Saturday, January 4, 2014


How about a blog on Darkness and Shadow?
What it is?  Where it comes from, and how to work through/ with it?  Do we want to get rid of it, bring to balance, work with it etc…?


People these days understand darkness as a “spiritual evil.”  I’ve been teaching the Medicine Wheel and Indigenous Dreaming for over 20 years.  In the 1990’s I often came across individuals who would strongly suggest to people to ward off darkness.  Crystals, prayers, songs and even dances were performed for protection.  If you didn’t give in to this idea of smudging your space against darkness you were often judged as foolish.

I was brought up Catholic.  Darkness in Christian circles is often described as sin or wrong doing.  Behaviors, attitudes, feelings and thoughts can be defined as dark and even evil.  We were told by the nuns and priests to be patient, generous, kind, loving, compassionate and humble.  I found that many of these suggestions were forced indoctrination.  Honestly it was rare that we were taught by example. These days I watch the way many of our kids are brought up in families and schools; and I find that we are missing the ancestral ways of teaching by mentoring.  If we teach a child how to walk shouldn’t we teach a child how to walk in a sacred manner, which means to behave, to think, to feel and to cultivate attitudes that promote wholeness and wellness? For me there’s no other way to do this than by showing the way…

I’ve never been very good with symbolism.  When I started learning the Medicine Wheel I was told that the East is where the sun rises and the West is where the sun sets.  In the North is where there is stillness and darkness.  For me this kind of talk had more meaning.  I’m naturally someone who is literal and practical.  It doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good poem and a great story; it simply implies that I don’t often get caught up in symbolic interpretations of myself, others and the World around me.

I was 4 years old when I first understood that the best way to fight darkness is through darkness.  I used to be scared of monsters and so I hide in the closet or under my bed so they wouldn’t find me. Because of an allergy to dust my mother suggested that by making my room extra dark the monsters wouldn’t find me even in my bed.  I started sleeping the door closed at this point.  I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face and that was a good thing… It just made sense to me that the best way to hide was to find the darkest spot.

I’ve always been fond of darkness.  As a child my brother and I often camped in the back yard.  My sister never joined us because she was scared of spiders and skunks.  I personally loved watching the stars too much to be bothered by insects and little critters. There was something about the night that I always found magical.  One of my favorite things to do was to walk down the street in the evening when it was snowing.  The snowflakes always seemed to sparkle twice as much against the darkness. 

It was my grandfather who said to me one day: “Darkness is what creates the brightest light.”

He also said: “If it wasn’t for the dark mosquitoes wouldn’t be so attracted by the light and hence, end up dead.”  But that’s a whole other story…

As a child I was also fond of storms especially those who would blow the electrical panels.  I loved the idea of reading by candlelight.  Aside from the fact that it was somewhat romantic, candlelight seemed to trigger ancestral memories, which still held for me a sense of familiarity and serenity. My grandfather often told us that electricity was the reason why people were lazy and obsessed with money and things.  He often talked about a time when families grew in unity and strength by the sheer light of a flicker.

When I spent time in the country with my grandmother I particularly loved the long walks through the cornfield between the house and the fire pit even if the adults had spent most of the evening scaring us with stories about aliens, serial killers and bears. I grew up believing there were scarier things in life than dark spaces.

Drugs and alcohol for example is the kind of darkness that I find is killing our society.  We’ve adopted so many cultural and religious programs in the last 500 years, which I believe contaminate us with dark thoughts, dark attitudes, deviant and dark behaviors and unhealthy emotions.  If darkness symbolically implies “what is detrimental to us” – then, we have lots of dark forces working against us.

Many years ago, I made the decision to be “mentored by the ancestors.”  For me this meant to look at our human history with a critical eye and a practical awareness.  If I could let go of old programs and adopt attitudes; which brought healing, hope and happiness to my life then, I believed I was saving one by one the seven generations of my own progeny.  My First Nation ancestors taught me to observe and to listen to nature and the stars.  It didn’t take much for me to realize that whatever we were doing these days wasn’t reflecting back to us as light.  Working with the Wheel taught me new ways of looking at the World and new ways of creating relations. 

All kinds of things lurk in darkness and it doesn’t mean that because it is darkness that it is unhealthy, detrimental or evil.  I’m the kind of person who needs a happy balance of both darkness and light.  They are two sides to a circle.  It seems one leads to the other and spirals us into different layers of our consciousness.  I find that my personal exploration of my shadow / darkness has lead me into self-discovery but also into healing and to walking a path of medicine.

I seem to have been born with a sense of circular living
and circular thinking.  These days I teach it.

I’m not someone who is superstitious and honestly, I tend to be incredibly skeptical of the supernatural despite the fact that I live through phenomenon or paranormal experiences more than most.  I like to approach life, death and the after life with anchors.  I like to understand the World within and around me with the help of example or experiences.  Still, even as I write these statements I know that there are nuances that need to be conveyed. For example, I used to think that experiences needed to be difficult, dark and dramatic in order for me to feel 100% certain of their authenticity.  These days I know for a fact that you don’t need to get hit over the head with a two by four before believing in a helmet. In other words, darkness doesn’t necessarily need to be a proven fact in order for me to believe in it. 

My perspective on darkness is intermixed with a lot of light because I’ve spiraled in and out of these dualities through the last 48 years of my life; and perhaps, the last 5,000 years of incarnations.  Having ancestors whisper to me every day a small amount of their experiences also changes my anchors; changes me; and changes the way I understand darkness and light. Seriously, I tell my students how important it is for them to “go through their shadow / darkness” and learn as well as accept to be mentored by their ancestors and/or ancestors in general.

I believe that the more you are afraid of something the more dangerous it becomes.  I also believe that we are all born with a hyper sense of what is right and what is wrong.  Perhaps for some of us programs, judgments, illusions, or stubbornness etc. cloud the “hyper sense”… 

When stated in this manner it seems almost clear what we need to do.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a candlelight supper once a week.  You’d be surprised at how easy it can be to find ancestral help these days!


Wheelkeeper said...

Awesome blog. Thanks for the reminder to go through our darkness and not be afraid of it!

Lisa F. Tardiff said...

Thank you for always taking the time to leave a comment Mary Rose. I appreciate the feedback.

I'm incredibly grateful for your support everyone. This blog is for YOU!