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Book of Shadows

Book of Shadows

A Book of Shadows is a book containing religious texts and instructions for magickal rituals found within the Neopagan religion of Wicca, and in many pagan practices. One famous Book of Shadows was created by the pioneering Wiccan Gerald Gardner sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s, and which he utilized first in his Bricket Wood Coven and then in other covens which he founded in following decades. The Book of Shadows is also used by other Wiccan traditions, such as Alexandrianism and Mohsianism, and with the rise of books teaching people how to begin following Wicca in the 1970s onward, the idea of the Book of Shadows was then further propagated amongst solitary practitioners unconnected to earlier traditions.

Initially, when Wicca was still dominated by covens, only one copy of the Book existed for an entire coven, kept by the high priestess or high priest. That rule has proved unfeasible, and it is now commonplace for all Witches to have their own copies. In the various traditions that make up British Traditional Wicca, copies of the original Book composed by Gerald Gardner with the aid of his High Priestess Doreen Valiente, along with alterations and additions that have been made since then, is followed by BTW adherents. They have tried to keep the contents of this Book a secret, although it has been published on a number of occasions by figures such as Charles Cordelll, Lady Sheba, and Janet and Stewart Farrar. In other Wiccan traditions and amongst a number of solitary practitioners, alternate versions of the Book have been written that are independent of Gardner’s original.

In non-traditional or “eclectic” forms of Wiccan or Neo-pagan practice, the term Book of Shadows is often used to describe a personal journal rather than a traditional text. This journal records rituals, spells, and their results, as well as other magickal information. This can be either an individual or coven text, and is not normally passed from teacher to student. In many cases, this kind of Book of Shadows is an electronic document (disk or website) instead of a hand-written one, although I recommend creating your own, especially if you are just entering the Craft. Involving your subconscious through the creation of ‘art’ in the form of a magickal tome involves all five senses and aligns you more quickly to the  lessons and energies that you are working with.

Some reserve the Book of Shadows for recording spells and keep a separate book, sometimes called the Book of Mirrors to contain thoughts, feelings and experiences. I find this to be helpful as a journaling tool that can be used to look back on where you’ve been and how far you have come along your magickal path. Both can be used to record your successes and to gain perspective when you seem to be ‘stuck’ for new ideas or confirmation of your vast growth along the way.

May you be inspired to make your own Book of Shadows or Mirrors and to break out your old one if you haven’t in a while. Use them as a tool for growth and to shed a new or different light on your magickal journey!


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