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When two persons meet, in Jung's view actually four persons interact: Unconsciously, their "shadows" interfere


The term shadow originates in Jungian psychology. It refers to those aspects of the personality that a person does not want to acknowledge as belonging to himself because they do not fit in with his own personal image. In Jungian psychology the persona or ego represents the person's conscious sense of identity or self; whereas the shadow is the hidden, suppressed and even unconscious part of the personality. The shadow can sometimes include things that society disapproves of or things that confront an individual's personal system of beliefs. For example, a highly cultured, educated pacifist who dislikes violence and "macho" behaviour may repress these parts of himself, and deny that he is in any way violent or insensitive.

Although the shadow usually indicates the unwanted or guilty parts of the personality, someone with low self-esteem might deny her many positive qualities. The shadow operates at the collective as well as the individual level. For example, a majority culture might scapegoat and oppress a religious or ethnic minority as embodying traits of greed or criminal behavior. Alternatively, a society might virtually deify its political leaders as embodying strength of will and wisdom denied to ordinary citizens.

With shadow material, the individual is constantly confronted with the unwanted, suppressed personal qualities as they seemingly appear in other people. Through the process of psychological projection, the individual sees the very qualities she denies in herself as exhibited by other people, whether positively or negatively. The pacifist may feel surrounded by violent bullies. A woman who strives to be perfectly organized may feel that she is constantly surrounded by disorganized co-workers.

Because individuals try not to experience the shadow as belonging to them, projection nevertheless means that they are strongly aware of these qualities in others. The intensity of the reaction, moreover, usually reveals whether the theme originates from the individual's own shadow. For example, glowing adoration for another person can indicate that a self-deprecating individual is unaware of her own outstanding attributes. Intense dislike of another person for no apparent reason other than his alleged personality traits also indicates shadow material. Through projection onto others, shadow aspects are dormant yet dominant parts of the personality that never had the chance to develop in a more constructive way.


The natal chart is a good instrument for identifying one's shadow aspects and showing possible ways of accepting, integrating and further developing them to become more whole as a person. The aim is not to get rid of these aspects, but to recognise and tap into the positive potential inherent in them.

The following are some horoscope placements which point to shadow material, although it is not possible to say with certainty that this will be the case. Each horoscope factor contains a wide spectrum of possibilities, ranging from the negative to the positive. Each individual is free to choose her level of maturity. But the following factors aroften indicate shadow issues.

  • Retrograde personal planets, i.e. Mercury, Venus and Mars. For example, the natural aggression of Mars is turned inward when Mars is retrograde in a birth chart, and can make the person very critical of himself.
  • Planets conjunct the descending or south moon's node together with the sign of the descending node. The south node indicates a past that may feel outgrown or unwanted.
  • Hard aspects from Saturn and Pluto to personal planets or axes together with their house and sign positions. Saturn in a natal chart often shows where and how the person feels inadequate. With Saturn opposite the sun, the person may either suffer from low self-worth, or alternatively, may feel that authority figures (represented by Saturn) oppose his interests.
  • Unaspected planets operate like "loners" in the horoscope.
  • Planets opposite the sun and ascendant, which are strong points of personal identity. The descendant and seventh house can indicate both "the other" in inter-personal relationships; and it is also the traditional house of open or visible enemies.
  • Planets in the fourth, eighth and twelfth houses; the three so-called water houses. The twelfth is the traditional house of secret enemies, and all three houses deal with events apt to be hidden from public view.
  • An element in which there are hardly any (or no) horoscope factors. For example, a person with no planets in the water element may dislike highly emotional people.
  • Aspects from Uranus and Neptune to the personal planets together with their house and sign positions. Uranus may be interpreted as highly disruptive people. Neptune may signify deceptive people as well as alcoholics or drug addicts.

Shadow themes are difficult to deal with when they remain unconscious. But they can be a source of great potential if an individual is able to understand that the problems are in reality also challenges which, if overcome, can release an enormous amount of energy. Above all, the individual can recognize that s/he comprises all of the planets in the natal horoscope, and can work to integrate their constructive meanings into daily life.

See also



  • Idemon, Richard, 1996. The Magic Thread: Astrological Chart Interpretations Using Depth Psychology, Samuel Weiser, Inc.