What Is A Book Of Shadows?

The Book Of Shadows

The Book of Shadows is another primary tool used in Wicca. It contains much of the magickal lore, correspondences and spells used in Wicca. Some treat it as a magickal diary, with recording their experiences. The first Book of Shadows was written by Gerald Gardner, although there is still much scandal concerning who actually wrote it, with a lot of finger-pointing toward Aleister Crowley and in some cases Doreen Valiente. The name, “Book of Shadows,” is used to refer to the Witch-Hunt days and the need for secrecy of the religion, and thus an allusion is made to practicing within the shadows. Today, the term Book of Light is sometimes used as the need to hide and stay hidden is no longer necessary.

Often hand written out, the Book of Shadows, or BOS can be typed out or kept on a floppy disk as well. The best idea I’ve come across for keeping a Book of Shadows is a three-ring binder so pages can be more easily shuffled around, added and organized. If you choose to write your BOS in a magickal language like the runes, make sure that you can read it. It won’t do to have all your writing in a language that you can’t read at a quick glance or need to know. In the end, the BOS is a personal tool and becomes personalized by the individual who uses it. Nor is the BOS holy writing, but a guide line and source containing much of a Coven’s or Solitary’s magickal lore and traditions.

As far as the Book of Shadows is concerned, it may well have been inspired by the grimores said to be kept by Magus’ and Sorcerers throughout the Medieval Ages. The most famous being The Key of Solomon. Gerald Gardner is supposedly to have received the Book of Shadows during his initiation in 1939. He later published it in his novel, “High Magic’s Aid.” This Book of Shadows was then expanded on by Doreen Valiente and Aleister Crowley. Many Hereditary Witches claim that a similar book is kept, though it is not refer to as a Book of Shadows. Kerr Cuhulain has pointed out in his “Wiccan Warrior”, that Gardner did indeed draw on Charles G. Leland’s book “Aradia: Gospel of the Witches” published in 1899 as well as several other sources when writing his Book of Shadows.

The term grimoire, or grammar, means essentially a book of learning and the name seems to make sense as a universal term for this type of book. The name “grimoire” is not the actual name which is used within any tradition. This name is used solely because the real name of the book is secret, and so it serves as a point of reference for the same item between traditions. The things which are written within the book are religious rituals, amendments to those rituals, and other things which have to do with the religion. Things related to magick are written in a different book. It does not serve as a diary. Most of the time, this book is hand written by the individual. In some families, this book is copied from what is referred to as a “Great Book.”

Whether called a Book of Shadows, Book of Light, Mirror Book, Grimore, Great Book, ect. It is a personal tool and highly individualized by it’s user and coven.

This is the basic outline that most Books of Shadows have:

* Title Page (This usually says: Book of Shadows, sometimes mentions what tradition and often has your name listed on it)
* Laws (This is the rules, codes and ethics)
* Invocations of the Goddess and God (This is often a blessing for the book, usually appearing before or next to the Laws)
* An alter diagram
* Circle Casting and dispersing instructions
* Rituals (Sabbats, Full Moon rite, tool consecrations)
* Prayers, chants, invocations, spells
* Initiation Ritual (Whether self or Coven)
* Pictures, Sketches
* Symbols
* Dream Working
* Magickal Rites (Herb Lore, Stone Lore, runes, correspondences, ect.)
* Records of Magickal workings and experiences.

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