Symbol of soul, death, accomplishment, darkness, transcendence, loss of innocence, spirits, vigilante.

Shadows are used as symbols both in ancient and modern times. Ancient Egyptians felt the shadow symbolized a person’s soul. They believed this because a person’s shadow is always present. The shadow contains a representation of the person. The name for a person’s shadow was a shut and when pharaohs died in ancient Egypt their shut was placed in a box. The shut also symbolized death and what the person accomplished on Earth.

In ancient Greece, a primordial deity named Erebus was thought to be the symbol of darkness. The name Erebus comes from the word shadow. Things that did not cast a shadow were considered soulless or walking dead like a werewolf or vampire. Lycaon, the king of Arcadia, tried to serve cooked human flesh to Zeus. The god was angered and turned Lycaon into a werewolf. Followers of Zeus in Arcadia were thought to lose their shadows when they went into the temple to worship him. They would lose their souls.

In Ancient Rome, the shadow was called the umbra. After a person died their shadow went to the Land of the Shades which was a part of the Underworld. This part of the underworld was for people who were not heroes. They stayed in that part of the underworld as a shadow figures or ghosts.

Shadow Symbols

People without shadows were considered holy or soulless depending on when and where they were from. The Immortals in ancient China did not have shadows because they had ascended beyond bodily existence or because they had been purified. The lack of a shadow was praised. In other cultures, the lack of a shadow meant you had sold your shadow and your soul to the devil. In more modern times, Peter Pan was looking for his shadow when he stumbled into Wendy’s room in the book Peter Pan. His lost shadow symbolized his lost childhood. He had to get it back to return to Neverland, the place of eternal youth.

The Choctaw Tribe believed that a person had an outer and inner shadow. When a person dies the inner shadow goes to the land of ghosts and the outer shadow remains on the earth to scare people and chase young adults trying to get them to move on and away from their graves.

In more modern times, shadows have been associated with secrecy and darkness. In 1972 the Shadow Wolves were created to track down smugglers near the United States and Mexico border. In the series “Shadow,” an undercover cop becomes a vigilante to bring justice into the world.

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