Book of Shadows – Introduction
The Book of Shadows, or as commonly referred to BOS, is a book or other publication used to store information needed in your tradition, whatever it may be. The term Book of Shadows is typically used by Wiccan Traditions, though it is widely used by several different practitioners.
Many Pagans believe the Book of Shadows must be handwritten, but in modern times many modern-day Pagans keep their BOS on their computers as digital files and compilations. There is no right or wrong way to keep a Book of Shadows, as it is purely yours both in form and function.
A Book of Shadows is considered one of the sacred tools of Witchcraft. Many consecrate their Book of shadows in accordance with their respective Tradition and rituals, as they do all of their magical tools. The belief that your Book of Shadows has to be handwritten comes from the belief that you must transfer your energy into your book. Again, in modern times this may vary, as keeping a digital Book of Shadows is faster and easier to maintain. Since the Book of Shadows is usually used during rituals or magical practice, personally I still prefer to keep a written copy.
Differences Between a Book of Shadows and a Grimoire
A quick note about Book of Shadows and Grimoires. You may have heard or seen the word Grimoire in your books and may be used it interchangeably with Book of Shadows. I personally believe there is a difference between the two, however. Here are the common differences between the two that I have seen from personal research and practice.
A Book of Shadows is a witch’s personal book of magic. Almost like a diary, in which the practitioner keeps records of magical workings, rituals, dreams, and other personal notes. It is deeply personal, something you wouldn’t just share with others as they are your personal experiences within your craft.
A Grimoire is similar but does not include personal notes and experiences. The Grimoire holds information, like a manual or encyclopedia of sorts. Contains ritual verbiage and instructions, spells, potions, and how to prepare magical tools. It may also contain lists of magical properties of varying things. It contains all the research the practitioner has made on their tradition.
Most practitioners keep a Book of Shadows or Grimoire in which they include everything, information, and personal practice. I personally keep 2 books, a personal Book of Shadows as my personal diary, and a Grimoire with all my research and information.
A Book of Shadows, to me, due to its extremely personal nature, is a sacred object and should be honored as such. If you keep both a Book of Shadows and a Grimoire I would suggest consecrating both and keeping your Book of Shadows in a more private place where no one else will come in contact with it, and your Grimoire on your altar or other working areas for easy access.
Many also maintain that calling a Book of Shadows/Grimoire a Book of Shadows is exclusive to the Wiccan Traditions. Though I’ve personally always called my magical diary a Book of Shadows, and my ‘guide to rituals and spells’ a Grimoire. In the end, it is all up to you, as your personal practice and what verbiage you use doesn’t have to answer to anyone!
Organization of a Book of Shadows
Depending on how you are using your book. As a personal diary, or in combination with a Grimoire, one of the big challenges is organization.
If you are using it as a diary, then the organization may be as simple as a normal diary would be. A day to day event entry journal, which you fill in as you go. Or a diary combined with ‘static pages’ where you keep information about your personal practice.
However, if you are using your BOS as a combination diary and information tool or Grimoire, there will be some challenges. Although the thought of having a beautiful, sewn book, with all the information in it is nice…it’s probably not practical given the amount of information that will eventually go into your book.
I would recommend a 3-ring binder, or something similar, in which you can use tabs, and move pages around as needed, creating areas as you grow your book.
What to Keep in your Book of Shadows / Grimoire
Here are some general ideas of what you can keep in your Book of Shadows, or Grimoire. (keeping in mind you can have 2 separate books if you’d like).
Laws of Your Cover or Tradition
Some traditions and practices have general rules or guidelines, it is a good idea to keep them in your book. If you are a solitary practitioner or eclectic, you can use this area to write down what *you* think are the acceptable rules of your practice.
If you’ve been initiated into a coven, you probably want to include a copy of your initiation ceremony. If you are a solitary practitioner or have dedicated yourself, it is also a good idea to write that here. This is the who, what, and why part of your book. Who you are, What you are dedicating yourself to, and Why. This can be as long or short as you desire.
Gods and Goddesses
Depending on your Tradition, you may have a defined set of Deities you follow or venerate. This is a good place to keep information about those Deities, legends, myths, artwork, etc.
If your Tradition includes spellcasting, then correspondence tables will be important tools for you. All matter of things have different meanings and affiliations used in magic casting, this includes herbs, elements, phases of the moon, stones, colors, and more.
You may also want to keep a list of herbs and their common uses, both magical and practical. Remember to do full research on herbs, you wouldn’t want to ingest or burn something that can be potentially harmful to you!
Sabbats, Esbats and Other Rituals
The Wheel of the Year includes eight sacred days for most Pagans. Not all Traditions practice the same Holidays, however. This is a good place to keep track of your Traditions’ respective Holidays. If you are a solitary practitioner or eclectic, a general rundown of the Sabbats and Esbats might be a good way to go.
Lists of common symbols used in magical practice and rituals
This is a good area to keep information on such divination tools such as Tarot, scrying, palm reading or astrology.
Meditation and Visualization
An area to keep your meditation rituals and results.
Sacred Texts & Alphabets
This is a good place to write down chants or other ritual text you are fond of. Many practitioners also study ancient alphabets, and even come up with customized alphabets in which to write their books!
If you are a practitioner of Kitchen witchery, this is a good place to collect recipes for oils, incense, or herb blends and their uses. You may even want to keep recipes used during Sabbats and Esbats.
Not all traditions practice Spellcasting, but if you do, this is a good place to keep all those spells and details. It is best to organize spells by purpose. It is also a good idea to include detailed instructions, and results.
Now you have a basic idea of what is kept within a Book of Shadows, or Grimoire (or both if you keep two separate books). Your personal book or books can be of any size, and contain any information that serves your personal practice.
I will cover specific areas of my Grimoire via blog posts as this site grows! So keep an eye out for them if you wish to get a glimpse inside my own Grimoire and what is kept within it.
Love & Light