Ain’t Nobody’s Angel: Alabama Shadow Work

My husband and both my sons camping in Alabama. With staffs.

I am an old woman
Named after my mother,
My old man is another
Child that’s grown old.
If dreams were lightning
And thunder were desire
This old house would have burnt down
A long time ago.

Angel From Montgomery, John Prine

A few months ago, a very unhappy and angry soul declared that I was in dire need of a lot of “shadow-work.”  Now, I’m not about to attempt to define this for all readers–mostly on account of everything is subject to interpretation.  However, I do lean a little this way:

The goal of Shadow work is to integrate the dark side of ourselves; the side we have attempted to hide or run from; and the side we are not aware of. Shadow work cannot be accomplished with a single method or trick of mind. It is a complex ongoing process calling for great commitment, vigilance and honesty. Owning our shadow involves a deepening and widening of consciousness to include what has been rejected. Shadow work involves an ongoing process of taking another point of view to respond to life with our undeveloped traits and our instinctual sides. It involves shining the light of consciousness into our dark corners and owing [sic] what we find there as our own. To live the “tension of the opposites” – holding both good and evil, right and wrong, light and dark, in our own hearts.[1]

I have so very much to chew on here that I cannot decide between the ear or the hoof.  Thereby, I shall take my sweet, Southern time.

I knew a couple ’round about twenty years ago who were going through enough crisis to cause the squirrels to take out running from their yard once per day.  The hubby, Mr. Green, decided that Mrs. Green was just touched in the head and needed a bit of therapy . . . head-shrinkin,’ I think he called it.  He was just plum certain that Doc would clear up “her” issues, make her act right and screw him more often.  Mr. Green hollered on about this little revelation until his missus caved, threw on her good shoes and went into town.  As self-righteous as our hero felt at the time, I reckon he’s still wiping egg off his face, out his ears and ain’t sticking his nose quite that far up his ass again.  You see, turns out, Mrs. Green proceeded to do a little self-investigation, got real honest with herself, weighed it all, wailed a bit and divorced Mr. Green.  Doc wrote the letter that garnered her alimony and today all is well.  She’s about ten pounds heavier and crazy in love.  Fat and happy.  Amen.

Turns out, Mr. Green was right.  She needed a little “shadow work” and . . . don’t ya’ love it?  Guess what was in the shadows???

Tickles me pink to think of him, drunk and scratching his juicy fruit on a front porch in Hollywood, Alabama all wtf happened?

And, when I got that little email back when, it actually sunk in:  looks like I actually need a little work done, after all.  Be careful what you wish for, y’all.  You just might get it.

I had spent most of my adult life whoopin’ my own arse for my childhood, berating myself for “sins” that had led me down gnarly paths, upbraiding myself for being selfish and variously making myself a martyr to my past.  Turns out, I had only checked out my own tired shadow–and then it hit me that day staring at the rude email.

I had forgotten to look at the shadows, slipping round the corners and dust bunnies of my soul, that others were casting. [2]

I Wake Up Screaming, 1941. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

Wait, what the . . .

I don’t wear a friggin hat!  I’ll be damned.  Well, maybe a feather or two . . .

I think my favorite part is the whole shadow work insistence to “call it our own.”  Hmmmm.  I see.  Then: I’ve let this and that shadow take up residence.  It’s my fault.  Mine.  Aha.  Well . . . that means, if it’s truly mine, that I’m just the one to choke it out:  I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.

And while I realize that the email in question was sent as a manipulative ploy to draw me into submission, turns out it was just the medicine my body craved.  Can’t thank the writer enough.  Here’s what I discovered lurking about in the shadows:

1.  I am very, very Native American and a little Celt in my craftlife.

2.  I’m not down with gift-giving that demands either: a) my refusal of said gift (a horrible offense and often punishable) or b) a gift in kind (to which the refusal is also punishable?).  Chaps my ass when folk misuse Native history by claiming that this was the system of trade.  Naw.  There was the trade/barter system.  And then there were outright gifts.  You know.  When you just love some soul and want them to have something out of that love.  It’s a might difficult to enjoy and receive a gift from one hand with the other one shoved up your face all gimme.  Gimme now.  (Isn’t that called, um, “manipulation” in modern culture?)  I feel another post coming on . . .

3.  I am utterly, unbelievably, and with salt and pepper, unable to disseminate my sacred training and secret knowledge like it’s a Tuesday.  (This blog does not endeavor to “teach” those moments.  It is against my legacy, my blood and my recent “shadow work.”)

4.  When I refuse to share my research, my training, my techniques and my Barbie dolls, angry souls will attempt to goad me into defending myself–thereby revealing these lovely things.  Uh uh.  Think I’m unresearched, believe that I am untrained all your little heart wants.  It’s like most of us say about the South: Folk think we’re crazy and dumb down here.  And that’s just the way we like it.  All to ourselves.  Keeps the rif-raf out and enough land and corn for our suppers.

5.  I like me.

6.  Covens are awesome.  I don’t do them.  Covens are awesome.  I don’t have one.  Wiccans rock.  I can’t be one.  (Can we all still be friends?)  [3]

7.  When I’m busy trying to make someone fit into my life, I’m missing out on all the good parts and coming in all out of breath for the commercials.  If it offends, pluck it out.  Got it.

8.  Life’s too short to put up with assholes, even if the motive is political correctness.  See number seven.

9.  Writing a medicine woman book in Cherokee syllabary is a worthy endeavor.  And hard.  And worth it. (Do something for myself, check.)

10.  After all the teaching, rituals, training, blogging and thwarting of villains is done: kneel.  Touch the earth.  Commune.  An exhausted high priestess/priest/shaman/chief is useless.  One who has forgotten to listen to the wind is worse.

And, finally, the most important one to date: you can let someone go and still love them.  Sometimes, the life you save is your own. [4]

But we ain’t nowhere close to shore yet, y’all.  Look back at that passage at the beginning of this post.  Ah.  Yes.  The integration of the dark half.  Hmmm.  Cherokees would have called this “wellness” and the translation is disjointed at best, as their word for “health” and their word for “peace” is encompassed in the same word: tohi.  The balance between the night and day, the sun and moon, the physical world and the spiritual and between the warrior and the peacemaker was critical for tohi.  The idea of balance, also translated as “the right way,” was/is duyuktv and demanded sacred adjustment if shaken.  Hokay, nuff lesson and onto the hard stuff.  So, what of this “love and light” we espouse in our emails, our Facebook statuses and our t-shirts?  Mmm hmm.  I say, nice!  Very lovely.  Use it myself.  But–what happens when it becomes our creed, our ruling sun, our motto and our armed guards?

Sigh.  Not much.

I’d say we need our, um, duyuktv adjusted a little to the right.  (Insert Hank Williams, Jr. Attitude Adjustment reference here.)

So . . . . we are to have balance between the dark and the light.  We are to come to peace with ourselves, refuse fracture and become whole again.  And when someone/something proves to be hurtful, damaging or downright dangerous we . . . holler love and light?  Aw, naw.

Y’all weren’t raised right if you haven’t heard tell of Southern justice.

Now, I agree.  Going all half-cocked on a situation just ‘cuz your ego had itself pantsed is gonna leave you, well, naked.  And embarrassed.  It’s just that, I’ve found myself throwing up a little in my mouth lately at this whole “love and light” sensibility when it requires victimhood to satiate its true thirst.  I get a little squirmy when I hear it used as judgement against a mother who attempts to defend her young.  I feel a bit squeamish when it goes trotting across my screen as a cover-all for acts of offense, transgression or outright attacks.

I kinda want to get my skillet.

Reminds me of church.  Kinda recollects my head back to the policement of Christian dogma.  Sorta puzzles me at how far we’ve gotten as Pagans away from words like justice, protection and defense.  (Reminds me of a friend I had once who said: Imma looking for a man who can just as soon defend me with the same arms he wraps me gently in . . .)

But worse, it weighs on me that we have begun to use it in a more Southern “bless his heart” sorta way.

When did we become so naive?  At what point did we all endeavor to only shit rainbows and butterflies?  And, here we have it: is that truly balance?  Who needs shadow work, now?  I find that I can no longer use this term.  We (my tribe) are however trying out: blood and justice, general disdain and partly cloudy, complete adoration and mostly sun as well as affection with chance of rain.

There has been talk of raining spaghetti with a chance of meatballs, but no consensus has been reached.

And do we like the idea of love?  Light?  Oh, hells yeah.  Is that always appropriate?  Oh, hell naw.  On account of: we’re human.  And on account of: we’re attempting honesty.  How ’bout that holy mess?

Turns out, I’m really tickled that Mr. Green sent me to the doc.  I call her Big Momma.  And laws, did she have a diagnosis for me:

She said: be yourself.  Protect your warrior side.  Forgive everyone, forget nothing.  Cut out disease.  Don’t look back unless you’ve run out of salt.  Hold your line.  Love your family too hard.

And fly.

Deal.

1.  Delightful post at:  http://www.drjontry.com/workshops/shadow.htm

2. The pun has not escaped SFW.  The Cherokee understood witches to be in two categories: “ordinary” (like, it’s a Tuesday) and “killer” (like it’s a bad B movie).

3.  I wrote a post about the forcing of hats on strange heads.  Acceptance is one thing.  Colonization another.  And I have two uber close Wiccan friends who I adore and adore me.  As of yet?  Neither have a problem with the fact that I don’t look good in their hat.

4.  Last year, I was forced into a divorce from a beloved friend.  It was the most astute move she has ever made.  I agree wholeheartedly with her and applaud her courage.  I just didn’t have the heart to do it myself.  Strangely, even though she still smacks my ass in her blogs on a regular basis, I have recently felt the most mysterious and calm connection (?) with her.  I assumed, after a recent blip in the screen (See Pagans of the Deep South), that somewhere in the back of her witchy heart . . . she had my back.  She loved me once.  If I am wrong, I never, ever want to know.  Love and light, it ain’t . . . but occasionally, a meatball falls.

This post is dedicated to my Granma’.  The last thing she ever said about/to me was when my sister said:  it’s Kathi, Granma.  Don’t you remember her? 

Granma:  Kathi.  Oh, Kathi.  When she was good, she was so, so good.  And when she was bad (eyebrow slowly rises, lips turn to smile) she was just rotten.

Forever your girl, Granma.  You always loved all of me.  And it saved my life.

Authors Note:  (see Theda Perdue’s Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Exchange, 1700-1835, U of Nebraska Press, 1998):

“Cherokee women participated only marginally in the Indian trade and seem to have understood exchange in very different ways than did men.  Unlike the Choctaws and their neighbors, the Cherokee had no outlet like New Orleans where multiethnic bartering thrived throughout most of the eighteenth century, and both circumstance and attitude restricted Cherokee women’s entry into a frontier exchange economy.  Women did not seem to internalize basic assumptions about commerce as completely as did men.  In her memoir, a Carolina colonist recalled that a Cherokee woman warned backcountry settlers of an impending attack because she ‘disliked very much to think that the white women who had been so good to her in giving her clothes and bread and butter in trading parties would be killed.’  This ‘giving’ was almost certainly trade, as Carolinians define trade, and not charity.  The white woman who recorded the incident, however, had spent several of her teenage years as a captive, and her wording genuinely reflects the Cherokee woman’s attitude about the exchange–it was gift-giving, not Trade.”  (72)

6 Comments on “Ain’t Nobody’s Angel: Alabama Shadow Work

  1. As always, a beautiful and decidedly insightful entry. Now, to share my own twist on the “Love and Light” conundrum: Love, Light, and your fair share of cloudy days.

  2. This may be my favourite thing you’ve ever posted on here. “Love and Light” seems, at best, trite and shallow. Give me Blood and Justice over that any day.

  3. Balance is such an important thing! We absolutely have to see to ourselves & make sure we’re where we need to be in relation to every part of ourselves. As you’ve proved, the actual words don’t matter nearly as much as the intent. I’ve heard “Bless their heart.” be absolutely soul-wrenchingly genuine… and “Blessed Be.” more sarcastic and harsh than “F-you!”… it’s all about the spirit.

    Thank you so much for sharing the warmth and honesty of your spirit with us… such a lovely beacon to guide us ‘home’. xoxoxo

  4. Pingback: The Bad Witch’s Kill Count – Squabbling With “Harm None” « The Bad Witch Files

  5. Pingback: J is for Jargon « The Bad Witch Files

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