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What is a Book of Shadows?
A Book of Shadows (also known simply as the Book) is a concept from Wicca and is a personal grimoire written by the magickal practitioner for the practitioner’s own use. It is a “how to” manual and a set of guiding instructions. Inside are things like spell recipes, lists of correspondences, instructions for rituals and the dates of important festivals.
The Book of Shadows as a religious text
For Wiccans, the Book of Shadows is often considered to be a sacred text and a key magickal tool. This means the book is associated with the magickal power connected to the practitioner and is oftentimes consecrated in a similar way to other magickal tools.
Gerald Gardner first introduced the idea of a “Book of Shadows” to Wicca in the 1950s. Even Gardner’s own Book of Shadows, arguably the first Book of Shadows, was copied, deleted and added to over time by his coven. This means each Book of Shadows is unique to the coven who copied it. So unlike other religions, in Wicca, there is no one correct book to follow.
Non-wiccans and the Book of Shadows
Non-wiccans can, and do, create a version of the Book for their own use. It’s just referred to as “a grimoire” if non-wiccan magickal practitioners choose to avoid the term Book of Shadows. The grimoire will contain as much information as the practitioner needs to help them with their magickal practice. The following steps can absolutely apply for non-wiccans wanting to create a grimoire.
Making a Book of Shadows
Because there is no one true Book of Shadows, each and every practitioner can (if they want to) create one for their own practice. Each Book can be as fancy as you want it to be. It could be hand-written into a leather bound book, or it could be sheets of paper attached into a simple ringbinder. It can even be a document you keep on your laptop….the important thing about the creation is that it starts with you, and what you’d like it to look like.
Think about what you’d like to do with it in the future? If you want to publish it or share it with others one day, perhaps a digital Book is the perfect option for you.
What to include in a Book of Shadows
A Book of Shadows is used to store information, remember…. there is no one correct Book to copy from; this means it is likely to only include information related to how the author (i.e you) practises their magick.
Some suggestions for what might be included are detailed here, but it is a personal tool. This means there might be things here that can be left out, equally there might be things we haven’t included that you believe ought to be in your Book of Shadows.
Laws of Ethics
You may wish to create an ethical framework from which your magickal practise is guided. For example, in Wicca there is a Wiccan Rede but even non-wiccans may wish to abide by a set of rules, and have those written down in the Book.
Deities, angels and spirits
Depending on the magickal practise or tradition, you may wish to note down any of the external forces that are called upon or worshipped. It may also be important to include the rituals for engaging with these deities, angels or spirits and what they are being called forward to do.
Where would magick be without lists of correspondences?! Whether for you this means the phases of the moon and planetary correspondences, colours of candles and crystals or lists of herbs and how to use them, you will likely need to look over these lists and keeping them in a Book of Shadows is a useful way to keep them all together.
Festivals and events
The Wiccan Wheel of the Year includes eight major festivals. But even non-wiccans may wish to allocate certain dates on the calendar for celebration and rest periods. Noting these down in one place is a great way to personalise your Book and whether you choose to celebrate any holidays that are special to you.
We post some of our spells to our subscriber audience and have some available for download from our website. Similarly, you may wish to keep tabs on the spells you cast and then the ones that work each and every time can ‘graduate’ into the Book of Shadows. Keeping all your spells in the Book is a great way to consolidate your best work in one place.
Should I create a Book of Shadows?
There is no rule in magick that says you must have one. The Book of Shadows is a Wiccan creation. Many practitioners do not identify as Wiccan so don’t have one. They may instead use different terms for magickal texts or information management systems they use in their practise.
Many practitioners do not want to create any documents that look magickal if there is risk it will be found by someone else. A Book of Shadows is only a method to keep information together. A practitioner could very easily carry all their information in their head! So, there is no need to create a Book if you don’t want to. You are every bit a magickal practitioner without one and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
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