November 7, 2022 / Leave a Comment
If you’ve read anything about beginning a witchcraft or wiccan practice, you’ve probably heard about making a Book of Shadows—every witch needs one right, but what is it?
What is a Book of Shadows?
A book of shadows is a personal compendium of everything you try and discover on your magical journey. many people’s books have recipes, spells, information about crystals, and information about the moon phases and other cycles of the earth. Because it’s so personalized, it’s difficult to just go out and find one that’s already made and that will work for you. But it’s important to have a place to document your spiritual growth, collect the bits you might find off of the internet, and also keep track of what your spells were and if they worked.
What You Need to Know About Books of Shadows
It’s important to find something that will work for you, not just something that looks amazing or that other people use. In addition, There are a few other considerations. Also, if you’re just starting out, you might not know what you will ultimately need or want, so it’s not necessarily worth spending a lot of money on something you’ll outgrow or decide you don’t like. Finally, it’s easy to be attracted to something like a gorgeous, large leather journal with exquisite handmade paper…and then be too intimidated to use it. Don’t make things hard for yourself!
We have a starter workbook for new wiccans called “The Workbook of Shadows” that you can find here in our Etsy shop.
Types of Books of Shadows.
There are many options for books that you may or may not have considered in addition to the usual ones. Here’s a run through.
The Old School Leather Tome
If you want to go big right out of the gate, you can get one of these and divide it into sections by using tabs or stickers, or gluing in your own paper dividers. There are many of these easily found at metaphysical shops, and you can also find beautiful customized ones on Etsy. Some of them even come with templates and pages of information included.
You want to be careful what pens you use on these, because hand-made paper can cause difficulties with fountain pens or really wet ink. Another downside to these is that they can often seem so beautifully pristine that you end up afraid to use them.
It’s also a consideration that you will not be able to change things around once you’ve written in it. Something you might want to consider is to buy one of these as an heirloom grimoire that you use once you know what you’re doing and what your interests are. Then you can copy things into it from whatever book you’ve been working in as you go.
You can find a range of inexpensive leather journals relatively cheaply if you want to go this route from the get-go, such as this celtic three-moon one.
Sketchbooks are a cheaper alternative to an expensive journal, and easy to find. Many of them come in black hardcover that can be easily doctored up to look magical. The papers are often high-quality and give you the flexibility of drawing or collaging in your book. You can find a standard black hardcover 8 1/2 x 11 sketchbook at your local Michaels’ store.
Another advantage of the sketchbook is that a lot of them are spiral-bound, so they will lie flat while you’re consulting them for the order of steps in a spell or ritual. In addition, a lot of them are made to withstand multimedia, so you can draw and paint in them too (though these tend to have fewer pages).
A totally different kind of old school! A three-ring-binder allows you to organize your book however you want and change it around if you either decide to do things differently or put in printouts directly from the internet. You also don’t need to worry if one section ends up growing bigger than the others. The best part of this option is that you can keep upgrading it with new information without worrying about the order, and you can always uses this as a “working” book while you copy things from it into a more archival journal if you wish.
A three-ring binder allows you to take advantage of many of the template pages and information that you can find on Etsy and also allows you to pull pages out for easier use, for example if you’re making a recipe or performing a spell for ritual.
There are a whole range of binders available, but we love the Jumping Fox ones you can find here at Amazon.
Traveler journals come in leather, faux leather or other materials and have elastic bindings in them into which you can put small, standard-sized journals such as Moleskines. This works really well if you want to work seasonally, because you can swap them out every few months and have a workable, seasonal Book of Shadows that isn’t too heavy and unwieldy. This also gives you options for personalizing it in a way that you can change up so that you keep yourself interested and engaged with it throughout the whole year.
These also lend themselves really nicely, because of size, to cozy journaling on the couch or sticking in a bag to bring traveling. You can also have one for different types of work, such as tarot, ancestor work, or shellwork. There’s really no need to keep everything in one big book. Our favorites are Chic Sparrow.
There are all sorts of digital templates available on the internet, as well as planning systems in which you can create a structure of your own. This kind of journal can be with you everywhere, can be modified as you grow in your practice, and can save you the trouble of printing things out or copying information.
One of the biggest advantages of this system is that you can search it for dates or topics and not have to rely on your own memory. You can also have it on hand on all your devices if you store it correctly, which means you never have to chastise yourself for forgetting what you needed for that spell when you go to the herb store.
In addition to just having your information online, modern technology means you can take advantage of relational database software in order to super-power your magic. You can use pre-crafted Notion templates such as “My Witchypedia” Template – Super Charge YOUR Book of Shadows!”(https://mywitchy.com) to help you keep track of correspondences without having to page through indices or take complicated notes.
I haven’t explored these yet, but all the offerings at Toadfoottales Etsy shop look amazing. She’s got a Witch’s Year Planner as well as supplements for tarot, runes, ogham, numerology, and pretty much any study you could think of. The pages are designed for digital journaling but appear to print nicely also.
Which Book is Right for Me”?
It’s entirely likely that you won’t know which of these systems will work for you until you start trying to put a book together, which is both ironic and frustrating. This is why it’s a good idea to NOT purchase something expensive right out of the gate unless it’s something highly customizable or that you can use for something else if you find it doesn’t work for you.
Ultimately, the most important consideration for a Book of Shadows isn’t how “magical” it looks, but how well it works for you. The best book is one that you will, and do, use. Your magical practice will advance in proportion to how well you document what you do and what your results are and whether you ever look again at any of the information you collect. You can always upgrade or change your book as you go, so don’t let worries over choosing the right one stop you from using whatever you have.