Your Book of Shadows is where you write down information as to how to construct your spells, rituals you need to remember, as well as those spells and rituals that you actually performed. It is a journal, where you write down all the information concerning the astrological information and anything else that might concern the time and what you did you did it. It is also where you write anything else you need for your worship and magical practice, as well as what you actually believe.
Traditionally your BoS is handwritten. It is a sacred tool. Though there are those that will have their BoS on their computer or cd and some will print out their BoS pages. Your BoS is an item of power and you should take good care of it. Just like you would any other magical and sacred tool.
Should you buy a finished Book of Shadows or should you make your own?
Even though you can buy a finished BoS, I really don’t recommend it, at least not to be used as your main or only BoS. They are usually ok, but you should write your own. It will be more meaningful because it will be in your own words, words you understand and feel deeply inside. And it will better reflect what you actually believe and how you actually practice your craft.
I recommend that you write down every spell by hand. Not only does this transfer energy to you, the writer, but it also helps you to remember the rituals and spells. Take your time writing down your spells and rituals. Consider this a ritual in itself. Don’t write in haste. Taking your time also helps you write legible enough so you can read it again later, maybe in candle light. It also helps you to consider every word you use in the spell or ritual. Your words are your way to express your intent.
Should you use a simple notebook or a long lasting one?
First of all, you need an empty book. A simple notebook can do just fine, but since this is a sacred item and possibly something you’ll want to keep with you for the rest of your life, and maybe even pass down to future generations, you should invest in something that is of better quality and long lasting.
Some choose to use a 3-ring binder. It’s not as pretty or fancy as having a leather journal, but it’ll make it easy to later add or remove pages. You can always cover the outside of the binder with cloth, leather or anything that will decorate the outside. Mine is a 3 inch 3 ring binder.
Some choose to have a binder or a simple and cheap notebook as their “draft” and then later transfer the rituals and spells to their main BoS (you know, the fancy leather bound one). But remember that you will be constantly adding to your BoS. Like your practice, your BoS is an evolving thing.
How do you start your Book of Shadows?
When you have made your decision as to what will be your BoS and are ready to write, the very first thing you should do is to write your name on the very first page. Some witches spend a lot of time here. You don’t have to, but just remember that the very first page you create in your BoS will set the tone for how your book will turn out. Many witches write something like:
“This Book of Shadow belongs to [YOUR NAME]” and then a quote or a poem that is meaningful for them. You may wish to use your magickal name here.
What should you write down in your Book of Shadows?
Now, what and how you write in your BoS is completely up to you. However, this next part of the article deals with the sections that are almost universal for Wiccans and witches.
Book of Shadows blessing and protection:
The first thing I suggest you do is do a blessing and protection spell on your BoS. I suggest that it contains words that protects it from prying eyes. I did this and then added a copy of the spell to the front of my BoS.
Guidelines and rules:
Your coven or tradition's laws: Yes, there are rules and ethics in magic. They vary from coven to coven, 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 in your coven, or tradition, and what’s not.
If you are a solitary witch, this is a good place to write down your own “rules” and ethics. What you think is acceptable behavior. Trust me, you will need this. Maybe you don’t feel like it right now, but in your journey as a Wiccan and witch, there will come times where you’ll need to look back at these “guidelines” to help you make decisions. It will also help you to see how you have grown spiritually.
This section of the book is also a good place to write down the Wiccan Rede and Three-Fold Law. I also recommend that you include not only the ethics of your practice but the etiquette as well. It will save you from all sorts of embarrassments.
Initiation & Dedication:
If you have been initiated into a coven, you can put a copy of your initiation ceremony here. Just remember that many covens have things that are oath bound and thus not something that can be shared with those not in your coven. You will also want to record the date, city & state and the name of the coven you were initiated into.
If you are not in a coven yet or have decided to practice as a solitaire or have already dedicated yourself to a god or a goddess, this section is a good place to write that down. For some, this section will be several pages long, for others, it’ll be a short line with your name, the names of your God/s and Goddess/es and the date as well as to the astrological significance of the date. I’d suggest you use at least a few lines more and write down why you are dedicating yourself to your Deities as well.
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. Many Wiccans and witches also use this section to write down chants and prayers. Just remember to note down where you found them.
The Goddesses & Gods:
You will want a section that lists detailed information and stories of the different Goddesses and Gods in the pantheon that you wish to follow. You can start with information about the Goddess and/or God you have personally dedicated yourself to, that is if you have already dedicated yourself to a specific Goddess and/or God. Then continue with the other Goddesses and Gods in that pantheon. If you are planning to worship and call on the help of Goddesses and Gods from many different pantheons, then you will want to start writing down information about the ones you wish to call on. It's up to you as to who you wish to include in this section of your BoS.
Your Table of Correspondences :
As a witch that does Magic and spell-casting, your correspondence tables are or will be, some of your most important tools. It can be phases of the moon, different colors and meanings, stones & crystals, etc. They all have different purposes and as time goes by, it can be very hard to remember everything. I would also keep a copy of any magical alphabets, runes and symbols here that you choose to use. Keeping charts in your BoS makes all of this information handy when you need it.
Herbs & Their Uses:
Any BoS should have a section about herbs, spices and resins. What they’re called. What they look like and what you can use them for, whether magical or medicinal.
One of the key elements in spell-casting is herbalism. Plants have been used for thousands upon thousands of years by many people. With time, you will use plants and herbs for healing, spell-casting, cleansing and a whole lot more.
Many Wiccans and witches use herbs medicinally. But this is a tricky thing as herbs used in a medicinal way can interact with your medications or you can have unfavorable reactions to them due to either allergies or medical conditions. So, it is a very good thing to really spend time finding out about all the herbs you wish to use. Also, before you start using herbs medicinally, consult your physician. Your pharmacist is also a good person to talk to about interactions between herbs and medications. Just don't forget to also talk to your physician as well.
Here you’ll write down the recipes you use to make potions, oils, inks, incense or herbal blends. You can even put down special recipes for Sabbat celebration meals and so forth. Most witches are a bit of a kitchen witch. Don't forget the recipes you use for your Esbats.
For most Wiccans and Pagans, the year has 8 holidays called Sabbats. You should write down the rituals for each of those Sabbats. For example, for Yule, you could write down how to celebrate the winter solstice. It doesn’t have to be complex. It can be very simple or very detailed. It’s up to you. Don't forget to write down the reasons and folklore relating to each one.
This section is also where you’ll put your other rituals. For example, if you have a full moon ritual. Each Full Moon, or Esbat, is unique in that they each have a differently relating significance due to the time of the year it falls in. So you'll want to write down what is different with each one and how you celebrate it differently from the others. There are other rituals that you will probably do and you'll want to record them here as well.
If you’re using Tarot, Runes, Scrying or any other form of divination in your practice, use this section to keep the instructions for how to do them. Many Wiccans and witches use their BoS to keep records of their divination results but some prefer to keep that in a separate journal instead. It's up to you.
You can use this section to write down your spells. A good tip here is to divide them up by purpose. For example; prosperity, protection, healing, etc. This will make it easier to find them later. Some witches use color codes to keep track of their spells.
You should know that some witches like to keep their spells in a separate book called a “Grimoire”. If you are a new Wiccan or witch, it might make more sense to keep everything in one book. But as with everything else, do as you please, as long as it doesn’t cause any harm.
Beliefs on death and the Afterlife:
This is a good place to start writing your beliefs that might concern reincarnation, the Summerland, or other thoughts on death and the afterlife. This can vary and may very well evolve as you grow in your beliefs and practice, so be prepared to rewrite this section. Again, these are your thoughts and beliefs and should reflect that. There are some poems and stories published that you might want record here too. It’s up to you if you want to include them in this section.
It can be hard to keep everything organized. Try to start out with a good system from the beginning. That will help you out a lot. A good tip is to add the source of your content, if any. It might be useful later.
I highly suggest you get a really good, sturdy Book of Shadows from the beginning. This is a book that will follow you for many years to come. At least if it is durable. You can use a simple notebook or sheets of paper and a binder, I also recommend protection sleeves to put your sheets of paper or parchment in if you are using the loose-leaf type. I prefer to use a three-ring binder as I can add, remove and move pages as I wish. I spent just a bit more for a good sturdy three inch three ring one. However, you can buy a leather-bound Book of Shadows. It's up to you as to how much you wish or can spend. By the way, I’ve seen online someone selling leather and cloth three ring binders.
Finally, remember that your BoS is a very personal thing. You can do with it as you want. This article here is meant to help you get started. If you want to change things around or if you need other sections that aren’t included here, that is perfectly fine. It’s your Book of Shadows.