My approach to the Pagan path and magick is an evidence-based one. From my earliest experiences in Mauritius and learning magick in Mexico one of my key principles is “Does it work in the real world”? This is why many Pagans keep a journal of some sort, be it a “Book of Shadows”, personal grimoire, or a diary. In it they keep notes of what they did, when they did it, and what results they achieved. Sometimes these can be incredibly detailed as with one person I know who practiced remote viewing and astral projection who kept details of astrological, astronomical, environmental, and even hormonal cycle when they practiced. This made it easier for her to discern the best conditions for a successful projection and times when it would be difficult or impossible.
Record-keeping is also very important to remember what happened as a result of a particular spell or ritual. Not only to avoid fooling yourself into thinking that something happened when it didn’t, but also to remind yourself when you get such a dramatic result that you later find yourself not being able to believe it.
My own experiences of this include encouraging it to rain in Alice Springs which is in the middle of the Australian Outback, entering the American Embassy in Tokyo without anyone noticing me (even security!), and my wand confusing people and ‘freezing’ their hand when they tried to use it – even with my permission. All of these I might have thought I imagined because of their apparently “Impossible” results. By checking back in my notes I can see where and when these things happened along with further evidence such as photographs of Ularu (Ayers Rock) shining silver in the rain.
These verifiable results help boost your confidence and provide concrete evidence of the effectiveness of your skills as you progress. Some people like to keep them in a specific code or magical language, such as Theban Script to keep them difficult to read should unwanted eyes be cast upon them. I have known Mages with Journalistic backgrounds keep them in shorthand, Dutton Speedwords or other system both for recording things quickly, useful for workings such as working with clairvoyance or invoked beings.
When starting your journal keep things simple. Date, day, time, place and what you did are enough to begin with. As you become more experienced you can add more sections as appropriate, these first notes will enable you to reverse-engineer details such as planetary positions and local seismic conditions which may have an effect on your workings. One other item that you may like to add to your first notes is the weather; even working indoors things such as strong winds can have a measurable effect on your practice.
Many people beginning on the Pagan path find that loose-leaf binder split into sections works well. It might be tempting to keep records on the computer but computers have a habit of crashing, and otherwise misbehaving, in a high-magick area due to the energy raised having similar properties to electricity but not being as easily channelled by transistors. I have also seen computers completely ruined by circles being cast through them so, in my experience, writing it down or printing a copy immediately works best. You can also divide a binder up into more sections as your knowledge and experience grows.
You can, of course, choose not to keep a journal. There’s nothing wrong with that and I know many Pagans who rely on their memories and the occasional note. However when we get together and start reminiscing about events gone by, both good and bad, you mention a particular one and a look of part amazement and part horror crosses their face
“How the heck can I have forgotten about that ?“ they ask. This is where they realise what a potent tool a journal is and start keeping one, but they always seem to have the nagging feeling that they might have had some important experience or event that they have lost forever. They have learned too late that memory is fallible, but can be kept in order by a good journal. This enables them to progress more quickly by cementing the building blocks of their workings in place and being able to form a firm foundation.