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Light, Shadow and Dark Work

 an overview


The very terms, 'Light, Shadow and Dark' conjure pre-conceived thoughts of good and bad, positive and negative,.. at least to common Judaeo-Christian thinking.  These delineations are incorrect when in the shamanic realm.

Think of these terms describing instead the various depths of shamanic practice.  Using water as an example, the darker the water, the deeper the water (and generally, the more dangerous too).

Just as some people are better at golf than they are at singing, shamanic talents vary greatly and the wise practitioner recognises their strengths and limitations.  It is also very important to note that not all shaman nor shamanic practitioners venture beyond (or even deeply into) shadow work.

Reiterating the Shaman's Call

All shamanic work must be solely in response to a calling.  Practicing light, shadow or dark work must be in response to a calling; a compulsion towards a practice outside of desire and ego.  Those who are not called towards a particular practice should venture into knowledge of that practice very cautiously, indeed,  if at all. 

Stripping of ego and desire is critical in interpreting your calling.  A person undertaking Dark work is not a better, stronger or more powerful shaman as (a) there is no such legitimate thing, and (b) all power, effort and talent comes from a place other than the shaman in the first place! 

Imagine a world champion basket-ball player trying to fly a jet fighter when untrained as a pilot; talent and mastery in one skill set does not confer or mandate talent in all things.  Each of us have talents in surplus and deficit, the wise of us recognise these things for what they are, and not for what they want them to be.

Light work indicates practices of both physical (botanicals, potions, song etc) and non-physical skill sets.  The non-physical work is generally limited to journeying for self and others and working on the edge of invoking the energies of others (client not included in this category). 

A Light Worker might use the aid of spirit animals and guides to assist in journeys, or take others to where they need to learn.  Herbal lore, botanical medicine and many practical skills like midwifery all fall under Light Work.

Shadow work indicates practices of non-physical skill sets generally involving journeying including interactions with others and independent entities / energies, physical and trans-literal journey based seeking, searching and calling.  Shadow work may also include advanced healing practices including demon handling and soul seeking and guidance.

Shadow work exposes the practitioner to deeper trials as the very practice often involves exchanges and negotiations with other entities of varying motivations and power, not always 'nice' and lovable.  Journeys undertaken in Shadow Work can have very direct and physical consequences for both the practitioner and the client. 

Soul retrieval, advanced healing including shape-shifting and psychic surgery, soul guidance, seeking and searching are all aspects of Shadow work.  Think of the contrast between Light and Shadow work as the difference between being a cleaner at the zoo, or a vet interacting with the animals directly.  Both are important, but one carries a far greater personal exposure.

Dark work is the deepest of the shamanic practices and almost always involves direct and personal interaction with potentially and sometimes frankly malevolent entities and energies.  Curses and energetic attacks, demonic extractions, dispossessions and exorcisms are typical of the level of practice in dark work.

Those undertaking Dark work are in for a substantial training time, a lot of personal growth and considerable trials which will require every bit of courage, resolve and strength they can muster.  Before one can help someone else, one must first deal with what is in one's own life.  The stripping of one's illusions, the experience of death and dismemberment, of the cycle of life which all must honour, willingly or otherwise [you get the idea I am sure!] is often painful, heart rending, personally challenging and often results in copious purging (throwing up and/or diarrhoea).  To repeat once more for those who might not think I am serious, to stray into Shamanic work without a calling is to invite personal peril and consequences you might not be prepared to pay, but payment is due if going there,.. always.

Foul practice - Please differentiate the terms, DARK and FOUL.  Dark work describes a depth of practice. "Foul" denotes a selfish, self serving or malignant intent.  Foul practices include sending curses, infestations, setting of demons and the like.  Foul practitioners are driven by ego, greed, power and acclaim, often identified by other shaman just by their bragging and big-noting, whether they are strong or not.  Most operate well outside a calling and have had to make 'bargains' which have prices that are far too high to pay in exchange for their abilities, often not originating from themselves at all.


Entheogenic substances like ayahuasca and peyote are famed for their purges, where those in the grips of the plant often vomit with gusto and diligence whilst seeing parts of their life thrown away from their body, even if fasting prior to the journey.  Everything has a price, the plant teaches us.  Before we can learn what it has to teach us, we have to prove to it that we are serious and committed.  Most Entheogenic substances are vile to taste and almost leap back up the throat of their own accord, requiring a conscious decision to keep the substance down.

Please though, intent, purpose and protection from a shaman experienced in the journeys being undertaken are critical, as is the following of a calling.  Please start with rhythmic journeys as these are the easiest to come back from and they also allow all shamanic gifts to be operated within the law of the land too.




Craig Berry - 1996 - 2010, All rights reserved - reproduction without written permission prohibited.