Creating Your Book of Shadows
Many new to witchcraft will want to create their first Book of Shadows. This article will take you through the basics of creating one, cleansing it and blessing it.
The Book of Shadows is a fairly modern name for the book that contains Wiccan spells, rituals, teachings, and divination records. Until approximately the middle of the twentieth century, it was not considered wise to write down anything that could be used by the law and the Christian Church to persecute a Witch. In some parts of the country, you still should store your ritual book and tools in a hidden place, so they cannot be taken by the police for infringements of local laws, stolen by overzealous orthodox-oriented family members, or destroyed by local hate-mongers. Often, police will do little if anything to prosecute orthodox groups or members who steal from or persecute Witches. Even if you live in a safe place, you should not ever leave your materials, tools, or the Book of Shadows out where people can handle them.
The name of your ritual book, the Book of Shadows, is an appropriate one, as it describes a Witch’s feelings about the relationship of this world to the Otherworld, of rituals done on the earth plane that are linked to great reservoirs of power on the astral plane. The rituals and magic of this world are only a shadow of the powerful reality of magic and ritual in the Otherworld; hence the name, Book of Shadows. The Witch’s Book of Shadows, whether the Witch is solitary or part of a group, is important, as it should contain all the rituals and spells the Witch will perform. Each Book of Shadows will become a personal history of the Witch who uses it.
Some people call this book a grimoire. However, that name is more correctly applied to the book of a ceremonial magician and is not used by Witches. Both names, Book of Shadows and grimoire, were not used before medieval times.
Traditionalists say that the Book should be a black book with a bound cover. However, it is much easier to use a ringed notebook, so that the Witch can lay it flat on the altar or a stand. Nothing is more frustrating than for pages of the ritual book to start moving when you are in the middle of a ritual. Using a ringed notebook with punched pages actually gives you two ways to work with the book. The notebook itself will lie flat on the altar during ritual, and you can remove for use the exact pages you need for any ritual or spell, returning them to the notebook when you are finished.
Actually, a series of binders are better than one large, unwieldy book. This way the Witch can dedicate each binder to a specific purpose. You can have one binder for each of the following items, or for groups of items: regular rituals, miscellaneous spellcasting, herb magic, dreams, spiritual messages, symbols, astrological correspondences, ethics and beliefs, crystal magic, elemental magic and the Elements, alphabets, moon and sun magic, gems and stones, the chakras, color magic, healing, ritual tool instructions, the magic and pantheons of deities of other cultures (other than the one you plan to use), and the notes of the results of all the spellwork you do. Binders are also helpful for a variety of divination methods, such as the tarot cards, runes, and Goddess symbols. Although you may not envision yourself needing a supply of notebooks at the moment, you will see the practicality behind this method in the future when your collection of rituals and spells begins to grow.
Use index dividers to separate the various sections of your notebook Book of Shadows. This way you will not have to leaf through all the pages to find the section you want.
If you wish, you can write all your regular rituals and the spellwork most often used in a hardbound Book of Shadows. This works well, as you can write the rituals in their order of usage: New Moon, Full Moon, the eight holy days in the proper order, and the rites of passage. Then you can use the notebooks for the other subjects that you will use less often. However, remember that the pages of hardbound books tend to turn when you don’t want them to.
Although your main rituals are written out in the order of their yearly appearance, such things as spells should be grouped together according to their usage; for example, protection, love, prosperity, and so forth. You will be adding to the groups of spells as you progress. It is much easier to enter new spells in the proper grouping if you are not working with a bound book.
Whatever kind of book or notebook you choose, be certain that it appeals to you. If you get a book simply to have one, and the style or color is not to your liking, the power you put into the book when you write the rituals will be weakened. Take your time in making your choice, just as you should when choosing ritual tools.
When you copy any ritual or spell into your binders, please remember to write down who the author is and which book contains the material you copied. You do not want to give the impression that this is your own ritual, especially if you share this ritual with another Witch.
Before you get carried away with the idea of writing everything in the Book of Shadows in a secret alphabet, stop and think about the difficulty you will have each time you try to read something out of the Book. It makes life much easier if you write out the contents of your Book in your everyday language and then keep your Book safely out of sight of cowans and other troublemakers. Save the magical alphabets for certain types of spellworking.
Each Book of Shadows must first be cleansed and consecrated. The rite for this follows. Then the Book Blessing is written on the first page. Do not write anything in your Book of Shadows until it has been consecrated and the Book Blessing page written.
CLEANSING OF THE BOOK OF SHADOWS
This is best done on the night of a Full Moon. You will need a pentacle, wand, dagger, white candle, frankincense incense, a chalice of water, and a small container of salt.
Place your Book of Shadows on your altar next to the pentacle, which should be centered and in front of where you will stand. Set the white candle and incense to the rear of the altar and behind the pentacle. Light both the candle and the incense. Put the chalice of water on the pentacle, with the salt beside it.
Cast the circle. When you finish, return to stand facing the altar. Set the chalice to one side of the pentacle. Place the Book of Shadows on top of the pentacle. Take several deep breaths and mentally reach out to the Otherworld. Feel the flow of power that announces the arrival of the Goddess and the God into your ritual circle.
Raise your arms and say:
My words go out across the worlds. The Old Gods hear my fervent plea.
Bring blessings strong into this book. So do I wish, so shall it be.
Take the Book into your power hand and wave it over the burning incense. Say:
Element of Air, vitalize this Book of Shadows. Let its contents be an inspiration to my life.
Wave the Book over the lighted candle, taking care not to get too close. Say:
Element of Fire, purify this Book of Shadows. May the purity of spiritual Fire also touch my life.
Using the fingers of your power hand, lightly sprinkle a few drops of consecrated water onto the book. Say:
Element of Water, consecrate this Book of Shadows. As I have consecrated my life to the Old Ones, may all rituals and spells within this Book honor them.
Place the Book back on the pentacle and place your power hand flat on top of the Book. Say:
Element of Earth, ground the power in this Book of Shadows by connecting it to the will of the Lady and the Lord. May the power I wield always be in balance.
Lay your dagger on top of the Book, with the wand over it. Say:
Element of Spirit, may what is written within this Book of Shadows always be connected with the Otherworld. Air to vitalize it. Fire to purify it. Water to consecrate it. Earth to ground it. Spirit to blend all Elements together into an unbreakable link with the Goddess and the God. So mote it be.
Place both hands palm down on the altar to ground any remaining power within you. Raise your arms and say:
My thanks to all who came this night, to help me in this sacred rite. The Lord and Lady, proud and old, the Elementals strong and bold. My blessings to you, all creatures free. As I will, so mote it be.
Break the circle, put away your tools, and clean up the altar. If you wish, and can do so without anyone interfering, leave the Book of Shadows on the altar overnight.
The next step is to enter the Book Blessing on the first page of your Book of Shadows. The Book Blessing page can be decorated with whatever artwork appeals to you. It is on this page that you will also write out your Craft name, but not your legal name, establishing your ownership of the book in both this world and the Otherworld. The covers of hardbound books usually are difficult to paint because of their cloth roughness or the slickness of plastic; however, you may also decorate the cover if you wish.
There is no one special way the Book Blessing should be written out. Following is a description of one example of this page that you may copy or change if you wish. The page is bordered with Celtic twining beasts in bold colors. In medieval writing script, done in black ink, are the words: “May the Old Ones place their blessings upon this Book. Air vitalizes it. Fire purifies it. Water consecrates it. Earth grounds it. Spirit connects it to the Otherworld. This write is by the hand of Moon Raven.” (The name Moon Raven is the Craft name of the Witch making the Book.)
Your next step will be to write in this Book the rituals for the New and Full Moon, the eight holy days, and the rites of passage. Write in the best hand you can, and in large enough script to easily read when you stand at the altar. Black ink is best, as it is most visible on a white page.