While all this global pandemic shit has been going on, I’ve found myself slipping further away from my Wiccan lessons. I guess I just haven’t had the head for reading more about the faith or practicing spells. Looking back, I think the ritual side of things could have been a great comfort during all this uncertainty, but I’ve turned to the familiar instead – and that’s okay.
The thing about faith is that it’s still there even if you don’t practice it because it ingrains itself into your core. That’s how I feel about this anyway – I don’t have to be dancing naked under a full moon to be a true witch, I still believe and live the values of Wicca and I am a witch, regardless.
However, there is so much I don’t know, and much I need to learn so I’m looking forward to shifting focus and getting back into the practical. I never did get around to putting my own Book of Shadows together and that’s what I want to start doing this week. From what I gather this book can be anything you want it to be but will contain everything magical, from the properties of certain plants to what all the moon phases are good for.
I see mine as part journal, part notes on witchery, and I’m going to try and keep it organic. That’s all I know at the moment. Putting together your own, very personal Book of Shadows – or grimoire – looks like a big job and there are some really beautiful ones out there.
While I was looking for images for this post, I actually stumbled across a lovely looking blog called The Traveling Witch which has a Grimoire 101 series of posts. I don’t want to read too much of this in case it starts to influence what I do with mine, but it is good to have resources to turn to if you need guidance.
That said, one of the posts – How to Create Your Own Grimoire as a Beginner – is quite helpful as it asks questions about how you’ll be using your book. Here’s what I think so far – and a few questions I’ve pulled out to ask myself.
What the heck is a grimoire? Is it the same as a Book of Shadows?
Well, from what I have learnt, a Book of Shadows is a grimoire specific to Wiccan practice – and its name was originally coined to describe the ritual texts of Wicca.
From Tetraktys (which is another good resource):
“Initially, a Book of Shadows is a document containing religious texts, rituals and spells from a specific Wiccan tradition. The name itself comes from Gerard Gardner, who founded Wicca during the 1940’s. The traditional custom was that each coven had its own book in a single copy, which was kept by the High Priestess.
Fortunately, things have changed a lot since the beginnings of Wicca. Nowadays, the term “Book of Shadows” has a much broader sense. In fact, it now has two meanings. In addition to being a document that contains information, it is now also a journal of your magickal and ritual practices.
I consider my own book as a tool that I use to document my own spiritual journey… and much more. I use my book of shadows to organise my whole life, even if it’s not always magick-related. I chose to do so because I do have a holistic approach to spirituality. Thus, I believe that to attain spiritual enlightenment (in the broad sense, not the Buddhist one), I must work on every aspect of my life. That is why I use my witchy journal for literally everything that matters to me.”
Meanwhile, the definition of a grimoire:
grimoire (noun) · grimoires (plural noun)
~ a book of magic spells and invocations.
~ mid-19th century: French, alteration of grammaire ‘grammar’.
So, there you have it.
What kind of book should I use?
This depends on a lot of things – do I want it to be beautiful (obviously), will I carry it around wherever I go and how much do I want to spend? Will I illustrate that bad boy, will there be inserts – will I stick photos/pressed flowers inside?
Personally, I’d like a mixture of all these things, though I probably won’t do much drawing because I’m terrible at it. The odd doodle maybe but I do like to use fine liners and they tend to bleed through paper that isn’t thick enough. I’ve been buying these really nice journals from a shop on Amazon for a while and they have a nice selection of designs – and the quality of the pages is really nice – so I’ve gone for one of those.
I’ll probably leave mine beside my bed but if I ever want to take it out to be at one with nature then I can easily do that, it’s only an A5 size and should slip into my bag. It cost about a tenner and that’s enough for me.
I have to say I did consider having a mini version just for my handbag and that’s still a possibility. I think I should probably get this one in line first though.
Some modern witches take their Book of Shadows completely digital and for a second there I did also consider starting a second blog purely for this purpose – but there’s a real satisfaction in having something tangible to hold in your hands so I’m sticking with this medium.
I’d really like to use my Instax camera a bit more so I’ve just bought a new roll of film for it – it would be nice to break up blocks of text with pretty things. Polaroids, leaves and pressed flowers to illustrate certain recipes and spells – sounds delicious!
I also envisage using mine as a magical journal. Definitely not full on diary entries but little snippets. I really want it to be personal and true to who I am, not just fluffy and perfect. I’m fully aware that Wicca has its trendy moments and it’s not a fad for me, I will live it for the rest of my life, unless something drastic happens.
Here’s what The Traveling Witch says about the Journal style entry:
“This is one type of grimoire I recommend everyone keep, especially while they’re just beginning. The journal style grimoire is exactly what it sounds like. It’s written chronologically, rather than being split into subject-based sections, and each entry is typically dated. This sort of grimoire serves as a sort of catch-all. You can capture anything from spells to herbal notes to dreams, tarot readings, and your personal thoughts and feelings about magic and your experiences in the craft.
This can be an invaluable resource for beginners. Not only does it allow you chronicle your learning journey so that you have a real record of how much you’ve progressed, it allows you to learn and collect information without the start-up hurdles. Often new witches will refrain from recording information because they’re not sure of what they’re doing. They don’t know how they should organise a book, whether or not certain information will be pertinent later, etc. A journal grimoire streamlines that process and ensures you’re capturing information regardless. You can always transfer the info to a more structured book later!”
And there it is, exactly what I had in mind.
How much use will my book get?
I’m planning on focusing on this heavily for the foreseeable. I’m just a little bit overwhelmed about where to start and how to organise it, which is where the above guide might come in handy.
I’m quite happy for it to flow naturally though, with no real structure. Whatever I decide, I’ll probably start with the Wiccan Reade and work outwards. I digress a little here, but the short answer is: I plan to use it a lot and get good use out of my first Book of Shadows. It will likely end up being a series – I might need to get them their own little bookcase!
OMG imagine a whole room dedicated to my altar and Wiccan paraphernalia! Now that is the dream.
How will I organise my book? It seems like A LOT
I’ve touched upon that above and the answer I think is: I’m going to go for the journal style. I’m not much of a structured thinker and I know myself, if I make one mistake, it will ruin the whole book for me and I’m not having that.
This book is going to be a piece of me and my magical side – and I want it to evolve and flow naturally. So, no organisation, just thoughts, feelings, spells, recipes and a record of how the magic is working (or not working) for me.
Here are just a few things it will probably include:
- Magick Theory & Exercises
- Sacred Texts
- Magickal Recipes
- Crystal Healing
- Wheel of the Year
- Moon Cycles / Esbats
- Symbols and their meanings
I have so many books about crystals, horoscopes, magic, spells and Wicca – it’s quite overwhelming. I guess I’ll just work through them one by one and pull out the parts that I feel will be useful to me.
This is another really good resource and here are the author Tsona’s starting tips, which I think are handy:
Write page numbers on each page
I don’t do them all at once but in small batches of twenty pages or so – this makes it easy to then work into the contents page
Create a Cover Sheet, an Index, and a Key
At the beginning of your book, keep four blank pages. On the first page, you can write a spell to consecrate and protect your book.
On the second page, write down every symbol you’ll use in your book for a quick access. Use the two other pages to make an index on which you’ll list everything as you’re adding it, with the corresponding pages.
I’m so looking forward to getting stuck in.
Is there anything I shouldn’t share in my book?
To be honest it’s my book and I believe I should be free to write whatever the fuck I want within its pages. Typically though there are a few rules that make sense:
Anything that has nothing to do with Wicca or Magick
I mean, it’s a Book of Shadows, not a shopping list so this is kind of a given.
I just really love the idea of having a tome for just musings on magic, there’s something so pure and powerful about it.
I’m not interested in negativity and I never really have been so I’m good with this. It works itself organically into the next point too.
Curses and Hexes are not part of white magic so will never see the inside of my book, naturally.
We, as witches, always have to remember the Wiccan Rede: “An Ye Harm None, Do As Ye Will” and the threefold law, which is scary as shit: do harm and it will come back to you, threefold.
Engaging in black magick will put you on the bad side of the Divine – and nobody’s go time for that!
Someone else’s entries
This is my account of my spiritual quest so nobody else gets to write in my book, or touch it if I don’t give express permission.
Incidentally, I’ve read somewhere that nobody else is allowed to touch your book, is it true?
Funnily enough I can’t find a straight answer to this. I’ve told Glynn it’s bad luck to touch it without my permission, which has put the fear of God into him and I think I’ll stick to that.
I guess it’s okay if I say so but I probably won’t let anybody because it’s so private. Well, unless someone really shows an interest and wants to see.
So that’s me and my thoughts on my Book of Shadows. There’s a lot here to digest I know, and it’s not your job to do that – unless you’re a fellow witch or looking to get into it.
I just wanted to let you guys in on my new focus and plans for the future. I am honestly so excited!