Hi, my loves and welcome to WiccaNow! I hope you’ve had a wonderful day today. Recently I’ve been covering some Wiccan basics, like this post on what Wicca actually is, another one about how to become Wiccan, a discussion about the Wiccan Gods and Goddesses and this post explaining the Wiccan Rede.
Today I want to talk about an essential tool in our Wiccan and witchy lives, namely the Book of Shadows. Every practising Wiccan and witch should have one of these books in order to record their rituals, thoughts, feelings and prayers. I personally love writing in mine. It gives me a freedom of expression as I love to illustrate my pages. Since no one else has access to my Book of Shadows I feel completely free to express myself creatively while also recording my journey into witchcraft and Wicca.
So, lets get into what a Book of Shadows actually is, along with some commonly asked questions and some tips for creating your personal Book of Shadows.
What is a Book of Shadows?
A Book of Shadows is seen as being the written form of its owner (ie its owner’s shadow). This makes it an extremely personal object which should be treated with great care and reverence. It details it’s owners personal journey into witchcraft and Wicca.
A Book of Shadows is used to record knowledge that the owner is acquiring as well as dreams, moon phases and anything that it’s owner feels is relevant to their craft. It holds the owner’s personal feelings in regards to their Wiccan and witch life. This book is a record of its owner’s own journey and is considered extremely personal. As such, it’s a book that’s often kept private and isn’t shared unless the owner gives express permission for someone else to read it.
A Book of Shadows should only contain information that’s important to its owner. There isn’t a prescribed format for the book and there are no rules about what can and can’t be added to it. Some of the more common entries are things like the owners self-dedication ritual when they enter into a Wiccan life, research about witchcraft and any information that the owner is acquiring like the magickal uses of herbs and plants or information about the 8 Sabbats. Generally, any spells or rituals which are performed would be added to a Grimoire but these can also be added to the owner’s Book of Shadows if they prefer.
Who Wrote the Book of Shadows?
While a Book of Shadows is a personal text and doesn’t have one author, there is a Book of Shadows which was written by Gerald Gardner, the father of modern Wicca. This is one of the more important books in the Wiccan world and is considered sacred by some Wiccan practitioners, though I wouldn’t put myself in that particular boat.
Gardener and his Coven were extremely secretive with this book and it was only released during the early ’90s after someone posted it online anonymously. Gardner claimed that he got the information contained in the book from the New Forest coven (whether this coven actually existed or not is still under debate) but it turns out that he wrote it himself. He was influenced by Celtic folk-lore, tantric yoga and Rudyard Kipling among others.
What’s the difference between a Book of Shadows and a Grimoire?
A book of Shadows is a deeply personal book which you generally don’t share with anyone which will contain all of your musings about Wicca and Witchcraft along with your research into topics of interest. A Grimoire is more of a general guide to witchcraft and could be seen as a spellbook. There aren’t really any concrete definitions when it comes to a Grimoire. It’s much less personal than a Book of Shadows and is seen as a teaching tool. It might be passed from Wiccan to Wiccan or from witch to witch depending on who has the most need for magical knowledge at the time.
The Difference Between a Book of Shadows and a Grimoire
|Book of Shadows||Grimoire|
|Information about spells you’ve personally performed and how they worked out||Spells – method and ingredients|
|Rituals that you’ve performed personally and any adjustments or changes you’ve made to the ritual||Rituals – method and ingredients|
|Information you’ve acquired about herbs and plants along with their magickal properties||Technical knowledge about witchcraft like techniques and instructions|
|Might stay on your altar while you are practising magic, but won’t be used or looked at by any anyone else||Could be out in the open and is free for anyone to look at like a recipe book|
|Usually isn’t passed around to other people||Can be passed around the coven and will go to whoever needs to learn the most at the time|
What exactly is a Grimoire?
A Grimoire is a spellbook and guide to magickal spells, rituals and ceremonies. It’s a textbook of magick and helps Wiccans and witches further their magickal knowledge. If you want some guidance on how to conduct a ritual that you haven’t done before, or need to find a prayer for a particular situation you would consult a grimoire rather than a Book of Shadows.
History of the Grimoire
The earliest form of a Grimoire, written on clay tablets, was found by archaeologists in Mesopotamia. It dates back to the 5th or 4th century BC and contained written magical incantations. During the 12th century, as part of the Roman Catholic inquisition, many grimoires were found and destroyed as they were seen as being heretical. Imagine how much incredible knowledge and lore was destroyed by those dogmatic egomaniacal clergymen.
In 1599 the Catholic Church published a list of books which were prohibited. This list contained many medieval grimoires which were subsequently destroyed, including books such as the “ The Key of Solomon”. This book was a grimoire dating back to the 14th or 15th century and is a typical example of renaissance magic.
Christianity also caused the destruction of many valuable grimoires. Wrongly believing that worshipping the horned god was devil worship, the Christian Church started the widespread hysteria known as the Witch Hunts. In this absolutely abhorrent part of history, over 40,000 people were murdered, many without a shred of evidence against them.
Those found with grimoires were killed and the books destroyed. In an attempt to stop the Witch Hunts, a lot of European governments put laws in place governing the spread of superstitious beliefs. This, of course, included the publishing of any text relating to magic or rituals which caused a steep decline in grimoires. Luckily this is no longer applicable and it is now easy to come across great grimoires if you are ever in the need of some witchy guidance.
Do Wiccans have a Holy Book?
Unlike many other religions, Wiccans don’t have one specific “holy book”. Wiccans sometimes see their Book of Shadows as a personal holy book but definitely not in the same sense that one might call a Christian bible a holy book. As we have mentioned in our previous blog post on becoming Wiccan, being Wiccan is all about having the freedom to do what you want, as long as you do no harm to others. It would be hypocritical to have a book that dictates how someone should live when this is one of the basic tenets of Wicca.
6 Tips for Starting Your Own Book of Shadows
If you are just starting out on your journey into witchcraft and Wicca, then beginning your own book of shadows can seem pretty daunting. There is so much information out there that it can seem a bit overwhelming when you first get started. The main thing to remember is that there is absolutely no right or wrong. Your Book of Shadows is something that should bring you joy, not stress you out.
Tip #1 Can you have more than one Book of Shadows?
You can have as many books of shadows as you please! If you feel like you need to make different books for different aspects of your life then you are more than welcome to do so. I personally like to keep one book for everything, but I do know some other people who like to organise their Book of Shadows into different books. Having one book means that you often run out of space which can be very irritating!
A friend of mine keeps 5 books. She has one for prayers, one for rituals, one for spells and one for things she’s learning. She also has one for all her personal thoughts, ideas and feelings. Interestingly, it is quite common to keep a separate book for feelings and ideas, this is sometimes called the Book of Mirrors. The name alludes to the personal reflections contained within it and it’s usually extremely private just like a diary would be.
Tip #2 Can you keep your Book of Shadows online?
As mentioned previously, as this book is completely personal to you, you can keep it in absolutely any form that you like. In a digital age, it makes sense to have it on your computer for easy access wherever you are. It also means that you can easily add additions or edits to any rituals or spells you are writing down.
This is a problem I often have. If I change the way I do something I have to start a whole new page as often I haven’t left enough space to write the new addition in and then I end up with multiple pages of similar content. Although this doesn’t bother me that much as I enjoy the process of creating pages, sometimes I do wish I had all my edits in chronological order so that I could easily see where I had improved or changed something.
Tip #3 Should my Book of Shadows have a particular layout?
As this is a personal book, you can have any layout you like! This is all very open to interpretation, so be as structured or as free with it as you like. As mentioned before, a friend of mine likes to keep multiple books for different subjects, while I like to have mine all in one place.
You could you a ring binder so that you never run out of pages and can re-organise as much as you like. This is a very popular choice for a lot of people. If you choose to make a digital Book of Shadows, it might be wise to name it something random so that it any snooping eyes don’t feel tempted to look at it.
Your Book of Shadows most certainly doesn’t have to be a secret and you shouldn’t feel like you have to hide it if you don’t want. As mine is quite personal I tend to keep it out of sight as I don’t like the idea of someone reading my inner thoughts. We’ve all seen enough movies where the temptation to read someone’s diary is just too great!
Tip #4 Bless and cleanse you Book of Shadows
Whenever I add a new entry into my book, I like to say a little blessing over it. While it’s not a necessary step, I like to do it as I feel it gives each entry intention and care. I always meditate for a few minutes and then say a small prayer. You can make your own prayer or ritual, but I like this one:
“By the power of the Earth, the air and the living waters of the Goddess, let this book be cleansed. So Mote it Be”
“By the breath and fire of the living light, let this book be purified. So Mote it Be.”
I like to light a candle while I say this prayer and if I say the second prayer I’ll always pass my book over the candle flame to cleanse it. Flame is a transformative element and using it can cleanse your Book of Shadows by transforming any negative energy around it into positive energy. If you’re interested in this type of candle magick read more about it here.
Tip #5 Be Organised!
This is a huge issue for me because organisation definitely doesn’t come naturally to me. I have a hard-copy of my Book of Shadows but recently I’ve been scanning in the pages so that I can also be digital. I got to the point where everything was so all over the place that I was getting frustrated with myself so I decided to change my ways. I’m still going to make a hard copy of each page I make, but having them scanned and organised makes life so much easier for me.
If you are just starting out, a good way to organise is to get yourself a ring binder and have different tabs for it. This way you can always add things, take things away, rearrange or edit things without running out of page space. A good selection of tabs for your binder are:
- Spells and Rituals
- Herbs and Plants
- Magickal Supplies and Tools
- Personal musings
Tip #6 This is meant to bring you joy!
Remember that it is a book only for you. Do whatever makes you happiest. Just because I like to illustrate mine doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. Just because someone else said you have to include ceremonies doesn’t mean you have to. Have fun with this and see it as a learning exercise where you CAN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG! Write in symbols only you understand. Create diagrams or models of your rituals and photograph them if you want. Write in bullet points. Everything is completely up to you as this book is yours alone and only you need to understand it.
Is there a Book of Shadows Online?
There is no such thing as an “official” Book of Shadows so there isn’t a copy online. There is a copy of Gerald Gardner’s version here however so if you are interested you can check that out. There are definitely people who have posted their own Book of Shadows online for the public but they can be hard to find If you are searching for pages for your own version, check out these pages we’ve created in our Etsy store, they range from crystal correspondences to herbs and spices to spells.
How the Book of Shadows from Charmed influenced modern Witches and Wiccans?
Funnily enough, this is a question that I have heard relatively often. I always wonder how many people were introduced to Wicca and witchcraft through this popular TV series. I certainly remember watching it as a kid and really enjoying it but that’s definitely not the point that I decided that I wanted to pursue this way of life.
I believe that quite a lot of people might have been tempted to create their own Book of Shadows due to the depiction of the book in this show. In the series, the sisters’ Book of Shadows is simply referred to as The Book or The Halliwell Book of Shadows.
I guess the nice thing about their book of Shadows is that it was passed down through so many generations of practising witches which would certainly be a nice thing to have. I love some of the things that my family has passed down, they feel really special to me. None of these are Wicca or witch related but a girl can dream that a family spellbook might come her way.
I guess that the producers of this show must have really done some research to create this book as they have a lot of spells and potions in it along with some demonology and magical creatures. Whether these are accurate or not I don’t actually know. I’m not such a huge fan of TV memorabilia and certainly don’t need to incorporate it into my practice so I haven’t looked into it too actively.
Whether “Charmed” really influenced people that much is an open question which I find difficult to answer. Media went through a phase of magical movies, such as “Practical Magic”, “The Sisters of Eastwick” and “The Craft” so I think there was a certain fascination with witchcraft which “Charmed” also fed into. We see this resurgence happening again with new versions of “Sabrina” and “The Witcher”. I do think this will have motivated people to look into witchcraft and Wicca more, with some deciding they identify with this lifestyle.
So my lovelie, I hope I’ve managed to answer some questions you might have had about what a Book of Shadows is and how to create your own version.
The main thing to remember is that this is something you are doing for yourself. You don’t have anyone to please or anything to live up to so structure it however you like and have fun with the process! You never stop learning so you’ll always be adding to this valuable resource. Maybe one day you’ll have a beautiful daughter or son who shares your beliefs and you can pass it down to them…
I’ll leave you with a lovely little chant to call your Book of Shadows to you so that when you’re ready to begin it will flow from you without barriers.
Book of Shadows, come to me
To be new wisdom’s repository
And guide me to the Mystery
Book of Shadows, come to me
So mote it be.
Peace and love to you my darlings, until next time,
Did you know we’ve created a magickal grimoire? These hand-illustrated pages are filled with our personal tips and trick along with some tried and tested spells and rituals. Check it out now!