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s h a d o w s
This piece is taken with permission from a post on Other-Haven.
This article was prompted mainly by the lack of good, accurate information on shadows - and the vast amount of very bad, inaccurate information. Comments, questions, and even outright "You suck!"s are entirely welcome.
One thing clear from the start. "Shadow" is a broad term. An almost insanely broad term. Many people will try to claim truths about shadows that simply don't take this into account - "truths" like no shadow can astral project, that spines and protrubrances on a shadow's body show rank. Taken in context such claims are ridiculous. Saying "no shadow can astral project" isn't just like saying no human can astral project . . . it's like saying no human, elf, dragon, therian, cat, dog, or *any* physical entity can astral project. Trying to make claims about rank in shadows isn't just like saying pips on a soldier's uniform show rank . . . it's saying that pips on a soldier's uniform show rank not just to other soldiers, not just to other people in his country, not just to other people on his planet, but to every fleshy being on every world in every dimension. It just doesn't make sense.
"Shadow", as used in the otherkin, metaphysical, and spiritual communities, simply means an entity who is entirely or primarily made of darkness or dark energy. That's all. There are certainly groups of shadows who are similar in nature, but what is true for one of them is not necessarily true for any others - just like what is true for a cat on Earth is not necessarily true for an elf on Fae. Please keep that in mind as you read through this article - if information seems vague or very generalised, that's because it is.
Types of Shadows
Shadows come in just as many shapes and sizes as physical entities. There are tiny, semi-sentient blobs of shadow energy sometimes known as "remoras" because of their habit of following bigger shadows around. There are vast, ancient, godlike shadows it's just about impossible to understand. And somewhere in the middle, there are the ones sometimes called "shadow people": about the same mental and spiritual size and level as a human.
The vast, vast majority of shadows seem to exist in their natural state - that is, without physical bodies. Just as humans live in the physical, shadows tend to exist in non-physical realms. What you call these places is down to your personal belief system. I think of them as shadow realms, or pocket dimensions of the astral.
My experience of these realms is as follows, but as with most things, your mileage may vary: they are entirely black, but the darkness has texture and thickness. Moving is like a cross between swimming and ice skating. There is no sight as such, just a clear awareness of who and what is where.
Where do baby shadows come from? Speaking from experience, they coalesce. Shadow energy clumps together - either of its own accord or with the influence of someone else - and forms more complex units. Remoras form out of the more intense clumps. Remoras can gather energy and grow into human-sized entities, break down into smaller units, or just stay as they are. A conscious, sentient shadow could theoretically gather as much energy as possible into itself in order to become more powerful, though I don't personally know any who did that. Human-sized shadows aren't generally "born" as baby that would inevitably grow to be adults - they usually gradually formed out of random shadow energy.
(For those worried about being eaten by a shadow - don't be. Humans are carbon-based lifeforms, and they need carbon and related elements to grow. Shadows are darkness-based, and that's what they need to grow. Eating a human's energy would be no more useful to most shadows, than eating a lump of iron is to you.)
As a direct consequence of that, the concept of racial traits does not apply very well to shadows. Physical entities have racial and species traits because they pass on characteristics to their offspring through DNA. Shadows don't seem to reproduce like this. Rather than thinking of shadows as humans who just happen to me made of dark energy, think of shadows as hurricanes that just happen to be sentient - similar atmospheric conditions lead to similar weather patterns; it's not that a hurricane has parents and children. Likewise, similar energetic conditions lead to similar shadow entities coming into being.
The one proviso is that the big, godlike shadows all seem to be very, very old (as much as age can be said to have a meaning on the astral). One possible explanation for this is that long ago, they absorbed most of the free shadow energy, and now there simply isn't enough for a shadow to grow much bigger than human-sized. Another possibility is that they intervene somehow to keep other shadows small.
Characteristics of Shadow Energy
Okay, here's the meat of this article: what shadow energy actually feels like.
The most obvious and important characteristic is that it's dark. Very, very, very dark. Other entities, when they do energy work, tend to draw in light energy by instinct - not so with shadows. Other entities tend to have auras that glow - not shadows, who feel more like black holes.
The second characteristic of shadow energy is that it does not interact well with other kinds. You know all those guided meditations that instruct you to bring light or golden energy into yourself? If a shadow does this, usually the best that will happen is nothing - and it's likely that the shadow will feel extremely ill. Note that few shadows do much light energy work. It's a bit like being a teenager experimenting with alcohol - if you get very sick and hungover from just a few drinks, without the fun side effects, then you probably won't do much drinking.
This energetic clash works both ways. Most non-shadows react even worse to shadow energy than shadows react to light - perhaps because shadows who interact with the physical are constantly exposed to conflicting energies, whereas other entities experience shadow much less often. I know of people who have given a shadow a gentle but unexpected energetic probe, only to be rewarded with an energy backlash that gave them migraines. Almost all people associate shadow energy with death, and almost all non-shadows have an intense fear reaction when they encounter shadow energy - the purer and further from physical, the worse the effect. This is another good way of identifying shadows: if you probe something, and your reaction is to want to run and hide, it's probably a shadow. If not, it's probably just an entity cloaking itself in darkness, or an entity you can't see properly.
The third characteristic of shadow energy is that it's hard to see and sense. Unless there is close contact, it does not feel like a glow or presence so much as an absence of energy - so it can be easy for shadows to be missed completely. Often when shadows *are* seen, it's only for a split second - seeing a shadow causes people to look harder (as seeing anything unusual does), which in turn makes it more difficult to see the subtle.
Finally, shadow energy tends to be very strongly shielded. I am yet to meet a sentient shadow that did not have formidable shields around every aspect of its being. This has both positive and negative aspects for a shadow. On the plus side, attacks of any kind (not just energetic, but also emotional and intellectual) tend to have a very hard time getting through - shadows feel safe. On the other hand, it can be like living inside a concrete bunker, cut off from the rest of the world. It's positive and negative for everyone else, too - shadow shields mean they aren't spilling their energy everywhere, which would be very damaging; but they also make it difficult for physical entities to make any kind of contact with them.
Characteristics of Shadow Behaviour
I'm reluctant to discuss this, because it seems absurd to talk about the characteristic behavior of such a diverse group. That said, there are two things in particular that seem far more common in shadows than other entities.
Firstly, shadows are protective. They seem inclined to guard things, and are inclined to look at things in their lives from the perspective of guarding. On the other side of the coin, it's shadow mentality to kill half a planet in order to "protect" the other half. Protection, being a guardian, is neither a good nor bad thing: of itself, it is entirely neutral.
Secondly, shadows do not play well with others. It's strange, but I am yet to meet two shadows who can get along with each other for a substantial amount of time. At the extreme, shadows have been known to spend almost ridiculous amounts of time and energy taunting, torturing, or otherwise fighting with each other.
Bump In The Night
Just as physical beings can project to the astral, non-physical beings can visit the physical. Usually, when a human sees a shadow this is why. Some people like to claim vast otherworldly conspiracies of evil are the reason for shadow people sightings, but this seems unlikely to me because like I said, shadows don't exactly work well together - and second of all, there isn't really anything on the physical that the average shadow would want to take over. Some people claim such shadows are vampires of some kind that attack humans, but again I find this unlikely - shadow dimensions on the astral are so full of intense energy that coming to Earth for a snack would be like leaving a feast for a small portion of McDonald's fries.
In general, I think the two main reasons why shadows visit Earth are the same two reasons why humans visit the astral - curiosity, and accident. Just as humans can drift into the astral while they sleep, shadows can drift onto the physical without really being aware of it - a shadow who doesn't seem to be interacting at all, but rather minding its own business, possibly doesn't even know anyone else is aware of it. As for curiosity - humans are pretty fascinating things, especially to non-physical entities made out of darkness. Following a strange human around can have that same "wow" factor to a shadow as a human trying to channel a spirit.
Given the generally frightening appearance of shadows, and given that the energy does not react well with others, an intense fear reaction is common in humans. It's natural to assume, when faced with a strange creature that terrifies you, that you are in danger or that creature means you harm. Try to remember that usually, that is not the case. When you look over the edge of a tall building, you might be scared of falling - but the building itself does not mean to harm you. When you see a spider or snake unexpectedly, you might feel fear - but the spider or snake probably has no interest in you at all. Fear is the mind's way of telling you to be cautious: and if you aren't experienced with shadows, caution is wise. Fear doesn't tell you anything about the shadow's intent - it only tells you to play safe.
Communication With Shadows
If a shadow is around you, especially if it is bothering you, communication is almost always the best answer. Remember, chances are, unless you're waking up screaming every night with nightmares too horrendous to properly describe, unless you're shaking constantly from head to foot, unless it feels like there's a darkness in the back of your head that you want to physically cut out . . . chances are the shadow isn't actually trying to hurt you. If a shadow wants to hurt you, then either it's weak enough that it won't be a problem, or it's strong enough that you'll know about it 100% for sure :)
In communicating with shadows, there are several things to remember.
The first point applies generally to non-physical organisms, and that is on the whole they don't have verbal language. There are exceptions, of course - but in my experience verbal language is usually the domain of physical beings who need to use sound to convey signals. Some will be able to understand if you say "hello" - but if you're trying to communicate with someone who speaks another Earthly language, then learning the basics of it makes life much easier. In France, you try for "bonjour" instead. With every shadow I have met, the basics of communication is directed, selective empathy. So, rather than saying "hello", you focus on the concept of non-hostile greetings, and direct it towards who you want to communicate with: you use their language.
The further you get away from words the higher your chances of success. Focus on the meaning, not the way you would, on Earth, convey that meaning - same as if you are dancing, you move your feet - you don't think of which muscle to contract.
Directing the greeting at a specific shadow is fairly easy. If you know the individual and can identify a specific feeling you associate with it, then focus on that feeling while you focus on the message. To non-physical entities who do not have verbal names, focussing hard on the way they "feel" is the equivalent of yelling their name at the top of your lungs. If the shadow is actually nearby, and you can point and say, "Yeah, it's in that corner" then add direction to the mix. In that case, you end up focussing on a thought of: (friendly greetings) + (personal identity) + (physical place).
Closing your eyes and turning out the lights will also likely help, as shadows in general are not very fond of light of any kind.
If the shadow you are trying to communicate with is around a lot, I would say there is a good chance that it will work and it will either get freaked out and leave, or try to communicate right back at you. If it starts communicating with you, expect to be aware of unfamiliar emotions, intuitions, images, and ideas. Basically anything turning up in your head that seems alien or not yours.
From that point, you can continue in exactly the same way - you connect a concept of a message, which could be (curiosity as to your reason for being here), or could be (request that you leave), or (desire to learn more about you), or anything at all, to a concept of identity, and focus on directing the message outward.
If you get no response after a reasonable number of attempts, then you will probably want to broadcast a bit louder. That is just a case of using whatever meditation practice you prefer and repeating the above - as meditation can have the effect of moving you away from your physical body, and thus closer to non-physical levels.
I will emphasise again that for most people, shadow energy is uncomfortable and possibly dangerous. A non-shadow probably does not want to get too close to a shadow through empathic communication, at least until the shadow is known well.
Unless you're a shadow yourself or have a lot of experience working with shadows, before you try talking to any, you will want to shield as heavily as you can. You can gradually reduce the level of shielding you use, but just for the sake of caution, it's best to start out safe.
Interaction of Shadow and Physical
Something I haven't mentioned so far is the concept of otherkin shadows. Essentially, an otherkin shadow is a person with a shadow soul, shadow energy signature, or shadow "essence" (however you choose to understand the term) who is living in a physical body. Unlike many otherkin, they do not only claim otherness thanks to a previous life: they are shadow now. They were shadow when they were born into their current physical bodies.
As well as shadows who inhabit a physical body, there are also people who can be considered shadows by virtue of being "shadow touched" at some point in their life (whether this life or a previous one). Shadow energy can alter the energy of people around it; think of it like living in another country for so long that you pick up the local accent. Because shadows are defined by energy and not culture or homeworld, all it takes for someone to be shadow is for their energy to be shadow.
There seem to be relatively few people here on Earth who consider themselves "pure" shadows, and about the same amount again (or perhaps more) who are to some extent shadow-touched.
A Final Word of Caution
Don't believe everything you read. Question everything. If you find a resource claiming definitive information on shadows, claiming to define all shadows, or claiming anything that doesn't take into account the huge variety of shadow beings, take care and analyse it carefully. If the author claims special knowledge or a senior position, be double careful. If something doesn't make sense, it almost certainly isn't true . . . and the above applies just as much to this article, as to any other.