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Shadow Work 101: what is it and how to perform it?

If you’ve been dabbling in the spiritual or occult community, you’ve likely come across the term “shadow work.”

Shadow work is not inherently spiritual. It’s based on psychology but has recently gained traction, especially among spiritualists and witches. There is a reason why this is.

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. - Carl Jung

Why Perform Shadow Work as a Witch?

Part of performing magick is learning you are a creator. You can weave energy into your will and shape it into your choice. This requires shedding illusions and societal expectations.

What is right? What is wrong? What you should do, what you shouldn’t. Who you are and who you are not.

Shadow work allows us to re-evaluate ourselves and separate our true egos from the illusions we hold on to thanks to survival instincts and situations we were brought up in.

Shadow work also helps us craft more powerful and successful spells, as the more we learn about our truth, the more we can ensure that we are not performing spellwork for a shadow.

Because, after all, a ritual or spell is just a bandaid if you don’t acknowledge the real issue. A self-love spell can help you and still be an excellent choice, but if you don’t use that momentum of love to dig deeper and find out why, that feeling won’t last forever.

How to Perform Shadow Work

While shadow work is difficult, it is also straightforward. More simple than most people realize.

The basis of shadow work can be broken down into a few key steps:

Step 1: Acknowledgement and Awareness

You cannot remove or fix something if you are unaware or refuse to acknowledge it. This requires you to be aware and open to the possibilities.

What situations trigger you? What has happened recently that has elicitation anger, fear, or anxiety?

Therapy can be beneficial here if you are open to it or can be a part of it. Shadow work can be challenging, and sometimes it is best to have someone acknowledging and helping you through the job you are doing.

Journaling can also be beneficial if you are beginning shadow work. Set aside some time at the end of the day to brain dump everything. Everything that happened during the day, how it made you feel, etc. Don’t worry if you feel stuck; the more you put pen to paper, the more you’ll open a floodgate.

Step 2: Find the Root Cause, aka Illusion

Once you acknowledge the trigger, what will come next is a flood of surface-level reasoning. These are surface-level acknowledgments or lies we tell ourselves to avoid the illusion we genuinely feel.

For example, let us say we got really jealous today because we listened to our friend talk about her day of self-care while we worked and were stressed all day.

Illusions we might have could be things like:

“I’m upset because I just don’t have the time or opportunity for that.”

“She only gets to do that because of XYZ.”

These are surface illusions, not the root cause of why you feel this way. These come about first because our true misconception is rooted much deeper. It’s typically a belief we’ve been programmed with through societal expectations or survival instincts and has kept with us for years. In many cases, they are also things we subconsciously are afraid to admit.

That’s the thing about shadows; they are very well hidden and tricky.

Do not fear. The more you perform shadow work, the easier it is to open yourself up to the experience and find the roots more quicker.

The key is to keep asking yourself, what else is there?

What is the truth?

You must follow your instinct and intuition. Keep digging until you fully feel you’ve reached it. Sometimes this may take multiple sessions, and sometimes you’ll find new information.

Let’s go back to our example; once I’ve asked and dug, the true illusion ended up being that I fear being outcasted by society. I don’t have the time or space because I need to keep up appearances, do my part, and not appear selfish.

But the root came from a survival instinct. I won’t be able to survive if I’m outcasted.

Step 3: Acknowledgement of the Root

You can’t release something unless you fully acknowledge all its pieces. To fully feel it and accept that this is how you feel. This is how you think.

Remove all morals about this; having this thought doesn’t make you wrong or a “bad person.” It doesn’t make you stupid. It makes you human.

Allow yourself to cry it out, to let the realization fully come to the surface.

Step 4: Find The Truth

Once you’ve felt it, you realize that this is an illusion. It’s not the truth of the situation or who you are as a soul. It’s a human part of you that was ingrained in you thanks to society and Darwinism.

Now you need to find the truth of the situation. We know the illusion that I can’t survive if I’m outcasted. But what’s the truth?

This is where your higher self can come into play strongly. Let it speak to you, tell you your truth.

For my example, I think I can’t survive. But the truth is, I'm never alone as long as I have my own back. I could be outcasted, but I would always stand by myself, which is more critical to my survival than others.

That the truth is, if I feel like I have to conform to a certain standard or expectation, I’m outcasting myself and keeping myself from finding my truth. And I’m more likely to find others more aligned towards who I truly am.

Step 5: Alchemize

Now, you have the illusion; you have the truth. It’s time to cut off the head of the illusion so your true genius can reign tall here.

Stand up in your power, and repeat the truth. This may take multiple sessions, it could be instantaneous, but you need to allow that change to click.

Shadow Work Tips

As I previously mentioned, shadow work is simple. But when I state this, I do mean simple in concept. It isn't easy to work and requires consistency and strength. That being said, here are some of my favorite tips to help you through your journey:


Sometimes, traveling alone is unsafe, and doing this work alone is not for everyone. Sometimes it’s best to work with a trained psychologist, so you allow yourself a safe space.

Perform it immediately

When you feel that anger come to the surface, or that fear, do the shadow work immediately. Step aside, give yourself a few minutes to feel that anger, and work through the shadow steps. I’ve found that the sooner you perform it when feeling it, the easier the alchemization is.


Once you’ve done this for a while, I would say that journaling is a bit less important because you’re following my second tip of performing it immediately. However, especially in the beginning or if you’ve taken a break from doing shadow work, allowing yourself the space to the journal for even 10 minutes a day will help your awareness.


USE TAROT FOR SHADOW WORK. I will shout this again and again. Tarot is an excellent tool for personal development. You don’t even have to know the meaning of the cards at first. Pull three and look at them; what comes to the surface? What is it making you acknowledge about yourself?

Plant Magick

Remember to use your allies if you love plants and kitchen magick like me! There are great intentions and power you can utilize to help with your journey.

Drink some peppermint tea to help purify the illusions and bring yourself clarity before you journal.

Mediate and mentally connect with the belladonna plant spirit to heal (a reminder, not all plant magick has to be ingested, and do your research). Belladonna’s spirit is excellent regarding truth and healing; however, it is poisonous, which doesn’t mean you can’t speak to the spirit through meditative trances.

Take a meditative bath with rose leaves and Epsom salt to provide yourself with self-love in a reflective space before performing shadow work.

Self Love

Remember that you are doing this for yourself. It is hard work. Acknowledging pieces of ourselves that we’ve kept hidden forever. That may make us feel like a “bad” person or bring us to realizations we never thought we’d have is not easy. It requires strength. But remember that you deserve the outcome. You deserve to remove these illusions and step into your truth.

In the end, Shadow Work is all about self-love. Remember that, and use the reminders you need to for a driving force.


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

My name's Maven and witchy momma and writer documentating the wonderfully mundane aspects of the Occult. I like to share my experience with folk, kitchen, and green magick along with other tidbits I find along my journey.

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