What is a Book of Shadows?

Mysterious Book

A Book of Shadows (BOS), or a Grimoire is a way for a witch to keep track of their craft. More than that, it is essentially a journal of everything that a witch has learned, thinks is important, and spells that they have cast or intend to cast. It can contain affirmations of the way they live their life, details on the pantheon of deities that they call upon, uses for herbs and crystals, as well as pertinent information about various divination techniques. Suffice it to say, every witch will have different information available to them in their personal BOS. It is for this reason, that it is silly to think that another witch’s BOS or grimoire will necessarily be relevant to your practice.

Basic information doesn’t change. Colors, herbs, crystals, tarot cards, or runes correspond to specific aspects of life. Divination techniques and the information relevant to each have pretty much stayed the same throughout the ages. Deities and their age-old mythologies will not be changing any time soon. Spells, however, are going to be different for each witch and depending on their personal practice, they should be different. It is therefore, unwise when regarding your personal growth as a witch to copy and past spells from the internet, copy word-for-word spells that you have found in books, or another witch’s BOS. Speaking from personal experience, as far as spells go, simply record spells that you have cast and leave room for notes later. That way, whether or not they work, you have the ability to go back and take note of the results. It is a great practice to get into, so that over time you can see what you do and don’t have good results with–eventually you’ll be able to see if there is any correlation between what the spell entails and whether or not the spell may flop for you.

It is also important to note that no two grimoires should even look the same–meaning, many witches think of a BOS or grimoire as being kind of like the image above, an ancient looking, leather-bound book, thick pages that are yellow, weathered, and worn, filled with mysterious passages and archaic forgotten spells. The truth of the matter, is that a BOS in this day and age, can be files on your computer, cloud (mine is currently a folder full of different documents on my google drive!), or if you like physical copies, I know many witches with a three-ringed binder and page protector inserts that they can add or remove information from at will. If and when you decided to create your BOS, be mindful that it is not meant to be compared to another witch’s; in fact, we should be mindful that our BOS, a very personal thing, is much like our practice and our own personality–it is unique to us and should remain so.

While thinking about this topic, prior to writing on it, I also did a quick scan of google to make sure, that despite my own experience that I wasn’t missing anything. I absolutely did not expect to run into lists of “what you should NEVER write in your Book of Shadows” because I assumed once a person was ready to create one, that it would be a no-brainer to not add anything that wasn’t related to their craft. These lists, however, were quite bothersome–assuming that one tradition dictates what the rest should or should not have in their own book. What I am saying, is honor your tradition, be mindful of what you believe when you are putting your own book together. If you practice Wicca, let that be reflected in your BOS, if you practice a little bit of everything, like I do, there is nothing wrong with putting hexes or curses in your BOS. After all, it is your book and you’re the only one who should be able to judge whether or not something is appropriate for you, right?

Tradition dictates the Book of Shadows should remain private to the witch in question, but whether or not you choose to keep it so, is very much up to you. I know that upon my death I would want my own Book of Shadows burned (or I suppose, deleted?) as is tradition. I have had fiery debates with others, where they asserted that destroying it is not the right thing to do. I think the will of the witch the book belongs to should be honored–regardless of whether they want it passed on to new generations or disposed of, they should get what they desire once they pass.

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
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