(This is part one of a three-part series)
The topic of a Book of Shadows seems to come up fairly frequently among Pagans, especially Wiccans. But the majority of people don’t know what a Book of Shadows (or BoS for short) really is or how to use it. I recently had a friend (general Pagan with Wiccan leanings) ask me what a BoS is, how to use it, and how it’s different from a Book of Mirrors, and I found myself explaining all of these things in general terms–so let’s go more in depth!
What is a Book of Shadows?
A BoS is a book of some type that a person can use to record spells they have used, the outcome of spells, what worked and what did not work, different rituals, etc. In general, a BoS is used predominantly by Wiccans, as the concept of a Book of Shadows originated with Gardner and Gardnerian Wicca. However, this does not mean that those outside of Wicca can’t use a BoS. Nor do you have to be in a coven. You can be a solitary general Pagan like my friend and still use a BoS.
How Do I Use a Book of Shadows?
It’s really up to you how you wish to use this book. The most common use and form seems to be like a journal. You update it whenever you want, or whenever you have something to add, but you don’t need to do it every day. When you do a spell, write it down in the BoS exactly as you said it. Leave room at the end of the page or on the following page to write up what happens after the spell is cast. After about a week, or however long if you specified a time period in the spell, then write if the spell worked, if it worked well or kind of or not at all, whether it’s something you would use again or not, etc. This can apply to meditations or chants as well as spells and rituals.
Say you just got a new guided meditation cd and you want to record how effectively it works for you so you won’t forget, or you want to record what happened during the meditation. You can put that in a BoS. Use the cd, see if anything changes or if it’s effective, and record the outcome in your BoS. I used a guided meditation that could take the listener to meet spirit guides. I wrote down what I saw, what I felt, and how effective the meditation and cd were for me and if I would use them again.
This differs from a Book of Mirrors (BoM) in that a BoS is not generally used for reflection. It is used to record actions taken in terms of spells, rituals, prayers, meditations, chants, etc., or actions you would like to take, such as writing down a meditation for future use to try out later. But generally, you don’t reflect upon life or your actions; you record whether a spell worked, didn’t work, and leave it at that. Reflections on how these things then affect your life and what changes are effected go into a BoM. That being said–like much else in Paganism–these books are highly personal, and you can make them into whatever you want. My friend, for example, found that she was actually writing a Book of Mirrors after I explained it to her, but her’s is probably going to end up being a combination of a BoM and a BoS. Nothing wrong with that!
Now, if you’re a part of a coven, they will probably have guidelines and such on how to format and use both of these books, but if you’re in a coven, you probably already know that anyway.
Part Two: Formats for a Book of Shadows
Part Three: Books of Shadows, Then and Now Coming Soon!