This is my third article in the year-long Pagan Blog Project series. Click here to see all of my articles in this series.
In brainstorming a topic for the letter “B,” one of my first ideas was to write on my personal Book of Shadows. I discarded the idea almost immediately, but I found my thoughts kept returning to it as the days passed until I felt compelled to choose the topic.
The reason I discarded the idea in the first place is because I haven’t really used my Book of Shadows in years.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I haven’t used my original Book of Shadows in year, but I have used a ”Book” of Shadows.
Allow me to explain the evolution of my Book of Shadows.
Book of Shadows version 1.0
When I first discovered Wicca, I read just about every beginning Wicca book I could find. And in every one of them, I was instructed to create a Book of Shadows – pronto.
Now a Book of Shadows, for those who don’t know, is basically a self-created notebook of Wiccan information and rituals. It chronicles a Wiccan’s learning and practices and serves as a unique reference book. (Covens also have their own Books of Shadows, but I’m a solitary practitioner, so I’ll just be discussing my own personal Book of Shadows here.)
As I dove into learning more on Wicca, it quickly became apparent that I needed to take the advice of those authors and start my own Book of Shadows, both for learning and record-keeping purposes. I acquired a big, black, blank book and decorated the cover by hand with a pentacle and moons and stars. (See it in the photo above.)
This Book served me well through my early years. I divided it into sections for Correspondences, Gods/Goddesses, Rituals, Sabbats, Glossary of Terms, Tarot, Stones, and Oils/Incense/Herbs. As I learned new material and began creating my own spells and rituals, I faithfully added it all to my Book – hand-written, of course. For years, I found it very pleasing.
Unfortunately, this book’s binding was not expandable, and I began to run out of room in some sections. Eventually just opening my Book of Shadows caused an avalanche of paper to attack me as all the additional unbound pages, spells, and artwork that didn’t fit and got tucked into the book inevitably fell out.
Frustrated, I gave up on my Book of Shadows. I still referenced it from time to time, but it mostly collected dust. I knew that nstead of adding to my existing Book, I needed better solution. A binder didn’t feel right to me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of transferring everything from my existing Book into a bigger book. I wasn’t quite sure what my ideal solution was, but I knew I needed to come up with something different in the meantime.
Book of Shadows version 2.0
And boy did I venture into the realm of “different.” At the time, I happened to be taking several online courses at The Pagan Online Campus (back in its heyday) and I had a wealth of digital material from my classes saved into folders on my hard drive. That inspired me to keep a digital Book of Shadows, and it turned out to be a great interim solution.
I was no longer limited by the number of pages in my book, and I could save as many files, links, clippings, and my own original typed work as I wanted. I added sections for all of my studies from Astrology to Shamanism. And best of all, I could organize and reorganize the “book” to my heart’s content, thanks to the simplicity of virtual file folders and OneNote.
I have used my digital Book of Shadows for about six years now and while it’s been great from time-saving and organizational perspectives, I’ve actually grown less and less fond of it as time has passed.
Why? Because it’s just not the same as a physical Book of Shadows. It just doesn’t feel the same.
I miss being able to flip through the pages of my book, reading things I had forgotten that I had written. Now I have to open documents to see anything, and it’s rare that I bother to open more than the one I am looking for at the time.
I also miss hand-writing my material. Yes, I suffered through many hand cramps as I diligently copied or wrote page after page, but there is something special about scribing your own book and reading back the words in your own handwriting. It’s also convenient and magical to perform rituals using your own Book. With my virtual Book of Shadows, I must endure Times New Roman on a bright screen and tote printouts to my altar.
No, this is definitely not a permanent solution.
Book of Shadows version 3.0
Fortunately, I already have plans for my next Book of Shadows. I thought long and hard about it and worked out the kinks with my original Book of Shadows - and I think this next version will be a keeper.
In the near(ish) future, I will create a scrapbook-style Book of Shadows. The book itself will be a leather-covered, post-bound album. The advantage of using a postbound album is that it is endlessly expandable and the pages are removable for resorting and editing.
I also plan to use plastic page protectors to safely hold my pages. Plastic isn’t pretty, but it is very functional for ensuring a long life for my precious pages. I will no longer have to fear spills, drips, splatters, smudges, or tears.
And the part I’m most excited about: I’m a scrapbooker, so I would like to use my talents to make my Book of Shadows not only a book of information, but a book of art in my own style, as well. I envision pages that are a marriage of design and text, of color and content. Since I conceived this idea a couple of years ago, I’ve been stashing away papers and embellishments that would be perfect in certain sections of my new Book of Shadows.
I’m excited to have these plans set for my next Book of Shadows, but I’m patiently waiting until I have the time and energy to take on such a massive, fun project. And once I start it, I hope to use it for the rest of my life.
If you have a Book of Shadows, what form does it take? Are you satisfied with it? Please share in the comments!