Every witch or magickal practitioner is different. Some keep a Book of Shadows, others keep a Grimoire, other’s just keep a magickal reference book, while some keep nothing at all. Today I want to talk about the differences between the two, a little history, and some notable books.
I personally keep a Book of Shadows, that serves as a written history of my journey, both magickally and personally. Before we get too into this, and will say many times, I want to preface and emphasis that no two magickal journeys look the same, and therefore neither do any two Books of Shadows or Grimoires. For example, my Book of Shadows, is a simple Moleskine journal, because that is what I am most comfortable with. It feels natural to me. Where someone else may have something far more elaborate, such as my friend Stephen’s (@awitchespath) beautiful Grimoire pictured below.
There is a large debate on how and when the practice of keeping a Book of Shadows or magickal Grimoires came into use. Some say it began in the middle ages, while other’s argue that witches were most likely illiterate during that period of time, and therefore they did not start until the 14th or 15th century. Both theories, however, suggest that the first written Grimoires/BoS’ were done so in runic alphabets to protect the witch from witch hunters. The most notable Grimoires would be The Golden Grimoire (Merlin), and The Great Grimoire (reportedly the Grimoire holding the first ever spells by witches, who received this magickal information from Lucifer in his angel form, not the devil). The Great Grimoire was thought to hold information on God including his name at creation and is thought that if it was read backward, it would undo the world itself.
The big difference between a Grimoire and a Book of Shadows is, a Grimoire often contains strict information. A Grimoire may have your records of spells you have performed, and direct information regarding magickal correspondences, etc. While a Book of Shadows, is more like a diary of one’s spiritual journey, that is kept hidden or private.
You can have as many Grimoires or BoS’ as you want to have. You can record as much or as little information in them as you desire. You can use it as a daily diary, or separate thoughts into a variety of books. For example, I have a tarot Grimoire, a tarot journal, my book of shadows, and an herbal Grimoire. My personal BoS is also edition number four currently, as I grow they grow with me. This, as I have previously said, is different for everyone, however, no two magical books are the same. I may get some heat for this, but in my personal opinion, there is no wrong way to keep a Grimoire/BoS. It is, after all, a record of YOUR spiritual journey and therefore should be a reflection of that and therefore will look differently depending on who you are.
So the last thing that I would like to talk about is creating your own Book of Shadows. I feel like I hear a lot, that people don’t have one, because they don’t know where to start, which is so silly to me, but I also completely understand. New things can seem daunting. Similarly, with the presence of social media, the idea that you have to have this perfectly put together Grimoire, with super together art, is a lot of pressure. And although yes having a beautiful Grimoire may be exactly what is perfect for some people, that doesn’t mean yours has to be that way, again, it’s supposed to be a documentation of your spiritual journey, and that will look different for everyone. There is no wrong way. I hope with the examples I have here also help to give you confidence that a witches BoS or Grimoire entirely varies person to person.
So, now you may be wondering, where do you start? Here are some examples of ideas that can help you make the leap!
The one thing I will suggest, (but of course, it’s your book) is, leave a nice big space in the start of your book, for an index. You can fill it as and when you need.
- Title your book! Give it a date, write your name on it! (This can be your craft name if you have one, again ITS YOUR BOOK!)
- Bless your book. Write it down. Put the intention into your book, whatever that may be.
- Write down your spiritual beliefs, any magickal rules or codes of conduct you put on yourself.
- If you run a coven or would like to, how you would go about it.
- What are your opinions on secrecy, and who can see inside your book, if anyone?
- Do you have any spiritual goals? What are they?
- Make a section for your dreams and divination readings.
- Make a section for research, or consider filling information in your book as and when you learn about it, this is when the index comes in handy.
- Have you taken a workshop or a class? Write information or journal the experience.
- Write down your spells, rituals, prayers, incantations, and potions. BUT I will say this, personally, I would say, only write down what you yourself has done. Now, of course, it is your book, but part of marking your spiritual journey includes spells and rituals you have done, not other people. But if you are marking a book for stuff you’d like to do, heck… again it’s your book, and there’s no wrong way.
- Annual thoughts. For your birthday, for the end/beginning of a solar new year, you can write down your thoughts/hopes/desires/annual divinations/etc.
I hope this inspires some of you who maybe have always wanted to start a BoS or Grimoire, to finally take the leap. Especially if you have ideas of what you think they’re supposed to be, versus what it actually looks like for a lot of us. It’s your book. Treat it with the respect you want it to have, and don’t compare. And remember that just like you, your book will grow too. You will get second, third, fourth, and so on, editions. You’ve totally got this, its your book, don’t worry about anyone else.