Using Society’s Fear to Your Advantage

So, I’m not naïve enough to think that a little blog like mine is going to make a big difference in changing the general consensus out there regarding how my faith is perceived. No matter how much time or effort I put into correcting the tons of misinformation out there, the fact remains that most people aren’t interested in listening to what the more boring, normal members of a faith have to say—they’re too busy watching the few idiots who go around murdering people and spewing hatred and violence in the name of a faith they clearly have no understanding of, much less hold a claim to. But I keep it up because it’s part of my Work, and because the optimistic side of me wants to think that it does make a difference, no matter how small.

But as much as I would love to be able to be more open about my faith without fear of backlash and bigotry, I have to admit that there are some upsides to being misrepresented too. Just as doubt and skepticism have their uses, so too does popular opinion. Playing the victim all the time isn’t going to get you very far, and if people aren’t going to listen to you anyways, might as well use it to one’s own advantage.

You know all those pagans bitching about how the pentagram was originally a sign of protection when shown ‘right-side up’?

Oh hon, it still is.

I recently read a thread on a Luciferian forum about a young woman who wears an inverted pentagram necklace when commuting by herself because, get this, the local gang members are terrified of it and what they think it represents. Forget the pepper spray and taser gun, this tiny little necklace sends muggers and rapists running the other way, in the fear that the ‘evil devil-worshipper’ will sacrifice them. It doesn’t matter that this woman probably has never killed a person, nor sacrificed anything to any spirit or god, nor has demon minions at her beck and call—her attackers see that symbol and imagine the worst, with themselves as the potential victims. They are forced to think twice about even looking at her the wrong way.

I’ve got major respect for this woman for willing to put up with the crap she undoubtedly receives from those that vilify anything remotely ‘dark’, and using that societal fear and misrepresentation to her advantage.

 You know what? I’d take that kind of protection over proper media representation any day.

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Shadow Work

To be honest, I never even knew this was an actual ‘thing’. I didn’t have a name for it, I just knew it was what my workings with Lu largely consisted of.  But apparently a lot of other people have gone through it and call it Shadow Work, based off of Jung’s Schattenarbeit (psychological shadow work), which fits rather nicely I think.

Others have noted that it isn’t really talked about within the pagan community—sure, there’ll be mentions about its importance here and there, but there are no guidelines or helpful tips on how to go about it. And that’s because Shadow Work practices are unique to each person’s needs. It’s an introspective practice that deals with our inner selves, so it wouldn’t make much sense for another person to tell someone how to go about it.

Shadow Work is a self-built process—it is ultimately up to us what we want to confront and what we’re willing to risk. That being said, this isn’t going to be a how-to guide. It’s only an overview of the broad expanse of Shadow Work as I have come to know it.

For some, Shadow Work may consist of confronting one’s own inner demons. Facing one’s fears is usually a crucial step in this practice. This can be potentially dangerous, not to mention traumatizing. Even our mental fears can have scarring effects. Others must make peace with the darker parts of themselves, their shame and regrets. Already, you can probably see why many would not be willing to share their own experiences with Shadow Work, due to the intensely personal nature of such work. Shadow Work tests limits, and seeks to break them.

You know those ‘difficult questions’ I always talk about? The ones that rip holes in the fabric of our spirituality, or that make us doubt that which we love and hold on to for support? Those are a part of Shadow Work too. The answers may not always be pretty, may not be what we want to hear, but it’s what we need to hear. Each one of those questions has the potential to tear apart the vision of reality we have built for ourselves, the ‘truth’ we cling to like a security blanket. We have the option of letting those questions haunt us or facing up to them. And on the occasion that they cause our truths to crumble around us, we have the choice of leaving it in ruins or attempting to rebuild it.

But it isn’t about morphing our fears into something more acceptable, or sugarcoating our flaws. It’s about owning up to them. Sometimes, we can even use them to our advantage. And it’s not always about overcoming or getting rid of our fears—sometimes a healthy dose of fear can be a good thing.

The end goal is not about defeating your shadow self. Those shadows are essential for spiritual growth. They are as much a part of our world as the more pleasant aspects. Instead, it’s about learning how to deal with them, living in a controlled sort of flux with our shadows. A balance, if you will. Comfort and security are nice, but fear keeps us sharp and aware. It is not a balance between ‘good’ and ‘evil’, or ‘light’ and ‘dark’.

And as you can imagine, not everyone reaches the end of some phase of their Shadow Work. Some might give up halfway, and it’s important to note that this is NOT a sign of weakness or failure. There are very real reasons as to why we fear things, why we hide away from some parts of our shadow selves, and sometimes the cons outweigh the pros in such situations. Emerging from the entirety of a phase of Shadow Work does not always equate with emerging a happier, stronger person. It isn’t a battle to be fought, with only two outcomes. If anything, it’s about how much you’re willing to ‘connect’ with the shadow. How much can you accept as a part of yourself, as a part of your reality?

I’ve heard the theory that we as humans cannot possibly hope to contain the amount of energy/knowledge/power/whatever that deities are capable of, because we would break under the sheer force or pressure. I see Shadow Work as being similar to that concept. Not everyone can delve as deeply into their shadow for fear of losing themselves or their sanity. There are very real consequences of Shadow Work that affect our mental and physical states, a common one being severe depression and/or suicidal thoughts.  

So how do we know when to stop or keep going when it comes to Shadow Work? We don’t. But personally, if I feel that something is not worth the effort or I’m in serious danger of losing everything I’ve achieved thus far, I would stop. Sometimes we have to recognize when it’s prudent to cut our losses and move on to something else.

I don’t know how others reconcile Shadow Work with their respective deities, but for me, Shadow Work is mostly solitary. Lucifer oversees my progress, but he doesn’t play an active part in it.  He does not ‘guide’ me in any way that might influence the end result. He has only once been an active participant in my Shadow Work, but that was because I was dealing with my Christianized fear of Him at the time. But even then, it was almost as though he was trying to dissuade me from making the choice I thought he wanted me to make. But mostly, he only initiates phases of my work by presenting me with questions or situations, and then leaves me to flail and deal with the consequences on my own. Then again, that’s just the type of mentor he is.