Your Book Of Shadows — Part I

Witchcraft has always been associated with books. The ancient Egyptians saw reading and writing as magical arts. In the old pagan days, books were such a symbol of wisdom that folk healers would collect books and display them even if they were illiterate. Those who could read and write would often keep a book with spells, lists of herbs and their properties, and magickal knowledge gathered from others, for the old ones knew as we know today that shared knowledge strengthens all.

During and after the Middle Ages and the fearsome Burning Times, witches took great care to conceal their books, for these could be used as evidence against them. Many simply memorized everything and hid or destroyed their books. At the time, these records were not called a Book of Shadows. That name most likely started with Gerald Gardner in the 1940s, and it was he who gave that name to any book of knowledge kept by a witch. The older name is grimoire, from the French word for grammar, reflecting the relationship between literacy and magic.

Within traditional Wicca, a Book of Shadows is a book of rituals used at sabbats and esbats, but it also applies to a witch’s personal notebook. You should begin keeping one as soon as you learn the basics of witchcraft and begin your process of introspection and discovery. In addition to this personal journal, your book should also have a section devoted to magical work. When you cast a spell or create a charm, write it in this section, including materials, diagrams and recipes. Leave space for later updates on whether or not it worked. Another section can have lists of herbs, foods and natural materials with their magical properties. Anything useful learned from other witches goes in the book as well.