Pagan Studies - Sociology & Psychology of Religion

The Shadow Knows

Judy Harrow
Mind and Magic

The Shadow Knows
by Judy Harrow


I had trouble writing this essay. It seems overwhelmingly difficult to think or write about the Shadow, even in a theoretical mode. How much more difficult must it be, then, to actually encounter our own personal shadows, the challenges (or challengers) that await us at various points in our inner journeys?

Yet, if we do not engage with and resolve those challenges, we cannot progress. Consider Inanna, Who had to pass seven gates, and meet seven challenges, before She could confront Her own dark sister in the Underworld.

Our Shadows are terrifying aspects, yet integral part of us. We can make them disappear — temporarily — by staying out of the light, by immersing ourselves in shadow. This may be what happens when the autonomous, responsible individual disappears into a flock, finding some sense of righteousness in uncritical obedience to authority or adherence to group norms. At worst, such flocks turn into violent mobs: crusaders, jihadists, lynching parties.

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Connection and Causation

head_Isaac-BonewitsDualism is nonsense — and incompatible with magic.

As I mentioned in the last column, the idea that magic and the “real” (physical) world are incompatible is rooted in Western Dualism. The belief that spiritual/ magical/ artistic matters and physical/ fleshly/ worldly ones are so distinct from one another as to have nothing in common is nonsense, but has nonetheless been the dominant paradigm for over 2,500 years. Zoroaster started it, Gnosticism (which was essentially the pre- and early-Christian “new age” movement), Christianity, and Islam continued it; and it then infected Judaism, and the modern philosophy of Scientistic Materialism is perhaps its ultimate triumph. Through the lens of dualism, the “debunking” of all things paradigm-challenging continues to this very day.

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