How to Start a Book of Shadows

A journal used to create a Book of Shadows

The Book of Shadows is the name used for a collection of spells, rituals and religious texts.

In traditional British Wicca, a Book of Shadows could only be copied by hand and given to you upon initiation by your coven's high priestess or priest. Solitary Wiccans and coven witches in the United States have created their own Book of Shadows for several decades.

Write out your intentions for your Book of Shadows. What do you want it to do for you? How do you plan to use it? What do you want it to look like? If you plan to use it during rituals, what qualities would make the Book of Shadows more readable and less cumbersome? For example, would it be easier to use the book if it will lie flat on an altar surface while open? Many people start with a three-ring binder as their Book of Shadows for this very reason.

Decide the organization of your Book of Shadows. Do you want separate sections for each type of spell or ritual? Do you want a Book of Shadows focused entirely on one subject, such as fortune or love? Do you want to keep personal creations separate from information you gather from other sources? Or do you want to organize according to the Astrological Calendar? Do you want a Book of Shadows that only holds rituals? Or do you want to create a multiple-volume Book of Shadows with each volume focusing on different information? Many Book of Shadows include the following information: the laws of your coven or tradition, initiation ceremonies, dedications, gods and goddesses, correspondence tables, sabbat rituals, other rituals, herbs, divination, sacred texts, magical recipes and spell workings. You can include any of this, or just a few. This is another reason why a 3-ring binder might be a good place to start. If an organizational system doesn't work out for you, with a 3-ring binder it's easier to rearrange your information.

Organize the book itself. Do you want to create a table of contents at the front or an index in the back? Do you want page numbers to find information easier? Do you want to include illustrations and other special items, like dried herbs? Do you want to keep a record of all the Wiccan and theological books you're reading?

Plan how to put the information into your Book of Shadows. Do you want to hand write all the information or type it? Many Wiccans believe it's better to hand write the information because it places the writer's energy directly onto the page, not to mention helps you memorize the information.

Find the perfect vessel for your Book of Shadows. Do you want an earthy journal made of recycled tobacco paper? A spiral bound sketch pad? A composition notebook?

Decorate the book. Some Wiccans choose to decorate their Book of Shadows on their alter space after calling the directions and casting a circle, but this isn't necessary. Choose the level of ritual that feels right to you. While you are decorating the outside of your Book of Shadows, you may want to state out loud your intentions for the book. You may also want to chant, pray or sing to dedicate the vessel to your religious workings. This will help bind the book energetically to the works it will hold. Some Wiccans also cast appropriate spells on the Book of Shadows at this time.

Once the outside of your Book of Shadows is complete, the information being put within can begin. This may be a slow process and take many days, months or even years. There is no rule that says you must complete your book within a certain time frame. Start the informational level of your Book of Shadows according to what you decided during the planning session. Don't be afraid to change your ideas based on intuition or inspiration once the process has begun though. Many Wiccans enjoy writing in their Book of Shadows ritualistically as well. Some burn candles while writing or travel to a sacred spot to write. Others choose to write only on New Moons or other specific lunar events. Choose what feels right to you and your traditions or beliefs.

Shauna Osborn has been a freelance writer for almost 10 years. She has been published in several magazines and literary journals including Clamor, Lip, and Fence. Osborn holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry.