The Book of Shadows is a collection of magical and religious texts of Wicca/Witchcraft and other Neopagan or Magical traditions, containing the core rituals, magical practices, ethics and philosophy of a Magical tradition. Whether it’s called a “Book Of Magick”, a “Magical Grimoire”, or a “Book Of Shadows”, it’s important for every magician/witch to create a book of records. These are your personal notes, a diary of your spiritual or magical 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.

History of the Book of Shadows:

As with all spiritual texts, there is large debate about where and how magical grimoires came into use. Some say they were prevalent during the middle ages, written only in Runic alphabets to hide their magical 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 magical 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 magical 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.

How To Create Your Own Book Of Shadows

A Book of Shadows is your personal journal of your magical journey. In it, you will write down any notes and insights you receive from other Witches, from the Universe, from your dreams, from books and websites and any other source you find them. You will write down your spells before you cast them and you will make notes about the casting and about your results. You will keep any tables of correspondences, recipes, sketches of magical plants, symbols and just about anything that comes to you that relates in any way to your magical practice.

It is wise for all magical practitioners of any tradition to have a Book Of Shadows as it provides an invaluable resource you will invariably return to time and again when your memory fails, not to mention the incredibly deep insight your periodic review of your Book of Shadows and provide into your own spiritual evolution.

In short — a BoS is not a living entity, nor will touching it zap you, hex you, or otherwise harm you or anyone who accidentally brushes by it. It’s simply a book, your book.

Required Tools:

To create your book of shadows you will need a book. You can purchase a blank journal, or a specialized Book of Shadows online or in many specialty shops. However, do not over-complicate this project. Having a Book of Shadows is more important than the form the Book comes in. A 3-Ring binder with loose leaf paper, or even a spiral notebook or a composition book is suitable to get you started simply for a very low cost. You can always copy your notes into a fancier book later if you can’t acquire one now.

You will also need a pen. Pencil marks wear off over time so a pen is best. Some folks like to have a special pen for their Book of Shadows.You will also need whatever tools you generally use to cleanse and consecrate your magical tools

Directions:

1. Obtain and Organize Your Book

If you are using a 3-ring binder, you can use tabs to mark each section. If you are using a blank book, spiral notebook or composition book, you may wish to number your pages and create a Table of Contents or you can use colored post-it tabs to mark each section in your book. If you create a Table of Contents, make sure you do it on the second page, not the first. Leave the first page blank. Do not try to populate these sections at this time or you may get bogged down. Just create your sections and mark them out and move on to the next task.

Remember to leave the first page blank.

Whatever format you choose (or don’t choose, your choice) it’s going to need to be organized. Now, lots of practitioners gearing up to make a BoS do what any person would do when they’re trying to plan; they break it up into sections.

The following sections are suggested, but you may add or omit whichever sections you wish as best suits your personal practice and do not feel that you have to stick to this order.

1. Rules to Live By
Many practitioners follow certain laws and it’s a good idea to have them right up front where you can meditate on them, absorb them, explore them and refer to them quickly and easily. So here is where you keep your copy of The Wiccan Rede, The Charge of the Goddess, The Delphic Maxims, The Seven Hermetic Principles or whatever it is that guides you. Yes, there is rules in magic. They vary from different forms of magic, but it’s a really good idea to have them written down in your BOS. Preferably in the front of the book. This section will primarily serve as a reminder of what’s acceptable. Trust me, you will need this. Maybe you don’t feel like it right now, but in your journey in Magic, there will come times where you’ll need to look back at these “guidelines” to help you make the right decision.

2. Holy Days and Rites of Passage
In this section you will record the dates and special significance of any holy days you celebrate and any rites of passage you experience, either as the recipient of the rite or the officiant of the rite. These may include the traditional Western Sabbats as well as any monthly observances you participate in and any special personal days, such as birthday celebrations, initiations, handfasting and marriage rites, adulthood rites, naming ceremonies and whatever else comes up in your life and personal practice. Write notes about the significance of each event, the rituals tied to each event, including traditional foods, decorations and gift-giving practices as well as special ceremonies and journal each individual event you celebrate. If you celebrate these events with your family, this will make your Book of Shadows a very special heirloom to pass down through the generations.

3. Symbols and Correspondences
In this section, you will keep any tables of correspondence you collect or develop as well as symbols, runes, magical languages, sigils and whatever else that is symbolic in nature that you find useful during your magical journey.

4. Spells
In this section, you will write down each spell you perform before you perform it. Then you will journal about the actual spell after you have performed it and continue journaling about the results of the spell. Include your thoughts about what worked well and what felt weird and how you could have done it differently and how it can be improved. Your BOS is the perfect place to keep old sacred texts. If you find a text that has a special meaning for you, write it down. Magic and spellcasting, your correspondence tables are or will be some of your most important tools. It can be as simple as the phases of the moon, different colors and meanings, herbs etc.

They all have different purposes and as time goes by, it can be very hard to remember everything. Keeping charts in your BOS makes all of this information handy when you need it.

5. Recipes
Here you’ll write down the recipes you use to make potions, oils, incense or herb blends. Every holy day and rite of passage has food associated with it. Many witches also like to prepare special ritual wine or cakes consumed only as part of a magical ritual. If this is you, be sure to include a section for your recipes because it’s a long time between Samhain feasts and you’d hate to leave out an ingredient in your famous pumpkin soup. If you have a special chant you like to recite while stirring to imbue your feast with magic, be sure to include this. One of the key elements in spellcasting is herbalism. Plants has been used for thousands upon thousands of years by people. With time, you will use plants and herbs for healing, spell-casting, cleansing and much much more.

6. Crafts
Many witches enjoy crafting their own magical tools and candles as well as making household items like soap. If this is you, include this section with step-by-step instructions for each item as well as notes for their use, spells that you like to imbue into the item and herbs or essential oils you like to use to scent items for specific purposes, seasonal variations, etc.

7. Chants, prayers and songs
There are many lovely chants we come across online, in books and at public rituals and some of us even write our own. Your Book of Shadows should have a section for these even if they can be found in the Holy Day ritual and spell sections. If you have a prayer you say at dawn, at bedtime or at mealtimes, be sure to include these as well.

Do not be afraid to “steal” someone else’s chant, prayer or song for your own personal use; that’s what they put them out there for, just make sure you write down the name of the author, if you can find it. If you were to publish your book of shadows in either print or digital format (blog, website, e-book, etc.), you will need to contact the author or publisher to ask permission to include it. Otherwise, it will have to be removed from the public version.

8. A Dream Journal
In this section you will record any significant, especially vivid or recurring dreams that you experience. Include notes about what’s going on in your life when you have these dreams. Some people like to keep a separate dream journal and this is fine too.

9. Journey or Meditation Journal
If you journey, engage in Astral Projection or practice meditation, keep a journal to record your experiences and impressions during these exercises. Be sure to include any music, fragrances or different methods you used so you can judge their effectiveness later.

Some people like to keep a journey or meditation journal separate from their Book of Shadows and this is fine too.

10. Reading Journal
Keep track of whatever books or websites you use to gather information. Take notes in this journal section make sure you write down where the information came from in case you want to look it up again later. Often when I am reading a book (or a website) I will come across a “fact” or an anecdote that I would like to research further. This journal section is invaluable for me in those instances.

Sometimes you come across a piece of information in a book or website that you’d like to chew on for awhile before you actually add it to your Book of Shadows. This is a good place to jot that down.

11. General Journal Section
It is nice to have an extra section at the end of your Book of Shadows to just journal in. Here you can work on that poem you don’t have quite right, or record that omen you saw that may or may not be an omen or expound on how gorgeous the sunset was or make a note to ask Judy where she bought the incense she used at the last esbat because wow, that was some potent stuff and of course you’ll want to write down the name of the vendor you discovered at the RenFest that carried the exact beads you’ve been looking for so you can order more from their website and you’ll want to write down the day you felt like you were in a fog all day so you can speculate on the reasoning for your fog later when you’re feeling more clearheaded.

12. Rituals
This section is also where you’ll put your other rituals. For example, if you have a full moon ritual. It doesn’t have to be complex. It can be very simple or very detailed. It’s up to you. But Rituals play a very important daily, weekly and monthly part of your Magic Practice. Keep detailed accounts of your rituals used over time. If you’re using Tarot, Runes, Scrying or any other form of divination in your practices, use this section to keep this information here as well with use of your Rituals and Practices.

2. Decorate your Book
Unless you’ve purchased your book already decorated, you may wish to decorate it yourself. I had you create sections to make the book usable before I had you decorate it because I want you to be able to use it right away, even if it’s not technically “finished” yet (Your Book of Shadows will never be finished). There is nothing more discouraging than the feeling that you have to do a bunch of work before you get started. Now you may decorate it if you wish, but you don’t have to. You can paint or draw right on the book, or use scrapbooking supplies if that’s what you’re into.

Or you can make the good old fashioned paper book cover

If you are using a 3-ring binder with a clear sleeve cover, you can simply print off or draw or paint an image that is pleasing to you and slide it into the clear sleeve.

Many people also like to decorate the first page of every section. Feel free to do this as well. You can use scrap booking tools or if you are an artist, use your own talents. I have also seen Books of Shadows that were illuminated throughout with sketches of herbs, postures, and just doodles and this is wonderful. The more /you/ you put into your Book, the more personal and magical it will become. Just don’t get caught up in the decoration and forget to write. Of course, if your an artist and prefer to journal in illustrated form, that’s fine too!

3. Cleanse and Consecrate Your Book
Cleanse your Book using your preferred method and then consecrate it, that is, declare its sacred purpose.
Once this is done, open up your book to the first page and write the following:

This is the magical Book of Shadows of {Your magical name} begun this day, {date}

You can elaborate on this if you like, but don’t feel you have to. Some folks have written some Book of Shadows blessing rhymes that you might like to use and there are some more elaborate blessing rituals out there. You can find many of these using the search terms “Book of Shadows Blessing” in your favorite search engine. Choose one that you like and that reflects your intentions and beliefs. Or don’t and keep it simple.

Now, hold the book out in front of you, preferably over a candle or burning incense (high enough that it won’t catch fire) and read aloud what you just wrote.

4. Write in Your Book of Shadows

Many people like to write a bit fancy in their Book of Shadows. Some artsy types use calligraphy, some like to write in a magical language or code. I always write in cursive in my Book of Shadows. It feels fancy to me and is apparently going to be a dead art in another generation. Go ahead and be fancy if you like, but don’t get caught up in it. If you find you’re spending more time re-writing the calligraphy that’s not perfect or looking up magical languages than actually writing in your book, ditch the fancy and go for practical. The most important thing is that you write.

Write every day. Keep your Book of Shadows next to your bed so that you can write down your dreams as soon as you wake up and so that it is within arms reach when you wake from a dead sleep with some brilliant insight you won’t even remember you had in the morning.

If you don’t write every day, at least write every time you do a spell, ritual and at every Holy Day. It can be hard to keep everything organized. Start out with a good system from the beginning. That will help you a lot.

A good tip is to add the source of your content. That might be useful later.

Categories: Magic

3 Comments

Angelica Danton · July 7, 2017 at 6:41 am

Good article.The important areas are well covered.I think for any Book of Shadows to have a special meaning, you need to create a time and space for the creation of it.To maintain your work is like all areas a discipline .

Ravensoul · July 11, 2017 at 10:01 pm

Great article! Tons of useful info! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

The League · July 15, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Thank you both 🙂

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