A Book of Shadows can be an amazing Witch's tool, full of useful information, spells, rituals, and more. It can make it easier to come up with new magical workings and keep track of the ones you've done already. And it can act as a record of your journey as a Witch, so you can look back at what you've done, what you've learned, and how you've grown as you walked your path. But some people find the idea of creating a Book of Shadows intimidating or overwhelming, or worry that they won't do it right.
First of all, let me reassure you that there is no right or wrong way to create a Book of Shadows. This is your own personal Book, and it doesn't need to suit anyone but you. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want, include the items you care about and leave out the ones you don't. (Not everyone needs to have a Sumerian chant to Ereshkigal, goddess of the Underworld.)
You also don't have to start from scratch if you don't want to, because I just wrote The Eclectic Witch's Book of Shadows for people who wanted the information they might put in a Book of their own, without the time-consuming process of gathering it all together and writing it down. Mind you, some people prefer to craft one themselves, so they can put their own spin on it. So here are ten handy tips—five for creating your personal Book of Shadows, and five for taking my book and making it your own.
5 Tips for Creating Your Personal Book of Shadows
- Start with the book itself. Pick out the book that will best suit your style. This can be something as simple as a blank journal or even a college-ruled notebook for those who like to have an aid to writing neatly. The first coven I belonged to was primarily a study group, and the high priestess who led it would actually hand out sheets filled with valuable information. My Book of Shadows then was a large binder, and I would punch holes in the papers she gave us and put them inside. What made it special was that I bought it from a local artist who decorated the outside with beautiful dried flowers and herbs, which seemed very appropriate. Think about what your perfect Book of Shadows would look like, and how you will be using it, and go from there. You can create one yourself if you are the crafty type, or buy one designed for that purpose from a Pagan or New Age shop. There are a lot of beautiful blank Books of Shadows out there, just waiting for you to fill them with your wisdom.
- Decide what you will want to include. Are you going to stick to the basics, and use your Book of Shadows to write down the spells and rituals you use? Or will you create an encyclopedia of everything you know about Witchcraft, from the crystals you use to the gods you worship? You can, of course, change your mind over time, but it is good to start out with a basic plan.
- Figure out how you want your Book to be set out. Blue Moon Circle's Book of Shadows is chronological. That is to say, it starts with the first ritual we did together, Spring Equinox of 2004, and includes all the rituals that followed, added to the Book as we did them, along with pictures of our group as it grew and changed. If I want to find a particular Sabbat ritual, all I have to do is leaf through the Book until I get to it. But you can also do as I did in The Eclectic Witch's Book of Shadows and have sections for various topics of interest, such as spells, herbs, recipes, and more. Figure out how you will be using the Book (as a tool for doing future magical work? As a way to keep track of past work?) and then decide which approach will make it easier for you accomplish that. If you are going to do separate sections, remember to leave plenty of space to add things in the future.
- Decide where you're going to get the information you put in your book. Is it all going to come from your own personal practice, or will you be copying spells out of your favorite witchy books, getting knowledge from friends, or doing research on the internet? If you are including info from elsewhere, you might want to make a note of where you found it, in case you need to track it down again.
- Decorate and adorn it! If you are the crafty and creative type (or even if you're not), you may want to decorate your Book both inside and out. Some folks add sketches or drawings of herbs, symbols, and the like. If you're not artistically inclined, you can always use stickers or photos. If the front of your Book of Shadows isn't already decorated in some Witchy way, you might want to add your own touches.
5 Tips for Making an Existing Book of Shadows Your Own
If you decide to use a Book of Shadows that was written by someone else, whether my new one or something created by another author, there is obviously less to do. On the other hand, you may still want add a few small touches to make the book truly your own. Here are a few possibilities:
- Write your name in it. This may seem somewhat simplistic, but by writing your name in the front of the book, you are claiming it for your own magical work. You can say, "This Book belongs to________" or use your magical name if you have one. I like to use a calligraphy pen (the kind that doesn't need any practice to use, since this is not one of my skill sets) to make it a little more formal looking. You might want to add a symbol or symbols that represent Witchcraft to you.
- Go through the book and mark the pages that have the most interest for you. You can use fancy bookmarks, dried flowers, or even Post-It notes (these come in multiple colors, and you can write on them, so you might use one color for spells and another for herbs, for example).
- Write down your own thoughts, experiences, and preferences. Most of us were brought up to believe it was wrong to write in a book, other than perhaps our college textbooks, but The Eclectic Witch's Book of Shadows was specifically designed with spaces for you to do just that. Each section has multiple places where you can add your own spells, favorite crystals, or journal about your magical experiences. If you are using some other book, you can always make those kinds of notes on separate pieces of paper and stick them inside the pages of the existing book.
- Draw in it. The Eclectic Witch's Book of Shadows is beautifully illustrated by the wonderful Mickie Mueller, but that's no reason why you can't add your own sketches of herbs, symbols, or anything else that comes to mind as you use the book. It was traditional for Witches to make simple drawings in their Books of Shadows, and you can continue that tradition with your own book if you choose to.
- Bless and Consecrate it. This is something I like to do with any important new magical tool. Basically, you use the powers of the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water (usually represented by salt and water, a sage smudge stick or some incense, and a candle flame) and ask the gods or your patron god/dess to bless the Book for positive magical work. There is even a short spell at the front of the The Eclectic Witch's Book of Shadows that you can use during this mini ritual. It is, in fact, the exact same spell that is in the first pages of Blue Moon Circle's Book of Shadows, and the one we used to bless and consecrate our own Book all those years ago.
While these tips might help you get the most effective use out of your own Book of Shadows, remember that it is exactly that—your own—and feel free to add in any ideas you have that go beyond the ones I've laid out here. Your tools, your rules. Your magic. I hope you use it well.