As with all spiritual texts, there is a large debate about where and how a book of shadows came into use. Some say they were prevalent during the Middle Ages, written only in Runic alphabets to hide their magickal meanings. Some say the witches during the Middle Ages were illiterate and the books of shadow did not come into practice until the 14th or 15th centuries. Even then, Runic alphabets were used to protect the owner from persecution and death if it were found by a witch hunter.
Regardless of where they started, they’ve had just as many varying names. The Golden Grimoire is one of the more famous mythological versions of a book of shadows. It’s said to be the Book of Shadows of Merlin the Magician himself.
The Great Grimoire is another legendary book of shadow, reportedly it contains the spells and incantations of the world’s first witch, who received this magickal information from Lucifer (the Angel, not the devil). The Great Grimoire supposedly contained all the secret information about God, including his name of creation. When this name is said backward, the world becomes undone. Riding the universe of the creature called a man and returning the heavens to the Archangels. Unfortunately, many educated scholars believe this legend to be a creation of the Catholic Church during the early 12th century. A mythological tale designed to cast doom and gloom upon those who practiced paganism during that time in history.
The “Book of Light and Shadows” is a term that found popular use during the mid-to-late 1800s in Europe. Just about the same time, Alester Crowley began to publicize his many works on the Craft. This title is meant to reflect the spiritual information contained within, as well as, the spells and rituals that are performed at night beneath the moon.
“Grimoire” became a popular label for these personal books of shadow during the Victorian era. Many a young woman could be found resting in a park, or flower garden writing thoughts, poems, and wishes inside a diary. Upon closer review, you might also find remedies passed down from grandmother to child for various ailments. Elixirs and salves for poison ivy, fevers and more serious ailments such as heart problems or arthritis were often shared amongst family members as well as within tightly knit communities. It is from these family recipes and remedies that the term “Kitchen Witch” sprang.
Today the most common label for these personal diaries is a “Book of Shadows”, presumably containing spiritual information and energy that is kept hidden until a witch opens the book and springs forth the words into the light.
It doesn’t matter what you chose to call your personal magickal diary. It’s just important that you start keeping a record of your research, experiences and magickal information.
Start by deciding what kind of book of shadows you want to use. A spiral notebook is one favorite method. A three hole binder is another, making it easy to maintain sections for organization. Some people purchase hard cover stationary books at their local book store, making various volumes or collections of magickal information. Whether you choose a standard notebook or a found journal that is specifically made to be a book of shadows, what matters most is what you put into it.
Whichever you choose, label the book of shadows and set its purpose and energy from the start. You can record the title on the outside or on the page inside the cover. But it’s the first thing you should do. After the title, date the book. Some witches create a new book at the beginning of each magical year during Samhain. While others use the same book over a period of time until it’s full and then they start a new volume. It’s up to you which way to date your book of shadows, but you should enter a date and if possible a volume reference. This will help keep your books organized over the years.
Next, take some time and think of a personal blessing to record on the first page (or after the title page). The book of shadow blessing is done as a dedication to your spiritual growth, your path of learning and protection for the information you’ll gain and record within the covers of your book. You might write out the blessing on scrap paper until you get just right and then transfer the blessing to your Book of Shadows.
If you find that the book of shadows you’ve chosen loses its appeal, or isn’t adequate for your needs, don’t hesitate in finding a new one. You must feel comfortable and well, attached to your book. This gives the book energy and meaning within your spiritual life.
An important note should be taken when choosing a new book of shadows in favor of the old one. If you placed energy into the old book of shadows then the best course of action would simply be to store it somewhere in a safe place and wrap it in a dark cloth. This way, the energies within the book of shadows is contained within the book and will not leak out when it is not being used. A dark cloth will contain the energy within the book of shadows.
Another idea is to give away your old book of shadows to someone who may want one. This can be the best way, as not only are you giving someone a valuable tool for their craft, but you are freely allowing the energy within the book to pass from you to someone else. It is always a powerful thing to give something freely away and not expect anything else back in return.
In a book of shadows, you can record as much information as you want, or stick with a bare minimum. Chose to use it as a daily diary, where all your information is kept. Or you can maintain a couple of different books of shadow, separating your daily thoughts into one, research and magickal information into another, with spells and incantations into a third. It’s entirely up to you. But keep in mind, you want your book to be well organized. You want to be able to quickly turn to a particular section and page to find some particular information when needed.
Here are a general list and suggested organization for your personal book of shadows.
* Book Title and Date
* Book Blessing
* General Index (make a few sections to help organize your book)
Write down your personal principles, beliefs, and/or magickal rules that you chose to follow and believe in. These are your values of life and spiritual path. They should be created from scratch each time you begin a new book. This way you’ll be able to review past volumes and see how much you’ve grown.
Write down what your short term goals are. Include a date to achieve the goal and outline a few steps you plan to take in order to reach it. Then write down your long term spiritual aspirations, what you feel you need to work on and how you plan on succeeding. What you would like to achieve and by when.
This section is for messages you receive through dreams or some type of divination. Either a reading you’ve given to yourself, or received from someone else. This is the section where you want to record your personal introspection and interpretations.
Here you can record all the research and particular information you receive along with your path. You might consider organizing this into subsections in alphabetical order. Astrology, candles, crystals, Gods/Goddess, tarot and timeliness research could be some examples.
Every witch should take a few classes or workshops on topics or subjects that you feel most interested in. Within all classes and workshops, you should receive some type of exercise or “how to” instruction. Record your experiences with these. What you liked, what didn’t work and what you’d like to do differently next time.
Record the spells, incantations, and prayers you find along your spiritual path. Those you like and even those you really dislike. There is a message hidden within words you feel very strongly against, write them down and note that you “dislike this one”. Later when you have time, re-read the words and try to find the message hidden within for you.
Plan out your rituals and ceremonies. Record your experiences during or after conducting the event. Include your thoughts about what you liked, what worked well and what you’d like to change next time.
These are your personal recopies. They can cover various herbology information and recipes to specific potions which are to be used in conjunction with a spell or incantation.
At the end of the year, or once the book is filled, save a few pages for a review and reflection of your book of shadows. Note the goals and aspirations you achieved, the reflections of what you learned during the research and practices you made. End this section with a blessing of thanks and gratitude to all those forces, seen and unseen that helped you along this journey and with the lessons contained within this volume.