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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The Darkness: The Jungian Shadow on Starz's Black Sails


Captain Flint from Black Sails

I just got done watching an episode of Black Sails on Starz, on which I heard one of the best descriptions of the Jungian Shadow I have ever heard. 

The show is about pirates in the Caribbean.  The scene was a discussion between two pirates, Captain Flint and the quartermaster John Silver.  Silver had just told the Captain that he had to discipline a crewman who had taken it upon himself to exact revenge on another crewmate.  Silver ordered that the man be beaten, so as to avoid split in the crew and a mutiny.  Captain Flint questions Silver's motivation: 

John Silver: If it'd gotten out, what he did, you would likely be stranded back in Nassau. Most of our men would be dead, and those that weren't would be back in those cages right now. 

Captain Flint: So you sent the vanguard to make sure that he understood this?

Silver: To prevent him from getting any ideas about doing it again, yes. If you have something to add, you should just fucking say it.

Flint: That's not why you did it.

Silver: Really? Would you like to tell me why I did it, then?

Flint: Well, I wasn't there, but, I'd hazard the guess that you learned of what had happened, told him how fucking stupid he was, and in that moment, he gave you a look that amounted to something less than contrite. And in that moment, you felt it.

Silver: Felt what?

Flint: Darkness. Hate. Showing indifference to the authority that you sacrificed so much to acquire, disdain for refusing to acknowledge that his actions, had you not intervened, would have led to an outcome that he would have held you responsible for reversing. Pride. Questioning what kind of man you are if you don't seek retribution for the offense.

Silver: So what are you saying? You saying I went too far with him?

Flint: Maybe you went too far. Maybe you didn't go far enough. Maybe you did it just right. The point is that while you were doing it, you heard a voice telling you that disciplining him would prevent him from repeating the offense, a voice that sounded like reason, and there was reason to it, as the most compelling lies are comprised almost entirely of the truth. But that's what it does. Cloaks itself in whatever it must to move you to action. And the more you deny its presence, the more powerful it gets, and the more likely it is to consume you entirely without you ever even knowing it was there. Now, if you and I are to lead these men together, you must learn to know its presence well so that you may use it ... Rather than it use you.

That is just what the Shadow does.  It disguises itself as something else ... something like reason.  And so long as it remains disguised, it has power over us.  But when we recognize it, see it for what it is, name it -- then we can use it.  We can't expel it or purge it or exorcise it.  Trying to do that just sends it back into the shadows.  But if we hold it in the light, then we can find power in it.

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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.


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