. Move slowly and consciously so you can integrate what the fuck just happened. Slowly reintroduce yourself to the light. You can relight your candle, use a night-light, flashlight, turn on your phone, etc. Wrap yourself up in your towel and give yourself a hug for loving yourself enough to do something pretty damn scary! This is a good time to journal and take notes of anything that came up for you.
Don’t forget to check on your cauldron! Continue to stir periodically as the bones + scraps cook down. As you stir the pot, remember your intention. After 24 hours, turn off the heat and allow your broth to cool. Strain out the bones + scraps from the liquid and store in the fridge. Thank your spirit guides for their presence during this ritual.