Many new Wiccans have heard the term Book of Shadows, but they don’t know what it is, or they have an idea but are wondering how to put one together. A Book of Shadows, or a Grimoire, is a book that witches keep that contains any information that they feel is pertinent to their magickal practice. There is not one “right way” to create a Book of Shadows (BOS from now).
Most are somewhat familiar with the idea of a BOS for writing down spells, but wonder what else can be recorded in it. For just a few examples:
- Sabbat rituals
- Prayers or mantras
- Certain Wiccan texts, like The Charge of the Goddess
- Lists of Correspondences (what color means what)
- List of the properties of crystals or herbs
Some people keep their spiritual journal in their BOS. Others record the results of divination. Every witch’s BOS is unique. Whether you use your BOS as a journal or not, it is a highly personal endeavor that is a record of your journey.
Do you have to handwrite everything? No. Some people have a complete BOS on their computer, and only print out pages as needed. (If you do this, make sure you save to a source that would be accessible if your computer crashed!) Others print out typed information and paste it in their BOS. Not every person desires or is able to handwrite everything. Maybe your handwriting is almost impossible for even you to read. Maybe you have arthritis in your hands and writing everything out would be painful. Or maybe you just prefer it. I have a slight tremor in my hands and I also have mild arthritis in them, so it is hard for me to handwrite larger texts or to do it neatly, so I do a lot of typing and pasting. Some believe that handwriting adds personal power to your BOS. That may or may not affect your choice.
Does your BOS have to be a particular type of book? No. As I said above, some people don’t even have a physical book. Some people use binder-style books where they can move material around and delete/add material as necessary. Others use books like mine. Some people use a regular journal. Whatever you think would work best for you is what you should do.
There are, however, some practical considerations. If it’s a digital book, you either have to print up the necessary pages before a ritual or a spell, or memorize everything. If you use a binder-type book, size is a consideration- how easily can you hold or place it when you use it? Binders can be hard to hold while also engaging in ritual. Smaller books are easier to hold during ritual, but you can’t delete or move material if you so desire, which makes it harder to organize. You need to decide what is most important to you and go from there. And if you find one method doesn’t suit you, you’re always free to choose another! A BOS is something that grows and evolves.
I personally have both a computer BOS and a physical BOS. I like the computer BOS because I can include things that are longer than I want in my BOS (for example, my astrology chart) or pictures I have found. My physical BOS contains spells and rituals, prayers I say frequently, and Wiccan texts like the Wiccan Rede (the full version). I use the smaller version because it’s much easier to hold during a ritual, and I must admit I love the parchment papers and the leather cover; it evokes a link to the past. I keep my journal in a separate computer file. I journal almost daily and I would be using up the pages in my BOS very quickly.
Many people charge and cleanse a BOS before they use it. Here is an example of a blessing ritual for a BOS. Since a BOS is, among other things, a ritual and magickal tool, it makes sense to cleanse and bless it the way you would a new altar tool.
Ultimately, the most important thing about a BOS is that you use it! A BOS is a wonderful way to truly express yourself. Some people do bullet journaling. Others may have a BOS that resembles a scrapbook. Then there are others who desire to keep it as bare-bones as possible. Whatever form will help you in your life as a Wiccan is the one to use.