A blog post on what a Book of Shadows is? Sure, I can do that, I know what that is, I have one I have been keeping for a while now. So, I sat down and wrote what I had been taught years ago, and talked about books full of spells and tables of correspondences and other useful information. The same book of shadows that has been written over and over by Wiccans and pagans for years. Usually we copy off each other and duplicate each others work. Or, you download pretty pages from the internet and print them out (that's what I did for my very first book).
But is this truly a book of shadows?
There are several different journals that every magic worker keeps on a day to day basis. Over the years they have been given different names to try to both sum up their use and make them sound mystical. But at their core, they are journals that are used to record information.
There is the Book of Dreams, or Dream Journal. Many people record the dreams that they remember and then interpret them using archetypal symbolism and their own personal intuition to help them gain some insight into what the brain is saying while they are asleep.
What we commonly call a Book of Shadows is a Wiccan invention, first attributed to Gerald Gardner and his Bricket Wood Coven in the 1950's. This book contained details of magical workings, and various sets of information that the witch felt they wanted to collect together. He claimed that the practice of Witches keeping such a book was ancient, and was practiced throughout history. According to tradition, the book was burned after a person died, so that it would not be discovered that they had been a witch. Aside from the fact that many witches would not have been able to read and write, this book is more akin to a grimoire than a book of shadows.
The word Grimoire is believed to come from the old French word grimaire an old spelling of the word grammaire or grammer. A grammar is a description of a set of symbols and how to combine them to create well-formed sentences. A Grimoire is, appropriately enough, a description of a set of magickal symbols and how to combine them properly.
The Book of Mirrors is what some call the journal in which you are bluntly and nakedly honest about yourself. They hold up a mirror to their thoughts, feelings, failings and challenges and record them all with painful honesty.
No matter what you call your journal, or what you put in your journal, the act of sitting down and writing things out, bluntly and honestly is a work of true personal transformative magic. When you sit down to write and it is just you, your pen and your blank page, its scary. You start to poke at thoughts and feelings long buried and while the end result can be healing and empowering, while it is happening it is sometimes painful. The magic in this comes from making it a daily ritual done at a set time each day, and with intent to follow the ancient Greek instruction of “know thyself”. Because, at it's heart and soul, the magical life is one of self discovery.
I journal every day, I have a set time at which I sit down to do this, and I always begin and end with expressing gratitude for the many things I am blessed with every day. In between those expressions of gratitude the actual writing is often raw, ugly and sometimes tear spotted when I hit against something painful to work through. But every word that I write strengthens my connection with Divine Energy and deepens my intuition about life. It helps me see why I react the way I do to things that happen, and it gives me the ability to respond rather than react.
For the witch this daily journal is going to include magical information and workings. It is part of the truth of what we are. This, to me, is the true Book of Shadows. Because in it, I look at the shadows within myself and examine them, making them truly a part of me.
Aleister Crowley defined magic as the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will. To be able to achieve this, you first have to know what your will is and if the situation requires magic, or maybe a more human touch.
No matter what you call it, I urge you to give magical journalling a try. You may be surprised at how much you learn.
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