“Do I have to work with Shadow to be a shaman?”

It’s true. I bet I’ve been asked that question more than any other, over the last 25 years. That and “What’s my life purpose?” The funny thing is, we can’t know the answer to one without resolving our issues with the other. And probably vice-versa.

"Shadow From Shadow" - Photo by Zeevveez, Flickr.In the range of my experience, I observe that many people feel called to shamanism because they want to help others. They have a gift. They have some talent that is needed by others, and they host a heart that wants to give. Witnessing such capability and compassion in the human race has been one of the most wonderful parts of my path as a modern shaman. However, observing how we let our eagerness to serve override dealing with our own stuff first has been a little sobering.

The short version is, none of us can skip to living–perhaps even clearly knowing–our life purposes, until we confront our own Shadow. More bluntly, I’ve never engaged a spirit guide who would let someone skip over Shadow to get to life purpose, ever.

What is a life purpose, anyway? Most people have internalized it as a soul contract granted at or before birth. Some see it as the gift, itself, that we’re called to give. That’s all well and good, though in order to give well, we must be able to stand firmly in our own power. We must have a filled well from which to give. We know some of that well, and some of it we don’t. The part we don’t know feeds the works, just as much as what we know feeds it. Given that ambiguity of self-awareness, we can be standing on a wealth of power, or we can succumb to our own unknown.

Because that’s all Shadow is. It’s what we don’t know about ourselves.  Or maybe we do know some dark things about our lives, though they cause so much pain and conflict that we mistake stepping into them for surrendering to them. When we choose the path of shaman, it becomes our job to not shrink from any aspects of ourselves. The many initiations we undergo serve the function of allowing us to meet the parts of ourselves we don’t know, so that they can be acknowledged, maybe even healed, and so that we can walk in fuller knowledge of what we bring to the planet.

Furthermore, that gift is fluid, at best. Life purpose is an ever-changing, evolving path of recurring confrontation of what we don’t know about ourselves, that allows us to reinvent who we are and what we need to bring to the planet, based on what’s needed. It’s not so simple as we feel it, we do it. We do as All needs us to.

To know Shadow is the path of initiation.

To know life purpose is the path of initiation.

None of it is static; none of it is easy.

In short: Yes; and to answer question #2, see question #1.

S. Kelley Harrell is a modern shaman and author in North Carolina. She is author of Gift of the Dreamtime, and Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism,” and she writes The Weekly Rune. A lifelong intuitive, she has worked with a local and international client base since 2000. Kelley holds a Masters in Religious Studies, and is an ordained interfaith minister. Her work is Nature-based, and is focused through the lenses of animism, Seiðr, and Druidry. She works closely with the Elder Futhark Runes and divine Nature Spirits of eastern North Carolina. Her shamanic practice is Soul Intent Arts, and she is vigorously involved with the worlds in and around her.

Listen to her podcast, What in the Wyrd, on Google Play and iTunes.
Support The Weekly Rune on Patreon.

Originally published at Moon Books.