Contrary to what we see in movies, a Book of Shadows is not an evil thing, it's not made of the flesh of babies, it's not a living being, it's not signed by some evil force - it's simply a book, written by a Witch/Pagan/Coven as a way to keep all their knowledge together in one place.
Some people keep a "magickal journal" which is similar to a BOS, but tends to only include their experiences. And others keep a Book of Mirrors in addition to a magickal journal or Book of Shadows... However, I will cover a Book of Mirrors in another blog.
Many Pagans & Witches believe that a BOS should be hand written, however, with all of the advancements in technology, there are more options today than there were years ago and as with anything else, this to is being embraced by Pagans and witches... Many choose to either keep a "digital back up" BOS or simply type it out. There are advantages to both options, so it's all about what fits you!
Handwritten Version Pros & Cons: Your Book of Shadows is considered to be a sacred tool, and should be consecrated as any other tool would be. A hand written or at least physical version of a BOS, is obviously much easier to do this with. Also, by hand writing the information and your spells and rituals in to your book it helps you to transfer your energy from you to the book but also helps you to memorize - or at least partly remember - what is in the book... However, if your hand writing or spelling are, well, less than perfect - or less than legible - and you plan to pass your book on hand writing may be a hindrance.
If you are planing on creating a hand written version, you have a few more choices to make. Many people simply buy a notebook and go, while others prefer to spend the money on a more pricey "heirloom" option, and still others prefer a binder and loose leaf paper. Some things to consider when making a choice is what do you want to include, how large could this get and do you have somewhere to keep multiple books should you run out of room in a traditional notebook or "heirloom" type of book or journal... Is decoration important to you? If so consider decorative paper, page protectors and a binder. This will allow you to have the fancy look without needing to be an artist.
Digital Version Pros & Cons: If you plan to keep a digital BOS, only, there can be many complications. First, while it is a great way to stay organized, a simply computer virus or internet crash can send all your hard work out in to oblivion never to be seen again - hours, days, even years of work can be gone in a small instant. It's also nearly impossible to consecrate a digital copy and unless you'll still need to memorize or print things out prior to doing ritual or magickal workings. On the other hand, if you belong to an online group or circle, trading and sharing information is easier when all you have to do is click send. IF you belong to a group which only exists online an online group BOS, may work well for you all. And having the ability to simply run a search on your files and pull up everything you are looking for over having to thumb through a book has it's obvious advantages.
Typed Version Pros & Cons: A typed version falls somewhere between the other two options, and for me has always been the best option. While it's not going to absorb your energy in the same way as a written version will, it's still something which is physical and thus something you can both consecrate and imbue with energy. In addition you don't have to worry about things like spelling and messy handwriting. AND it's easy to personalized with different fonts, bold or italicized options, graphics, pictures and/or colors... It's also easy to create a digital backup (just in case) in the process, since you're going to type it up anyways - you might as well save it... A typed version is also very easy to organize, with the added ability to add or remove pages as needed... Again, here, I'm a fan of the binder & page cover idea - simply because it makes things so much easier and helps to keep things neat - PLUS, you can always buy a larger binder as your book grows!
So what should you include in your Book?
Because a Book of Shadows is a very personal thing, it's up the the individual what actually goes in to it. However, there are a few basics which most people do choose to include... First I'll go over these basics and then give you a peak in to my own book...
Here are some basic categories - you don't have to include each of them, nor do you have to fill them as you feel others would - use what information YOU want to use.
- History - This could be the history of your path or just general information that you feel is relevant.
- Beliefs, Laws or Rules of your Tradition or Coven - if you're a solitary you could simply write in what guidelines you believe in.
- Your WHY Statement - This is a "letter to the writer" (YOU) about why you chose this path, why are you here and what do you plan to get out of it. You could also include your dedication ceremony here.
- Magickal Alphabets - Some Pagans choose to use magickal alphabets when writing spells, or when using writings during magickal workings. So it's good to have and practice them.
- Correspondence Tables - Stones & Crystals, Colors, Moon Phases, Herbs, Gods & Goddesses - It's always better to have the information and not need it than to need it and not have it!
- Gods & Goddesses - Include Gods & Goddesses you work with or who fit your tradition or path, if you're eclectic start with those who call to you and build from there. In addition to the basic info, include a once over on their myth and/or family tree
- Sabbat Information & Rituals
- Other Rituals - Esbat, Dedications, Initiations, Wiccaning, Handfasting & Handparting - should you have and or need them. This section will grow over time.
- Herbs, Flowers & Plants - Chances are your understanding about the magickal properties as well as that of the mundane, medicinal and day to day uses of different herbs and plants will grow over time - so will this section.
- Divination - Both a how to and a record - Tarot, Runes, Scrying - whatever you're comfortable using.
- Sacred Texts - Things like the Wiccan Rede, Charge of the Goddess and other important writings that don't really fit elsewhere.
- Magickal Recipes - As you collect recipes for oils, incense, or herb blends, keep them in your BOS. You may even want to include a section of food recipes for Sabbat celebrations.
- Spells - As you write or collect them, include them
- Personal Record - This is where you keep your "journal" of what happens and when. When did you cast a spell? What happened? And so on...
My Book is growing all the time. I started small and simple and over time it's blossomed beautifully! Here's what I have so far:
- History and Timeline - I mostly add little bits and pieces as I learn them. Cultural and Religious
- Tools - Basic & How to information
- Magickal Associations - Colors, Gems, Herbs, Gods, Trees & more
- Myth - Gods, Goddesses & others
- Sabbats & Esbats - Basic information & Rituals
- Other Rituals - Blessings, Paganings, Dedication & more
- Spells, Potions & Powders
- Other Recipes
- Personal Record