I wanted to start things off by discussing the Book of Shadows and I’ll say why later on. The original intent of the Book of Shadows has been alluded as the taking of the oral traditions and being put into writing for fear of the oral traditions being lost. The historical aspect of this has been called into question as the first time it is recorded as being used is by Gerald Gardner. Doreen Valiente stated that Gardner had taken the term from a magazine that he had seen in 1949. Prior to this the magical tomes were often called grimoires. A grimoire, however, became synonymous in the middle ages with the dark arts instead of being a magical text as it was originally intended. I actually like the name grimoire than Book of Shadows…but maybe that’s just me.
The book of shadows, since Gerald Gardner’s time, has become the accepted meaning of a book that tracks an individual’s journey through their magical life. Often it will contain thoughts, feelings, rituals and the results, spells, meditations, poems, artwork, and just about everything to do with the spiritual path of that person. While the original covens of Wicca intended that there be only one Book of Shadows per coven and the book be passed to the next High Priest or Priestess, most practitioners now find this practice as inconvenient. Many covens will have a coven Book of Shadows and each member will also have their own individual Book of Shadows as well. The concept of a Book of Shadows being passed down is a practice in some family traditions which I find as a wonderful concept of a family heirloom. In some traditions it is customary that when a person dies that their Book of Shadows be destroyed so no one would know they practiced witchcraft, however I am much more inclined to pass it on or to have it buried with me so I can continue to record in it in the afterlife.
Writing in your Book of Shadows doesn’t need to have any true flow or form as it is your personal preference. Many like the concept of a three ring binder so they can move pages around. Some like different composition books for different subjects, some enjoy recording on a computer word processor, and some enjoy the idea of the mighty tome that sits on a podium awaiting your magical recording. All of these are valid Books of Shadows yet none may fit your need. In time the version that most suits you will come to you. Until then I would suggest the trusty composition book or spiral bound notebook since you can always rewrite your recordings in a more finalized manner later.
Once you have your book, computer, or notebook open in front of you, what do you put in your Book of Shadows? As you go through your studies you will find information that may hold true to your beliefs. Your spirit will tug at you as to say, “Don’t forget this!” This is the information that you will want to take note of.
Be aware of what you are writing down though. As I had found out when I first started my studies, after I read a chapter I would look down to see that I was trying to copy exactly what the author had written. By doing this, my sacred book was no longer MY sacred book. Instead it had become a recording of the experiences of others. When you do find information that holds true to you, write why it holds true to you, what part of it do you feel is important, what about it doesn’t hold true to you, and then rewrite everything in your own words. This will cement your feelings and intentions into your Book of Shadows and truly make it your own.