The Book of Shadows
Updated: Jun 20
Perhaps everyone has heard the term “Book of Shadows”. Its “birth” started in the ancient times, around the 2nd or 3rd century BC. It is not a specific book, but rather an idea, a need of the practitioners of that time.
Before Christianity took over, the Craft was a daily part of most people’s lives. Since it was a daily habit, and part of everyday life, there wasn’t much need to document these practices and write them down on paper back then, but it was more of an oral tradition. Once Christianity started taking over, prejudice against believers of older traditions, and especially the practitioners of the Craft, as well as “huntings” became common. The knowledge of the Craft was in danger to disappear as practitioners were executed in their knowledge was being lost with them, thus something had to happen in order for that knowledge to be preserved for the following generations. This is how the “Book of Shadows” tradition was born.
It’s practitioner would write down everything they knew about the Craft in this Book and then they would hide it or even bury it, in order for it not to be found and burned. This Book would be updated every time the practitioner had new knowledge in their possession, and these books would usually remain the family as practitioners used to be the offspring of other practitioners. This is how the knowledge was preserved by passing their private notes from one generation to the other. Not only that, but each generation would add obtained knowledge and enrich the contents of the family book.
The “Book of Shadows” got its name due to the secrecy around it. On rituals and magical practice around the Craft, had to take place under absolute secrecy, in the shadows, and thus the name.
The use of the “Book of Shadows” today
Fortunately, the Craft is not such a taboo in today’s society, and definitely it is not something that will bring a practitioner facing the dangers of banishment or even execution. Nonetheless, the “Book of Shadows” remains something extremely useful to this day. Through it, one can maintain a record track of the progress, have a safe space for all the knowledge they have gathered, keep a diary of their experiences, past the knowledge to someone else, and even learn from themselves.
It is advised that anyone who wishes to start experimenting or practising the Craft, should start their own “Book of Shadows”.
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How it is made and how to make one
The only thing you really need to make one, is a large notebook with a lot of pages. If you want, you can bookbind your own, or order a custom one from a bookbinder, purchase a new one from a High Street shop, or simply use any simple notebook. It is always good to have a suitable one to your aesthetics, but the first one usually ends up being a draft that will later be rewritten, so don’t worry that much about it.
Once you have chosen your own “Book of Shadows” it is always good to split it into large categories, and create an index page, so it is easy to search its contents. The six most common and useful categories are the following:
This category is used to keep all the information needed for your Craft, and can be divided in many subcategories such as; Herbs, Crystals, Creatures, Notes, Useful Information, Symbols, etc.
This category can be split into two sections, one for spells that you think are useful or might be proven useful in the future, and those that you have already executed.
This category can also be split into two sections, just like the spells, one section for the rituals that you think are useful or might be useful in the future, when the rituals if you have already executed.
This is where all of the recipes of spell mixes, oils, ointments, alchemical concoctions, and other creations go.
This category is used as a diary of all the things and experiences that have happened to the practitioner and are worthy to be noted, even if the practitioner can explain them or not. In this section, one can also record their progress.
This section is essentially a dream diary. It is advised to write down all of the dreams that have made an impression, it is also good to try and write down an explanation regarding the meaning of the dream in order to create a personalised dream Oracle.
Keeping a Record:
When you keep a record of a spell, ritual, the general progress, it is important to be consistent and always include the essential information. A simple guide on what information to include, is the following:
The name of the spell or ritual
Its purpose and goal
Moon phase (and other celestial phases)
Whether during the practice
Deities or entities that were called
Any tools or items that were used
A step-by-step explanation of the process
Notes and results
The more detailed the information recorded is, the better. This helps understand why you practice had the results it had in the future, judge the outcomes, and enrich our own practice. It is also a good idea to take note about things that took place during the practice, even though they seem insignificant at the time. For example; if the flames of the candles flicker, if you get goosebumps, if there is a slight breeze in the room, and so on. It is surprising what things one can learn from these little details.