Pagan Paths

The morning sun rising in the east calls to the Bright Youth in me, and the Bright Youth responds. The full moon calls to the Muse, and the waning and dark moon to the Dark Maiden who is a part of me. The earth I touch with my fingers calls to the Mother, in both her guises, Nurturing and Devouring. The bright green shoots rising from the earth and the green leaves on the trees on my street in the spring, these call to the Stag King, while the red leaves fallen to the earth in the autumn call to the Dying God. The spring storm that rises up suddenly in the west calls to the Storm King. The night sky, the dark space between the stars, calls to Mother Night, my death come to make peace. The gods-without call and the gods-within respond.

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Ritual for Embracing Our Shadow

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In my last post, I promised to describe a ritual which my family does about the Jungian Shadow.  We've done this ritual in the past at the summer solstice, but it can be done at any time.

You will need to have made paper mache masks for each of the participants in advance of the ritual, or else you may purchase masks.


“Daemonos” by Daemonia Nymphe

Reader 1:

“We begin by making new metaphors.  Without negating the light, we reclaim the dark: the fertile earth where the hidden seed lies unfolding, the unseen power that rises within us, the dark of sacred human flesh, the depths of the ocean, the night — when our senses quicken; we reclaim all the lost parts of ourselves we have shoved down into the dark.  Instead of enlightenment, we begin to speak of deepening.”  [Starhawk]

Reader 2:

“It is the goal of Paganism to remind us that there is a darker side to all things and that this darker side is not necessarily harmful and negative. There is beauty in darkness for those who dare enter the shadows to embrace it. …

Reader 3:

“But it is important to remember that focusing only on the darker side is just as dangerous as focusing on the lighter side. Balance is important, and even though some may relate to one aspect more than the other, we must always remain open to the other aspects. Life consists of the interplay of these opposites, which naturally complement each other. To discard one aspect is to sacrifice our wholeness and limit our potential.”  [John J. Coughlin]

Ritual Leader:

The song you heard at the beginning of our celebration was in Greek.  The song is called “Daemonos”.   The ancient Greeks worshiped two kinds of gods: the gods of sky and light and the gods of the earth and darkness.  The gods of the sky and light were the Olympians.  You may know their names: Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, Athena, Hera, Aphrodite, and so on.  But the Greeks also worshiped gods of the earth and darkness which were called “daemonos”.  They understood that you could not have one without the other.

When Christianity came around, the Christians borrowed the name “daemonos” and turned it into “demon”.  The early Christian church taught people that everything to do with light and heaven was good, and everything to do with earth and darkness was bad.  Today, Pagans understand that you the earth and darkness are not bad.  And the sky and light is not good.  They are both part of an endless cycle which the Chinese call the Tao (or the Way) and Pagans call the Wheel of the Year.

The darkness is not bad, it is just hidden.  And people are afraid of what they do not know and that fear can make us do some very strange things.  The darkness is not just outside of us.  It is also inside of us.  One of my favorite thinkers was a psychologist named Carl Jung.  He called this darkness inside of all of us the “Shadow”.  The Shadow is the part of ourselves that we hide from everyone.  Sometimes we even hide it from ourselves without realizing it.  And because it is hidden, it can make us do all kinds of strange things.

Do you remember the story of Peter Pan?  Do you remember when he snuck into the children’s bedroom and his shadow got away from him and he chased it all over the room, until Wendy sewed it back on for him?  Our shadows can be like that sometimes.  Sometimes they can feel like they are off doing their own thing, without our permission.

Carl Jung believed one of the most important things we can do as human beings is to find these shadows and sew them back on, metaphorically speaking.  He believed that we cannot be whole persons until we reconnect with our lost dark twin.  Tonight we are going to be doing a ritual that will help us connect with our Shadow.

Activity I

Trace and cut out outlines of each person on large roll of white paper. This is the "persona".  Then trace and cut out outlines of each person on black paper.  This is the "shadow".

Remind participants that shadow self is not bad, just hidden.  Talk about why we show certain things to the world, and why we hide other things.  Talk about how we sometimes show the bad and hide the good.  Have each person write on the white cutout (persona): (1) something that they like about themselves that they let everyone see and (2) something that they don’t like about themselves that they let everyone see.  Then each person writes on the shadow outline (in unreadable black ink): (1) something that they don’t like about themselves that they don’t let anyone see and (2) something that they do like about themselves that they don’t let anyone see.  Apply glue and place the two parts together saying:

I am light leaping out of darkness, leaping out of you. I am darkness leaping out of fire, leaping out of you.

Activity II

Ritual Leader:

Jung taught that each of us wears a mask, which we call our “persona”.  Our Persona is the face that we show the world.  We use this mask to hide the parts of ourselves that we don’t want others to see.  In order to speak with our Shadow, we have take off the mask of our Persona.  But we can’t really take off our Persona like a mask.  Instead, we are going to hide our Persona by making shadow masks.  We have prepared masks and today you are going to decorate the mask in a way that reflects your shadow side.

The masks don’t have mouths because our Shadows don’t have mouths.  This is because they keep our secrets.  Also, they can’t express themselves in words.  Do you remember how frustrating it was not to be able to communicate when we were making the masks.  That is how our shadow feels.  In order to hear our shadows, we need to listen to our feelings, deep down inside.

Decorate pre-prepared masks with paint markers.  Explain to participants that they are drawing what their shadow side looks like.

Explain that the masks do not have mouths, because our shadow sides do not know how to speak with words.  They speak with emotion.

Activity III

Place each shadow on the ground with the mask for a face.

Have each participant lay on the ground on top of their shadow.  Explain there will be no talking after the mask is placed except by the Guide (me) or in case of an emergency, until the mask is removed after the dance.

Have each participant repeat as follows before placing the mask:

I am the Dark Child,
the Dark Twin,
the Other.
I was known to the Greeks as the Minotaur.
I was known to the Britons as Mordred.
I was known to the Egyptians as Set.
I have been known by many names which are now forgotten.

I am the Midnight Sun,
darkness leaping out of light.
Born from the compulsion and malice of what is forbidden,
I am the seed of destruction at the heart of all life.
I am the Worm that eats the Season,
the serpent that gnaws at the roots of the World Tree.

I have no worship,
but I am present in all your deeds,
and all your thoughts,
and all your desires,
and all your dreams.
Seek me there.

Activity IV

Line the participants up at the door.  Explain to the participants that we will be dancing around the fire.  Explain they will be using their bodies to express the feelings that come from their Shadow that the Shadow cannot speak.  Encourage participants to let go of their inhibitions.

Prepare the space by lighting the fire and the torches.  Guide each person outside to the fire circle.  Start the music.

Dance to the following music by Shibaten:

“Sky Tower”

Activity V

Return inside.  Remove the masks.  And place the yin-yang symbol around each participant’s neck, explaining that this symbolizes the union of the light and dark.

Explain that we will be winding down with a different kind of song: “Green and Grey” by Damh the Bard:

This song is about a priest who goes into the woods and he meets someone there, the Horned God of the Pagans.  But he thinks the Horned God is the Christian Devil.  And the Horned God explains that he is not black or white, but green and grey.

Sing the chorus together after the first stanza.

“Green and Grey” by Damh the Bard

Early one morning, around the first of May,
A man in black came walking, into a woodland glade,
Following the sounds of pipes on this beautiful Spring day,
High on the music that they made.
But what beheld him within that place?
A look of recognition fell across his face,
“Lucifer, oh Lucifer, why do you appear to me?
For I am a man of God, a priest.

I’m no devil I’m Father to the land,
I have lived here since the Earth began,
Neither black nor white,
Priest hear what I say,
I’m green and grey.

The priest said, “Lucifer, Lucifer you lie so well,
I will pray unto my God, go back to the fires of Hell!
You fell from Heaven, and you fell from Grace.
You want dominion over this place.”
The Piper smiled, and to the priest he said,
“I was Lord of Animals, the Wild Hunt I led,
Until your God came here and with his jealous hand,
It was he who wanted dominion over this land.

The priest said, “All evil comes from your hand.”
The Piper said, “If evil is, it lies in the hearts of Man.”
“But you lead us, oh you tempt us, to rape, to steal, to kill!”
The Piper said, “Whatever happened to free will?”
Then the Grove lay empty, the priest told no one.
The blossom lay upon the thorn, the Piper’s tune was done.
And in the sunlit forest, the animals they bowed,
As the Piper lay his Goddess down.

Now talk about why the Horned God is not black or white.  Talk about why he is grey (black + white).  Talk about why he is green (balance = growth):

To symbolize this, we are going to draw a green tree or green plant on the white outlines of our selves, to symbolize the growth that comes from the union of the light and dark, our persona and our shadow.

After we have drawn the trees, say the following aloud (which will be our closing words):

“Gardeners of the spirit know that without darkness, nothing comes to birth, as without light, nothing flowers.” [May Sarton]

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John Halstead also writes at (Patheos),,,,, and The Huffington Post. He was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment” (, and the editor of the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. John is also a Shaper of the fledgling Earthseed community ( To speak with John, contact him on Facebook.


  • Archer
    Archer Friday, 03 April 2015

    Wow I really enjoyed this. I've been looking for something like this for a while. What a useful ritual and a respectful treatment of Jungian/Neopagan ideas.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Sunday, 12 April 2015

    Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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