Although I am Pagan now, I was brought up Catholic in a world dominated by Judao-Christian ideals of right and wrong, good and evil. This dualistic principle permeates most of western society, even those parts which seem on the surface to be very secular. I was always suspicious of the moral roadmap I was supposed to keep to. There were people close to me who considered things like masturbation and fornication to be moral evils on a par with rape and murder while at the same time seeming to accept war, torture and the rape of the earth as morally justifiable so long as it was the “Good Christian Guys” doing it. I knew the roadmap was wrong for me and it was a relief to ditch it, but finding my own moral compass has probably been a more difficult task. And the ghost of the Christian compass is never far away…
So where do you draw your own moral boundaries? Does having a personal moral compass have any meaning when everything is personalized and subjective?
If I measure my lifestyle by the religious inspired guidelines of the west (including Christian, Jewish and Islamic morals) there are many aspects of my life which are at least bad if not evil. I am a witch. I cast spells and engage in supernatural practices which seem to be forbidden in the bible. I admit to sometimes being quite hedonistic; I drink and smoke, I enjoy all sorts of sensual pleasures including sex outside of marriage with both men and women. I am sure that by some people’s moral compass I am already dammed beyond hope of redemption!
And yet, I don’t feel bad or evil, in fact to be honest I feel I am quite a good hearted person. I try to be kind. I try to help those in need. I try to be responsible concerning the future of our planet and the people who live on it. In both my private life and my work life I try to be caring and nurturing. So I have indeed thrown out the old roadmap and invested in my own moral compass and come to the conclusion that the best I can do is be true to myself.
My personal compass has been influenced by my own thoughts and feelings together with the ideas of people I like and respect. It has also been highly influenced by the philosophy of Taoism and the principles of Ma’at. The key to my compass has always been difficult to describe adequately in words but it has to do with integration, harmony and balance, of trying to do and see things holistically rather than separating things out into other people’s notions of right and wrong, good and evil. Other people’s notions are always there though, nagging me and occasionally causing me to doubt my path.
Overall I have felt that I have been doing quite a good job with my personal compass. However over the past months or perhaps a year I have felt that something isn’t quite in the right key. I have found that my tastes in many things have been becoming darker and darker. Now from my own stand-point I don’t regard this as bad or wrong, but it does seem to be significant. I have come to the conclusion that perhaps I have been neglecting my shadows and that it might be wise to address this over the coming months.
I am no expert in psychology, but like many witches I know, I think that Jung was correct when he spoke of “Shadows” and “Shadow-work”.
“Beneath the social mask we wear every day, we have a hidden shadow side: an impulsive, wounded, sad, or isolated part that we generally try to ignore. The Shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality, and acknowledging it can be a pathway to healing and an authentic life. We meet our dark side, accept it for what it is, and we learn to use its powerful energies in productive ways. The Shadow knows why good people sometimes do “bad” things. Romancing the Shadow and learning to read the messages it encodes in daily life can deepen your consciousness, imagination, and soul.”
from “Romancing the Shadow,” by Connie Zwieg, PhD., and Steve Wolf, PhD.
Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”
The Core of Shadow Work is this: To KNOW YOURSELF FULLY, from as many angles as are required, in order that you might dare to let yourself go free. Being neither judge, jury, prosecutor, nor defender—you give no explanations, nor do you require any. You are AT HOME in your place between the sun and the moon.
The above quotes all come from About Shadow Work
And so I think this will become one of my personal projects during the coming year; to explore and integrate my shadow side more-so than I have before. It is a challenge which I find both exciting and rather scary. Who knows where I will be lead, what I will find or how it will change me?