Book of Shadows

In my previous post I talked a bit about ritual tools, but I intentionally left out one "tool" in order to put emphasis on it. Namely, Wicca doesn't have any sort of common holy book because every individual is given the freedom to create their own system of moral values according to what suits them the best. In this way, everyone is encouraged to be conscious of their own actions (and their effect on themselves and other) but also answer for them. There are no rules in Wicca, at least not in the traditional sense.

Since such a freedom is granted to the individual, everyone makes their own "holy book". This book is called the Book of Shadows in Wicca (BoS for short). There are a few theories that state where the name could have come from, but one thing is for sure; that the person who introduced this name was Gerald Gardner, the so called father of Wicca. One of the theories that Doreen Valiente supports claims that this name came from an old manual which was written in Sanskrit which just so happened to carry the same name. The contents of this manual explained how to divine according to the length of a persons' shadow.

Of course, the most famous Book of Shadows today is the one that belonged to Gerald Gardner himself.

You might ask yourselves: what is a Book of Shadows even used for?

This will be a certain type of diary, though you don't have to write in it every day but when you actually feel the need to do so or have something important to write down. In it, you will write down any information that you think will be useful to you when practicing the Craft. I prefer to write down only the things that I don't have in books or those that I know I'll have trouble finding again. This belong to you and you alone and it is recommended that nobody else be allowed to read your BoS except for you (unless you're a part of a coven or other sort of group where you have a joint BoS, in which case you will share this book with the other members according to the agreement you come to).  Because of it being just yours, you can write in it whatever you want and the way you want to. You can even design it to completely suite your taste.

I would recommend drawing/making some sort of cover sheet just so you can make it more personal (e.g. draw you zodiac symbols or write down your name, be it real or magickal, in some writing you are fond of, draw any other symbol you find appropriate or anything that means anything to you and so on) and I also found it useful to have a few pages at the back left for a sort of contents. I made my contents by drawing up grids on each page. Each grid has a letter of the alphabet at the top so that I put everything regarding the Sabbaths under "S" and all my dreams under "D" etc. You, of course, don't have to have the same system (or any system at all), but I find it quite useful to have everything organized because you WILL return to read a lot of what you're written over time and this just makes things easier (especially when you gather a lot of material over time).

What can you write inside?
Well...you can start off by writing information on the eight Sabbaths, appropriate rituals to go along with them (as well as the Esbaths) or any other magickal rituals you have done/plan to do. If you are into some sort of technique of divination, you can jot down your results (questions, the process, conclusions) or write down any new findings you come across. I also find it nice to write down and analyze your dreams so you can have your dream diary inside your BoS (which I find practical). If you are a fan of plants and crystals like I am, then you can write down what you find out on this topic as well. Along with all of his, I highly recommend you make a correspondence table here and there which you will come across in a lot of books (and on this blog also) because they really can make your life simpler when you need to find something in a rush or just help put things in order when you've been trying to remember a lot of information. If you forget something or don't have time to search through your library, you just have to open that section of your BoS and there you have it! :D

If you are especially fond of a certain pantheon then you can write down a list of Gods/Goddesses so you don't forget about them. Also, writing things down helps you to memorize them :)

BUT, you don't just have to copy everything out. You are, of course, allowed to write down your own essays and thoughts inside this book too. Just keep in mind that this book primarily serves for writing down rituals which you have done or plan to do. This is you own private "holy book" which you can turn to when you have to.

Regarding design, format and other formalities, all of this depends on you. Your BoS can be really tiny, the size of an A4 piece of paper (which I find the best option) or any other size that you prefer. Writing your BoS on your computer isn't recommended because by writing by hand, more energy is put into it and hence the book itself gains a greater importance. It's like with everything else I've mentioned, the more energy you put into something, the stronger it gets (and the more you get back from it). Though I feel obliged to tell you that more and more people are starting to write their BoS on their computer because it's simply a more practical option that writing it by hand when it comes to the writing itself (which is a lot faster), inserting photos/drawings, finding things, sharing it with others etc. And not to mention the blessing it is for those who have bad handwriting! Anyway, if you decide to go with the electronic version, don't forget to always have a backup somewhere because you never know when your computer can crash.

Some will find it more practical to have some sort of file in which you can switch/add/take away papers as need be. My first book of shadows was an ordinary fat blue notebook I bought in a school/office supplies shop. I chose blue because this was my favorite color at the time and because it had an important meaning to me (and still does). All I did was draw the cover page to make it more personal.
I made my new BoS with a technique I found on the internet and found very useful. Just follow this link and you will see the complete instructions on how to make one yourself. The technique proved to be extremely successful as you can see from the above picture. I only switched the position of the ribbon so it connected only the middle holes which enabled me to open the book completely, but feel free to look at the tutorial and see for yourself which way you like the most.

The decorative papers and cardboard (the thicker the better in my opinion) can be found in any art shop of office supplies store and I found the necessary ribbons in a local trimmings shop that sold everything from ribbons and buttons to needles and other materials needed for sowing. You will have all the other materials at home, but if you don't, you can also buy them in any school/office supplies shop. All in all, this is a fairly simple technique that will let you make an original, beautiful and practical notebook that will serve as you Book of Shadows. All you need is a bit of patience and time but believe me when I say that it's worth it.

People usually think that their BoS has to be a fat, black book (often leather-bound), but it really doesn't. Of course, if you prefer black over any other color, no one can forbid you to have a black cover. Just please remember to personalize it in any way.

I recommend that you write and draw everything in it by hand (without photocopies and printouts if possible) because you'll put in all the more energy this way. Though your writing should be tidy, or at least readable, because you'll want to be able to read from it occasionally and the atmosphere won't always be ideal for reading (usually only under the light of one or two candles and that's it...which is hard enough even with tidy handwriting).

I'm not sure what more to write here because most of this depends on your decisions. But since I can't write much, you can write to me about how well your BoS turned out or what a perfect one you managed to find online and how you are beginning to fill it up with all sorts of useful pieces of information! :D

And finally, don't forget to cleanse and consecrate it in a ritual because this will make it holy to you. It is at this moment that it stops being an ordinary notebook, diary or even just a simple hand-made notebook. It then becomes so much more! It becomes your contact with the Goddess and God, a symbol of your dedication to the Craft and a collection of everything you have learnt so far. Remember, there will always be more blank pages for you to fill with your handwriting and new findings so this i also one of the many stimulators for further learning and personal growth!

May happiness follow you one this wonderful journey!
Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

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