What Is A "Book Of Shadows" Whether it's called a "Book Of Magik", a "Magikal Grimoire", or a "Book Of Shadows", it's important for every witch to create a book of records. These are your personal notes, a diary of your spiritual or magikal experiences. A book to record your dreams, interpretations, aspirations and affirmations. In a simplified definition, it is a book kept and used by a witch to record research, thoughts, experiences and spiritual information, such as spells, incantations, potions and so on. The Shadow's History As with all spiritual texts, there is large debate about where and how magikal grimoires came into use. Some say they were prevalent during the middle ages, written only in Runic alphabets to hide their magikal meanings. Some say the witches during the middle ages were illiterate and the books did not come into practice until the 14th or 15th centuries. Even then, Runic alphabets were used to protect the owner from persecution and death if it were found by a witch hunter. Regardless of where they started, they've had just as many varying names. The Golden Grimoire is one of the more famous mythological versions of a magikal book. It's said to be the Book Of Shadows of Merlin the Magician.
The Great Grimoire is another legendary book, reportedly it contains the spells and incantations of the world's first witch, who received this magikal information from Lucifer (the Angel, not the devil). The Great Grimoire supposedly contained all the secret information about God, including his name of creation. When this name is said backwards, the world becomes undone. Riding the universe of the creature called man and returning the heavens to the Archangels. Unfortunately, many educated scholars believe this legend to be a creation of the Catholic Church during the early 12th century. A mythological tale designed to cast doom and gloom upon those who practiced paganism during that time in history.
The "Book of Light and Shadows" is a term that found popular use during the mid-to-late 1800s in Europe. Just about the same time Alester Crowley began to publicize his many works on the Craft. This title is meant to reflect the spiritual information contained within, as well as, the spells and rituals that are performed at night beneath the moon.
"Grimoire" became a popular label for these personal books during the Victorian era. Many a young woman could be found resting in a park, or flower garden writing thoughts, poems and wishes inside a diary. Upon closer review, you might also find remedies passed down from grand mother to child for various ailments. Elixirs and salves for poison ivy, fevers and more serious ailments such as heart problems or arthritis were often shared amongst family members as well as within tight knit communities. It is from these family recipes and remedies that the term "Kitchen Witch" sprang.
Today the most common label for these personal diaries is a "Book Of Shadows", presumably containing spiritual information and energy that is kept hidden until a witch opens the book and springs forth the words into the light.
It doesn't matter what you chose to call your personal magikal diary. It's just important that you start keeping a record of your research, experiences and magikal information. Starting Your Book Of Shadows Start by deciding what kind of book you want to use. A spiral notebook is one favorite method. A three hole binder is another, making it easy to maintain sections for organization. Some people purchase hard cover stationary books at their local book store, making various volumes or collections of magikal information.
Which ever you choose, label the book and set it's purpose and energy from the start. You can record the title on the outside or on the page inside the cover. But it's the first thing you should do. After the title, date the book. Some witches create a new book at the beginning of each magikal year during Samhain. While others use the same book over a period of time until it's full and then they start a new volume. It's up to you which way to date your book, but you should enter a date and if possible a volume reference. This will help keep your books organized over the years.
Next, take some time and think of a personal blessing to record on the first page (or after the title page). The book blessing is done as a dedication to your spiritual growth, you path of learning and protection for the information you'll gain and record within the covers of your book. You might write out the blessing on scrap paper until you get just right and then transfer the blessing to your Book of Shadows.
If you find that the book you've chosen loses it's appeal, or isn't adequate for your needs, don't hesitate in finding a new one. You must feel comfortable and well, attached to your book. This gives the book energy and meaning within your spiritual life. Another example of setting it's intent and importance in your life. What To Keep In A "Book Of Shadows" You can record as much information as you want, or stick with a bare minimum. Chose to use it as a daily diary, where all your information is kept. Or you can maintain a couple of different books, separating your daily thoughts into one, research and magikal information into an other, with spells and incantations into a third. It's entirely up to you. But keep in mind, you want your book to be well organized. You want to be able to quickly turn to a particular section and page to find some particular information when needed.
Here's a general list and suggested organization for your personal book. Book Title and Date Book Blessing General Index (make a few sections to help organize your book) The Sections: Magikal Rules and Principles Write down your personal principles, beliefs, and/or magikal rules that you chose to follow and believe in. These are your values of life and spiritual path. They should be created from scratch each time you begin a new book. This way you'll be able to review past volumes and see how much you've grown. Goals and Aspirations Write down what your short term goals are. Include a date to achieve the goal and outline a few steps you plan to take in order to reach it. Then write down your long term spiritual aspirations, what you feel you need to work on and how you plan on succeeding. What you would like to achieve and by when. Dream and Divination Records This section is for messages you receive through dreams, or some type of divination. Either a reading you've given to yourself, or received from someone else. This is the section where you want to record your personal introspection and interpretations. Research Here you can record all the research and particular information you receive along your path. You might consider organizing this into sub-sections in alphabetical order. Astrology, candles, crystals, Gods/Goddess, tarot and timeliness research could be some examples. Classes & Experiences Every witch should take a few classes or workshops on topics or subjects that you feel most interested in. Within all classes and workshops, you should receive some type of exercise or "how to" instruction. Record your experiences with these. What you liked, what didn't work and what you'd like to do differently next time. Spells, Incantations & Prayers Record the spells, incantations and prayers you find along your spiritual path. Those you like and even those you really dislike. There is a message hidden within words you feel very strongly against, write them down and note that you "dislike this one". Later when you have time, re-read the words and try to find the message hidden within for you. Rituals & Ceremonies Plan out your rituals and ceremonies. Record your experiences during or after conducting the event. Include your thoughts about what you liked, what worked well and what you'd like to change next time. Herbal Remedies and Potions These are your personal recopies. They can cover various herbology information and recopies to specific potions which are to be used in conjunction with a spell or incantation. Closing Thoughts At the end of the year, or once the book is filled, save a few pages for a review and reflection of your book of shadows. Note the goals and aspirations you achieved, the reflections of what you learned during the research and practices you made. End this section with a blessing of thanks and gratitude to all those forces, seen and unseen that helped you along this journey and with the lessons contained within this volume.
To make your Book of Shadows, begin with a blank notebook. A popular method is to use a three-ring binder so items can be added and rearranged as needed. If you use this style of BOS, you can use sheet protectors as well, which is great for preventing candle wax and other ritual drippings from getting on the pages!
Whatever you select, your title page should include your name. Make it fancy or simple, depending on your preference, but remember that the BOS is a magical object and should be treated accordingly. Many witches simply write, “The Book of Shadows of [your name]” on the front page. What format should you use? Some witches are known to create elaborate Books of Shadows in secret, magical alphabets. Unless you’re fluent enough in one of these systems that you can read it without having to check notes or a chart, stick with your native language. While a spell looks beautiful written out in flowing Elvish script or Klingon lettering, the fact is that it’s just hard to read unless you’re an Elf or a Klingon. When it comes to the contents of your personal BOS, there are a few sections that are nearly universally included. Laws of your coven or tradition: Believe it or not, magic has rules. While they may vary from group to group, it’s a really good idea to keep them at the front of your BOS as a reminder of what constitutes acceptable behavior and what doesn’t. If you’re part of an eclectic tradition that doesn’t have written rules, or if you’re a solitary witch, this is a good place to write down what YOU think are acceptable rules of magic. After all, if you don’t set yourself some guidelines, how will you know when you’ve crossed over them? This may include a variation on the Wiccan Rede, or some similar concept. A dedication: If you’ve been initiated into a coven, you may want to include a copy of yourinitiation ceremony here. However, many Wiccans dedicate themselves to a God or Goddess long before they become part of a coven. This is a good place to write out who you are dedicating yourself to, and why. This can be a lengthy essay, or it can be as simple as saying, “I, Willow, dedicate myself to the Goddess today, June 21, 2007.”Gods and Goddesses: Depending on what pantheon or tradition you follow, you may have a single God and Goddess, or a number of them. Your BOS is a good place to keep legends and myths and even artwork concerning your Deity. If your practice is an eclectic blend of different spiritual paths, it’s a good idea to include that here. Correspondence tables: When it comes to spellcasting, correspondence tables are some of your most important tools. Phases of the moon, herbs, stones and crystals, colors – all have different meanings and purposes. Keeping a chart of some sort in your BOS guarantees that this information will be at the ready when you really need it. If you have access to a good almanac, it’s not a bad idea to record a years’ worth of moon phases by date in your BOS. Sabbat rituals: The Wheel of the Year includes eight holidays for most Wiccans and Pagans, although some traditions do not celebrate all of them. Your BOS can include rituals for each of the Sabbats. For example, for Samhain you may wish to create a rite that honors your ancestors and celebrates the end of the harvest, while for Yule you may want to write down a celebration of the winter Solstice. A Sabbat celebration can be as simple or complex as you wish. Other rituals: If you’ll be celebrating each full moon, you’ll want to include an Esbat rite in your BOS. You can use the same one each month, or create several different ones tailored to the time of year. You may also wish to include sections on how to cast a circle and Drawing Down the Moon, a rite that celebrates the invoking of the Goddess at the time of the full moon. If you’ll be doing any rites for healing, prosperity, protection, or other purposes, be sure to include them here. Herbs: Ask any experienced Pagan or Wiccan about a specific herb, and chances are good that they’ll expound on not only the magical uses of the plant but also the healing properties and history of use. Herbalism is often considered the core of spellcasting, because plants are an ingredient that people have used for literally thousands of years. Put together a section in your BOS for herbs and their uses. Remember, many herbs should not be ingested, so it’s important to research thoroughly before you take anything internally. Divination: If you’re learning about Tarot, scrying, astrology, or any other form of divination, keep information in here. When you experiment with new methods of divination, keep a record of what you do and results you see in your Book of Shadows. Sacred texts: While it’s fun to have a bunch of new shiny books on Wicca and Paganism to read, sometimes it’s just as nice to have information that’s a little more established. If there is a certain text that appeals to you, such as The Charge of the Goddess, an old prayer in an archaic language, or a particular chant that moves you, include it in your Book of Shadows. Magical recipes: There’s a lot to be said for “kitchen witchery,” because for many people, the kitchen is the center of hearth and home. As you collect recipes for oils, incense, or herb blends, keep them in your BOS. You may even want to include a section of food recipes for Sabbat celebrations. Spell workings: Some people prefer to keep their spells in a separate book called a grimoire, but you can also keep them in your Book of Shadows. It’s easier to keep spells organized if you divide them up by purpose: prosperity, protection, healing, etc. With each spell you include - particularly if you write your own rather than using someone else's ideas - make sure you also leave room to include information on when the working was performed and what the outcome was. The biggest dilemma with any Book of Shadows is how to keep it organized. You can use tabbed dividers, create an index at the back, or if you’re really super-organized, a table of contents in the front. As you study and learn more, you’ll have more information to include – this is why the three-ring binder is such a practical idea. Some people choose instead to use a simple bound notebook, and just add to the back of it as they discover new items. Keep in mind that as our technology is constantly changing, the way we use it does too - there are people who keep their BOS completely digitally on a flash drive, their laptop, or even stored virtually to be accessed by their favorite mobile device. A BOS pulled up on a smart phone is no less valid than one copied by by hand in ink onto parchment. You may want to use one notebook for information copied from books or downloaded off the Internet, and another for original creations. Regardless, find the method that works best for you, and take good care of your Book of Shadows. After all, it’s a sacred object and should be treated accordingly!