A dear reader and friend of mine asked me the other day what the heck is this book of shadows I keep talking about. A good reminder that sometimes I start a thought in the middle, instead of at the beginning. After all my blog is called book of shadows and blessings so it must be important. So for today’s post I will talk a little about Books of Shadows.
Think of it as a manual to your witchy self. It is a book that contains all your rituals and prayers. Information on different seasons and the holidays. It often includes recipes for incense and herb potions for various need. It will be a place to keep you spells and a whole lot more. Anything Witchy you need to look up will be in there. I think of mine a lot like a cook book. If I have not remembered something I can turn to the page and see the order to do things in or words to say. It can also be handed down to a child or someone else should you want to, and in that way there may be pages explaining just what is all of this Witchy stuff.
It is said that it got its name from the burning times (the witch hunts, a scary time) when you had to keep your knowledge and practice in the shadows. Now though there are many published ones and some folks claim to have super old ones that were passed down from family members. Many of the old ones were lost though or burned to protect the Witch who had it. Many Witches also keep a mirror book or journal where they document their spiritual life. If you are a student I highly recommend you keep both. The mirror book is kind of the day to day stuff of I tried this and this is how I felt about it. It is also an excellent place to write out about and analyze your dreams. You may find that you when you cast a circle (ok I will explain that next) one way it feels much more powerful then another way. But how will you remember all the ways you tried if you don’t write it down. When you find the way that works best for you, you can then write that into your Book of Shadows as “how to cast a circle” I find this to be very important because when you are doing a formal ritual it is sometimes hard to remember all the parts and so here is somewhere where it is all written down step by step. You may have copied part of yours or all of yours from a teacher and that is ok too.
The books themselves can be anything. I know lots of Witches have a computerized version as well as a written one. You can print out pages and keep it in a binder if you like. There are also some really beautiful ones out there. Hand tooled leather with hand made paper or carved wood. They can be of any size. If you plan to be traveling a lot you may want a small one more a pocket size. If you are working with others you may have a coven book and individual ones. My sporadic nature has led me to having several. I am working on combining them all in once place but have not completed that project yet. At the moment I am gathering them all into a purple sketch book that I picked up at an art store. I like the blank pages so I can draw as well as write. My student, who is a marvelous artist has made hers absolutely astoundingly beautiful. She has done collage on the pages and then has the words over the collage. For instance her Goddess page is a collage of different Goddess images or pictures of statues or things that speak Goddess to her and then she has a write up about the Goddess. I am of course inspired by this and perhaps my next one will look more like that.
I would share with you my entire book but because I too have copied things from other books that have copy rights I can’t. When I am using a ritual or something from a book I will try to tell you always where I got it. I strongly recommend if you practice to either get Scott Cunningham’s Book of Shadows or his guide for a Solitary practitioner which has part of it in it. I use this a lot both word for word and as a starting point. I think that Book of Shadows are very much like Altars in that they are kind of always changing as you do. They will evolve as you do. For that reason I still have, and refer to, my first Book of Shadows I wrote when I was 15 but since I am no longer a maiden my current one shows a different bent.
Before I leave you today, I will as promised, explain casting a circle. I will explain different methods on how to actually cast one in another post, but I want to give you the basic idea now. When a Witch casts a circle they are creating sacred space, separate yet still part of our world. Think of it like a bubble encompassing you and the work space. It is like erecting a church for your work. It is typically done at the beginning of every ritual to help shift the Witches consciousness to what is at hand and to give them added protection as they do energy work.