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Starting Your Book of Shadows

Your Book of Shadows is an organized collection of all the magical, mundane, and ritual skills you learn as a Wiccan, and it is as unique as you are. There is no official way to create a Book of Shadows, and every witch must choose his or her own way of doing it.

Your Book of Shadows can be worn around your neck as a flashdrive on a decorative chain or cord, and you can sort it with a hyperlinked index. Or you can handwrite your Book of Shadows with quill and ink on parchment sewn into a calfskin binding. Or you could use anything such as a notebook or index cards that falls between those two extremes. There are only two practical requirements for a Book of Shadows: it must be easy to maintain, and it must be organized for useful retrieval of information.

First, your Book of Shadows must be easy to maintain. For most witches, this will mean typing it into one or more computer files, which is much easier and faster than handwriting it to paper. On a computer, you can instantaneously cut-and-paste text, insert images, run spellcheck, include an index, and add hyperlinks to subsections of your document. You can download files shared by others. You can print out text, or keep it digital to minimize physical clutter.

On the other hand, you should feel comfortable with your Book of Shadows as a reflection of your personality. If you find technology soulless and alienating, you may want to buy or make a beautiful blank book and fill it with calligraphy in certain colors of ink. But consider that you only have so much free time in a day that could be otherwise spent in ritual or spellwork. You might start a gorgeous handwritten Book of Shadows only to abandon it as you progress on the Wiccan path and find other things you would rather do with your time. And that is okay. You can always start over with your Book of Shadows until you have it in the format you desire.

If you do not have access to a computer, but feel inhibited at the thought of writing in a fancy blank book, there are practical options to consider. You could use loose-leaf paper in a binder notebook. This enables you to move the pages around as you see fit. In the pockets of a binder notebook, you can place artwork or pressed herbs. You could also fashion your Book of Shadows from index cards and organize them in a recipe box with tabbed dividers. Binders, index cards, tabs, labels, and recipe boxes are available at any office supply store.

Second, your Book of Shadows must be organized for useful retrieval of information. Again, a computer document offers the easiest organization by far. You can search on keywords. You can hyperlink a table of contents, and create an index of terms. Because of the speed and convenience of digital cutting and pasting, your Book of Shadows can evolve as an ongoing project where you rearrange new material next to old material to find the most complementary transitions from subject to subject.

But what if you are committed to creating a handwritten Book of Shadows inside a bound blank book? Because you cannot move the pages in a bound book, this arrangement is better suited to a journal or diary such as your Book of Mirrors in which the date is the only organizing principle. In your Book of Mirrors, each new entry picks up where the last left off, and there is no need to rearrange by topic.

But you can still adapt a bound book to serve as a Book of Shadows. On a piece of scrap paper, write the general headings for the skills that you plan to learn and document. Take the total page-count of your bound book and divide by the number of headings you wish to include. For example, if there are four headings (Rituals, Divination, Spells, Herbs), and you have two hundred pages in your bound book, then you would place a sticky note or tab to mark four groupings of fifty pages each. Whenever you want to write on a certain topic, you turn to its fifty-page grouping in your bound book.

You could then handwrite an index, alphabetical by heading, to organize the random page numbers within each topic to pinpoint where subtopics appear. You could also use a single blank book for each topic, and call the collection your Book of Shadows with an alphabetical index of in which book and on which page you can find each significant term. I have done all this before, and believe me it is a huge amount of work!

If you opt for the three-ring binder or index cards approach, you will have a Book of Shadows that is a compromise between the fluidity of a computer document and the permanence of a bound book. You can switch around pages and combine things easily, but you still have the time-consuming chore of handwriting. However, this can be good option for the many witches who might find a computer document too impersonal and a blank book too fancy.

See my Amazon.com author page for books on paganism starting at 0.99 cents.

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