Mythology regarding the forces of light and the forces of darkness has a long history of debate. However, there is a faction which has not been discussed so much. This is the story of shadows.
In Romanian witchcraft, witches used the little known samca dolls with a desire to influence people’s shadows. It was believed that, by inflicting harm upon the shadow, the person would also suffer. Some beliefs even state that by killing someone’s shadow, one could actually kill the individual as well.
English has many phrases and expressions related to shadows. For example, it is said that “power accepts no shadow”. Other sayings include: “to fear one’s own shadow”. Fearing one’s shadow dates back to Antiquity when shadows were regarded as guardians, thus influencing an individual.
While shadows can be seen as projections of individuals, people can be seen as projections of shadows too. Some old books have different interpretations of shadows and claim that demons actually fear humans and their powerful shadows.
Humans are social individuals and they often feel the need to interact and socialize. As for shadows, they are believed by some to be capable of existing alone for eternity. As guardians, shadows have power and influence over human souls. For example, it is said that when the Grim Reaper comes for a human’s soul to take it to the afterlife, the shadow is the one who must first allow the Reaper to claim the soul. Without the shadow’s explicit permission, a human soul cannot be taken.
Grimm Reaper. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
The “Opera Omnia” is one of the old books that talks about shadows in one of its eight volumes. The text says that shadows protect certain people and that demons fear shadows and their power. When a human being is protected by a shadow, that person cannot be attacked by demons or other evil supernatural entities. This is said to be true for the living world as well as for the afterlife. As a result, shadows exist in the area between light and darkness – between good and evil.
F. Ruysch, Opera omnia anatomico-medico. (CC BY 4.0)
Il Separatio and Shadow People
These ancient beliefs make a clear distinction between the forces of evil and shadows. Shadows are not evil; instead they exist as delimitation between good and evil. As already mentioned, the forces of evil are actually afraid of shadows.
Shadows do not enter the afterlife. Only the spirits of the deceased enter the world of the dead. Therefore, shadows cannot go to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Shadows just maintain a balance between good and evil.
Medieval texts speak of another entity of neutrality which is neither good nor evil, known by the name of Il Separatio or Anonymus. Il Separatio is not a shadow and this entity actually has no direct connection to shadows. Shadow people are a sort of paranormal apparition. They are normally seen at the corner of the eye, pass by quickly, and then disappear. Shadow people do seem to be connected to shadows.
Statue of Anonymus, in Budapest’s Vajdahunyad Castle. (Public Domain)
Carl Jung talked about individual and collective shadows. In his view, each person has a shadow as a separate entity, but the shadows of all people together also form another separate entity. Jung does not say whether shadows have positive or negative influences on the individual, but he does speak about ways of investigating one’s own shadow. Shadows are regarded as highly powerful entities and they are not thought to be material.
The Power of Shadows
Many experiments have been made regarding shadows and plenty of paranormal research teams have attempted to study shadows. There have reportedly been cases when researchers have been visited by their own shadows telling them to cease their research because they might upset the existing balance.
Interestingly, vampires are said to have no shadows. It is believed that only beings of the world of the living have a shadow. Also, as forces of evil, vampires are thought to be afraid of shadows. The gods of death are also considered to be afraid of shadows.
For example, when Persephone went to Hades, nature begins to die as winter comes upon the land. In order to bring her back and to make spring come, shadows are sent to claim her – as Hades, a god of death, fears them and must respect their commands. Even the being called Satan is said to be afraid of shadows.
An iconic scene from F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, 1922. (Public Domain)
In mathematics, every number times zero equals zero. In this sense, shadows equal zero because they can stop any entity and turn it to nonexistence if it tries to oppose the shadow’s will. After all of this, one question remains: If Heaven is the shadow of God and Hell is the shadow of the Devil, is life the shadow of a dream?
Top image: Scary Shadows. Source: (Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0)
By Valda Roric
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