Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Book of Shadows-A Guide

A Book of Shadows, in a traditional sense, is a Wiccan book, or set of books, that holds the individuals or covens basic ritual works, from reference lists to simple observations jotted in the margins. Some books are very organized, even self-published for the group or individual. Other books are very unorganized to an outsider.

Most Wiccan covens treasure a Book of Shadows. Such books are rarely mass published or even shown to non-initiates. In them, the coven’s specific beliefs and modes of worship are thoroughly or sketchily outlined. Though contents and organization of these ritual manners vary, most Books of Shadows include instructions for the circle casting and banishing; religious rituals; the consecration of tools; laws; coven organizational notes magical rites; prayers and perhaps herbal lore. Some contain lists of the coven’s pantheon, training exercises for new students and, finally, initiation ceremonies.

Such books are vitally important to the establishment and maintenance of all Wiccan covens, for without them, the coven’s specific rites and other lore must be carefully memorized and passed down by word of mouth. This always leaves room for error, misinterpretation, and even loss of the material. Don't misunderstand this: no Wiccan tradition has been able to record every single bit of information—though I’m trying to. Much is verbally passed from teacher to student. Still a covens Book of Shadows provides and unchanging guide and memory trigger for the practitioner.

There are many different Books of Shadows today. Some are used by hundreds of Thousands of Wiccans. Others are created by Solitary Wiccans and never shown to others.

Not every coven is very secretive about their Book of Shadows. Some will, if the coven is particularly old, well-known or has famous members/past members, the coven will publish a section or their entire Book, and other Pagan’s will adapt the coven’s practises into their own. This is helpful for people who are overwhelmed when it comes to creating a book of shadows, or are anal about such things. Like me. I was going to hand write my BoS, put it in a binder, and I just about killed myself. I may not look organized to someone like my mother or aunt, but I do have a system.

Some pagans have more than one Books of Shadows, with many different volumes. For example, a coven or individual may keep a volume for holidays and traditions, a volume for spells, a volume for reference, a volume for personal observations, a volume for divination practise, you get the idea.

Some Books of Shadows are simply reference books, complied as a quick-and-easy guide. This is what my digital Book of Shadows is. I call it USBoS, and it’s got a whole folder on my computer desktop, and a backup on my external drive. Before it got huge, it used to be backed up on a USB thumb drive. I save observations on my blog, and once I start reading tarot, I’ll have a tarot folder divided by months and probably posted to my blog. This is the Technopagan version of a traditional Book of Shadows. Some may keep multiple disks or thumb drives as backup copies. DON’T SKIMP ON THE BACKUP!! I can’t stress this enough. I really can’t.

Books of Shadows are very personal things. Do what feels right for you. If a blog is the way to go for you, as it is for me, do it! Most blog hosts can be made private so that you or only certain people can read it. If you go for the traditional, hand written copies, there are plenty of notebooks, binders, and scrapbooking stuff you can look into (some links are at the bottom of this post). The thing with Paganism, you can make things like this customizable. Instead of deciding between what translation of the bible to use, you can design a Book of Shadows from the bottom up. This is a great way to imprint your energy in the book itself. Technopagans can do that too, it’s not just for the people who want to hand write a BoS. Technopagans imprint energies in different ways, that’s all. Everyone has a unique energy transferral...thing, as everyone is different.

I hope this guide has helped you pick out what you want to do for a Book of Shadows, and has helped you understood what a Book of Shadows really is.

For Scrap Bookers
Sacred Mists Create-A-Grimoire
Michaels Arts and Crafts Scarpbooking

For Hand-Writers
Arsenic and Old Lace Writing Suplies
Green Earth Journals
Staples Business Depot Binders
Staples Business Depot Journals

For Technopagans
Staples Business Depot USB Drives
Staples Business Depot External Drives

Please note: the only ones I know FOR SURE are in Canada are Green Earth, Michaels, and Staples. I think Sacred Mists also ships to Canada, as I think my mother got me some Yule presents there, but I won’t be able to know until the 25th. For my American friends, you’ve got more choices in pagan-themed items (lucky!) so you can look at local pagan stores as well.


SpiritPhoenix said...

Great post. Just thought I'd add a few tips for the hand-written BOS fans.

1. If you want to make your own journal you can through various DIY instructions online. I'll be posting a Hand-bound leather journal tutorial later this week on my blog too if it helps

2. As soon as you find whatever journal or book you'll be using, go through and number all the ages. Then you can either leave a few pages at the front of the book for a table of contents or leave a few at the back for an index. That way all the information is easy to find.

---Lea Elisabeth said...

Oooh, the page-numbering is a great idea!


A lot of my information is directly copy-pasted frm my own Book of Shadows, collected over the past couple of years from a variety of sourses. I try to credit where I can, and I try to paraphrase and change words around without changing meanings as much as I can.
IF YOU SEE YOUR INFORMATION HERE: Please let me know, I'll be more than happy to credit you. The best way to contact me is to leave a comment on the post, and I'll be sure to edit the post as soon as I get the message.