Sensing the Shadow
The Silver Birch Priestess speaks to us, telling us that “I am the First word, the breath of life, the beginning. The door to every journey, inward, outward, and onward. I see your limitless potential, so reach out, and trust the process.”
– Joey Morris
With the mapping of unchartered territory there is always great risk, especially when it comes to the discussion of spiritual and magical matters.
The concept of the Shadow Ogham is not something I have read in a book or learned at a lecture, instead it is something I have sensed at the corner of my mind when energetically engaging with the Trees themselves.
Though perhaps not a mainstream spiritual concept, the idea of dark and unwelcoming aspects of trees that have emotions, spiritual presence and are intelligent life forms capable of aggressive motivations are well documented in historical record through mythology.
In Folklore, tales of dark enchanted forests are boundless and evolving and creep into modern consciousness through literature even as the old tales are retold for modern audiences;
Nordic references for Tolkien:
“Tolkien’s conception of Mirkwood is illustrative of his imaginative use of philological reconstruction for literary purposes. The name derives from poems in the Old Norse Poetic Edda, where the compound Myrkviðr is cognate with English “murk(y)” plus viðr “wood” referring to a mythical forest.”
-MichaelD.C. Drout “J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment.” Routledge 2007 p430
“Until in a trice / the mountain trees
He found o’erhanging / a hoary stone,
That joyless wood ; / the water stood under,
– Widsith, Beowulf, Finnsburgh, Waldere, Deor. Introduction by Viscount Northcliffe by S.Moncrieff, C.K, 1889-1930
To all life, there is a natural balance that can seen in the world, lessons can be learnt from all experiences, and there is real danger in ignoring the shadow element of personal psyche along our paths.
“Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Jung “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335
The combining of a belief in the spiritual and intellectual capacity of trees as life forms, whose lifespan far exceeds that of human beings and in that time sense and feel, and are intimately connected to the nerve energies of the ecosystems around them, with the psychological exploration of the natural complexities of a psyche that give rise to a shadow self, seems a natural process of rational spiritual discernment.
Put simply, Trees have lived too long, and felt too much, to not have developed shadow elements to their personalities, and although we cannot suggest that the psyche of a tree would be identical to that of a human being, it would seem unwise to dismiss the consciousness of another being on this planet simply because it is other.
The study of trees communicating has already been cited in this Shadow Ogham series, and communication between individual trees suggests something deeper; an awareness.
In the progression of my spiritual path, Silver Birch has always had a definite importance, for wherever I have lived, there have always been Silver Birch in the immediate vicinity; partly due perhaps to their striking appearance and visual prominence, they are often the first tree many of us recognise.
They also come first within modern Ogham interpretations;
“On a switch of birch was written the first Ogham inscription in Ireland, namely seven B’s, as a warning to Lug son of Ethliu, to wit, ‘Thy wife will be seven times carried away from you into fairyland or elsewhere, unless birch be her overseer.”
– Graves, The White Goddess 1948 p181
As previously discussed in Birch Beginnings the magick of the Silver Birch is often thought to deal with rebirth energies, cleansing out the old negativities and acting as a magical conduit to form gateways of spiritual and emotional pathways into new life patterns.
So from here, we are left with those murkier woods, discerning a path to the Shadow aspect of Silver Birch and what it has to teach us along our personal journeying.
The Shadow element of Silver Birch that I personally struggle the most with is fear of the unknown and letting go of the comfortable protected space I have created in order to initiate change.
The first line of this essay mirrors the task at hand and the underlying message of the Silver Birch; ” With the mapping of unchartered territory there is always great risk,” and the forests know just how far humans will go to resist change in many circumstances, and that resistance comes from a place of fear which is often cemented with deeply negative or hurtful experiences that have resulted from change in the past.
The human concept of nostalgia is a well documented phenomena that plays all sorts of unhelpful tricks on both the human mind in a personal space, and human culture in a societal space.
I have discussed on many occasions the detrimental process of venerating the past at the cost of modern experience, in Witchcraft circles this often manifests as the desire to exclaim that older is better and we shouldn’t be altering our paths from that of our ancestors.
On a personal spiritual level, it can be all too easy to find ourselves in a comfortable space where our basic needs are met but ultimately, we do not grow, because we are not pushing ourselves into new and unusual experiences that force us to adapt. Silver Birch could arguably be the symbolic tree for adaption due to the varying climates and lands it can be found in.
Firstly, we must sense this shadow that Silver Birch raises within our human psyche, and then we must acknowledge where that hinders our personal growth.
This is the first step in change, new beginnings, and growth… to adapt our fear response into excitement instead at opportunities.
More to come, Starlets.
Joey Morris 2017