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People once believed that the night before All Saints Day was when the buffers between our world and the spirit realm were most vulnerable.  In my adopted hometown of Vancouver, this have dovetailed nicely with the traditions of our Chinese community, who keep the nasty spirits at bay with fireworks, to create a unique way of celebrating.

Halloween now functions like Carnival in Medieval times, turning the world upside down and allowing many to embrace their dark sides.  The Fool might become a King, or alternatively, Mayor, and it is a small leap for the Mayor to become a Fool. We can pretend for one night to be dangerous or risqué, dress as a fearsome monster or preen our inner vamp without fear of retribution afterwards.  This kind of self expression has always been understood as a safety valve to relieve the pressure in unequal or repressed societies.

Welcome the Shadow

On a more personal note, Jungian analysis has always given weight to our shadow sides. It is the part of ourselves we deny, then try to suppress.  We can usually identify our shadows by our reactions to other people.  When we strongly reject them*, it is usually because they embody something about us that we don’t want to acknowledge.  At Halloween or at any time of the year it is worth checking in on our shadows.  It takes a lot energy to keep them locked up and we lose out by not being able to tap into their power.

My personal boogeyman is neediness.  I have strong reactions to people whom I believe should be able to take care of themselves but don’t.  In my life, this means I am highly unlikely to ask for help or appear vulnerable in any way.  As you might imagine, this doesn’t work out very well for me.  By the time I am desperate enough to really need help, I seem more like a creepy Jack-in-the-box than someone in need.  With a little work, my shadow could be my friend and not my enemy.

Embrace your shadow or it might come out swinging, photo by Sean F. White

*The Shadow is not always negative though, when we are strongly attracted to someone, it is often because they embody a character trait we might be envious of, but are scared to try on, so once again we repress it in ourselves.