What exactly is a Book of Shadows (BOS)? The short answer is it is a book that contains a select amount of information that a witch deems necessary. It’s very much up to the individual on what it may contain and we’ll get to that in this article, but if you want to know more about what a BOS is, check out the article What is a Book of Shadows?–it will tell you the basics of what you might need to be aware of before you start deciding what is in yours. This article is dedicated to not only what you might actually want to put into your own BOS, but also how to go about creating one. What is included below are merely suggestions to get you started while you’re still trying to carve your own path and figure out your own methods in your witchcraft practices. So first, let’s talk about how you might construct your BOS.
What should my Book of Shadows look like?
What your BOS looks like really depends on the type of person you are–many of us long to have perfect handwriting, or to have mastered the art of calligraphy so that we may create a beautiful, esoteric, complete compendium of wisdom and witchy knowledge, something that we can pass down to our children, their children, and so on–well, unfortunately, we don’t all have those kinds of wonderful gifts and it’s the twenty-first century. Many of the witches I know have a physical version of their own, but it could be in the form of a binder with page protectors, or a large journal that they write their information in after careful contemplation. Others, not unlike myself, have a file folder on their computer backed up to their personal google drive that they can access through any device they log into; still, others may not even have a BOS, but instead have screenshots and pictures that they have saved on their phone.
How you decide to construct your own BOS is entirely up to you–the computer geek in me constantly has a need to add things to what I have already learned, format and organize in a way that many would deem a little obsessive-compulsive. I do, however, have various journals that I take with me on road trips or to places I know I’ll have free time to study or research my own interests, so that I may record what I think might be useful later on–then I promptly add that information to my geeky filing system on my computer, religiously formatting it until I feel it is something I would print and eventually have professionally bound for my own benefit. The options are really endless.
What should I put in my Book of Shadows?
Keep in mind, the following is alphabetized for my own benefit while writing this article, it is by no means the order in which you should have them in your BOS, that is one more thing that should be dictated by you and you alone.
- Affirmations: I personally find it’s amazing to run into my own affirmations throughout my BOS, not only does it lift my spirits on a gloomy day, but it can keep you on track spiritually when you’re feeling like you’re losing your way. Feel free to update them whenever needed.
- Books: Not only is it a good way to keep track of your progress, but it is also a good way to track your feelings on certain authors and their ideologies. I include books in my own recordings for my path because when you have been learning for almost twenty years it can be hard to remember if you have read a specific book–unfortunately, I didn’t think of this when I first started, but lucky for you, you have the benefit of someone else’s trial and error. I suggest including your thoughts, feelings, and any notes you may have on what you read, especially if you include it in your BOS.
- Correspondence Tables: These should be something important for every witch if they practice with physical objects to focus intent and manifestation–not all of these are important to everyone, but again, suggestions on what you may find important to your path. I myself, do not include days of the week, time of day, phases of the moon, planets, or the zodiac in my own, but that’s just because they aren’t important aspects to my craft–who knows, I may end up changing my mind later down the line and then I can include them if I so choose.
- Days of the Week
- Phases of the Moon
- Time of Day (Hourly)
- Divination: This is always an exciting topic to include if you have an affinity for divination–whether your poison is tarot, runes, a pendulum, palmistry, a crystal ball, tea leaves, or scrying, you’ll want to include any information you find essential to your learning.
- Esbats: If you follow the lunar phases (something touched on above) it’s a good idea to have information on the esbats, monthly lunar names, their meanings, associations, history, myths, lore, as well as any associated rituals.
- Ethical/Spiritual/Religious Tenets: This may be anything from the Wiccan Rede/Three-fold Rule/Karma or even something like the Nine Noble Virtues–OR, plot twist, this may not be something you include at all. A strange concept for a lot of witches is that they think that a tenet of this nature is required to practice witchcraft–it’s definitely not!
- Pantheon of Gods/Goddesses: Like discussed in the article So You Want to Be a Witch? if you don’t mix your craft and religion (or lack thereof) this is of course not something that every witch may have in their BOS. The Gods/Goddesses or other deities, saints, archangels, etc. that you may include in your BOS are something dictated by how you practice, it is not necessary to include all of the Gods/Goddesses existing in the entirety of human history.
- List of the Gods/Goddesses
- Myths and Legends associated with Gods/Goddesses
- Pictures of the Gods/Goddesses
- Recipes: No, not your favorite cookie recipe, unless your cookies happen to be dedicated to a particular Sabbat (ask a kitchen witch, a lot of their spells are their recipes!). This is really just about magical recipes–how to make goofer dust for example, or maybe how to make black salt. You’ll find things that you wish to include so that you can regularly make them yourself.
- Sabbats: The wheel of the year (this includes all of the Sabbats) and its history, lore, associated myths and rituals are good things to have in your BOS. Being a witch, at least in the olden days, revolved around what time of the year it was–some of the craft is dependent on the season, a lot of it doesn’t. Still, if you honor gods and goddesses in your craft, it is important information to know.
- Spell Ingredients: A lot of spell ingredients don’t fall into the category of correspondences, for example, goofer dust, eggshell dust, or any of the ingredients you would find are necessary if you practice rootwork or hoodoo.
- Spells: This isn’t the time to copy and paste all of the spells you have come across, as much as it is a place to include all of the spells you have personally performed that you feel comfortable with performing again–not all of the spells you find online will work for you, even if they have worked for other people. The absolute best spells to include in this section would be ones you have created yourself.
- Tools: Whatever tools you incorporate in your craft, you should know what they symbolize, their meanings, what they’re used for, what they correspond to, and how they fit into your personal form of witchcraft.
- Witches Pyramid: This isn’t something that everyone incorporates into their craft these days, nor is it something that is even taught very frequently anymore, but we’ll be sure to have an article on this at a later date so that this particular inclusion makes more sense.
Does it all have to be in one book?
No! Absolutely not! Like I mentioned before, I have several journals that all serve as my traveling book of shadows, especially when I don’t have access to technology! This means, a journal for galdrastafir, a journal for divination, a journal for spells I’ve created myself–I could go on, but don’t limit yourself or your practice. Be as diverse as you want to be!
Controversial miscellaneous topics
There are many traditionalists that may say your BOS needs to be handwritten, this is absolutely not the case, but who am I to say what works for one individual over another? The point in that debate is don’t allow anyone to tell you what should be appropriate in your practice, because it’s honestly none of their damn business.
|From The Purple Caravan Blog|
|This content was originally created for The Purple Caravan, a blog that I started and realized too soon after that I was spreading myself too thin with my already compounding list of responsibilities and writing obligations. So after a lot of thought, I decided to move it all to my main blog and simply categorize these within the context of my own research and interests. I will occasionally be adding more content to this category in the spirit of continuing to educate people on the practices that I hold dear to my heart.|
|– The Unhinged Alaskan|
Mary has been a writer and artist for over a decade. Her passions lie somewhere between the beautiful and the macabre, but she enjoys every aspect of life. She explores the mysteries of the Last Frontier and the written word but dabbles in her love of artwork through the digital medium.