One of the most important tools that a witch has in his/her arsenal is the BOS (Book of Shadows). It is not something you buy in a store. It is something completely personal to that person. In short, it is a magical journal that is kept and added to through out your path. Keeping accurate records of your magical workings is a discipline that is completely necessary for a serious witch, and more importantly for a solitary, as you do not have the support of a circle/coven to help and guide you. In keeping records, good notes, records and sometimes-even pictures are necessary. The reason for this is simple. You can keep track of your progress, and even nail down re-occurring problems that you might not notice then, but by seeing it written down, you can isolate it and deal with it. It also helps you develop rituals and spells that are more powerful, and comfortable to you, or should I say, more fitted to your unique energies.
Keeping notes also improves your memory of a given situation and helps you clarify events after they have happened. It also enables you to look back to determine WHY something went wrong.
The Dream Journal
There are three different types of journals that one might keep. My personal favorite is “The Dream Journal.” I cannot begin to tell you how many times I made or cast a spell or ritual, and had something not feel quite right, or perhaps even fail, only to turn to my dream journal, and discover an interesting dream that happened around the time I cast it. Keeping a loose-leaf notebook by your bed is a good practice. Don’t worry if your first couples of tries are barley readable, simply looking at it later will bring up the dream to memory, and the writing WILL get better. I would suggest a soft book light by your bed to do this with, so you do not wake anyone when you rise to write in it. After some time of writing in it, you can actually begin to see things that are happening within you that you did not even know existed. It is also a good place to write down your experience during meditation or grounding and centering.
The Personal Journal
The second one is what I would simply call your “Personal Journal.” Simply, it is a recording of your day-to-day life. Writing the weather at the top, believe it or not, comes in handy. Things like, your family’s goings on, world headlines, your thoughts on things that you feel you should say. Even affirmations are good.
The Book of Shadows
Although it is not imperative that you keep one, it is VERY important however, to keep notes. Especially when working spells. When one works a spell, it is VERY good practice to jot down the following, call it your Ritual Record Sheet. I personally have this in word format, and have about 20 printed and on hand now granted, you will learn ritual making in the second degree, but it is good to get you exposed to it:
** Date, day and TIME that the spell was worked
** Phase of the moon
** Astrological correspondences (if necessary)
** Weather Conditions
** Your emotions at the time
** Your health, or physical condition at the time
** Type of Ritual
** Purpose of ritual
** Tools and other items used (i.e. special athame, herbs, special candles or incense, etc.)
** Deities invoked (if any)
**The length of the ritual
** (to be written later) The results of the ritual
** Ritual composition
It is usually a good thing to take magical notes in a regular notebook, and then later, lovingly transfer your new knowledge to your BOS. While I was in a coven, I usually carried one with me, and after Esbats or Sabbats, I would write things down and later transfer them to my BOS, especially if we did something powerful or moving to me personally.
Most BOS contain ritual outlines, poetry, recipes, artwork, songs, chants, the Rede, information about Sabbats, Gods & Goddesses, alphabets, symbols, correspondence charts, etc. These sections in a BOS are included in the outline in the previous lesson regarding your Spell Binder.
Here is a quote from a popular author that sums a lot of it up: “…you may find, like I have, that it is almost impossible to capture some rituals and energy-workings in words. I mainly use the entries (in a Book of Shadows) to jog my memory.”
~ Yasmine Galenorn in her book: “Embracing the Moon”
What goes into a BOS?
Your Book of Shadows (BOS) does not need to contain specific spells, recipes or rituals. You can put anything in it you wish to, however even if you feel that you may not need a BOS, it is important to keep at least a few notes. Most Witches find that their BOS in an invaluable tool, particularly after being involved in the Craft for many years.
BOS are sometimes prized possessions of covens and solitaries, and are even becoming somewhat of a status symbol among Wiccans. This might not be the best development in the Craft, but there are many reasons that a BOS can instill pride. Calligraphy and illuminations on parchment pages are a sign of the love and care a practitioner puts into their work. Thus the reason for writing it down, and then later transferring it to your BOS. Simply creating your presentation book can be a form of meditation and a spiritual experience… and it can help build self-esteem through your artistic or creative achievement.
A BOS can also help create a ritualistic mood. There is much to be said regarding ‘props’ in rituals, particularly group rituals. A beautiful, intricate presentation book on the altar sets the mood of respect and honor for an entire ritual. Set & Setting, you will find, can influence many occasions.
What is Your BOS Like?
Imagine a wise elder who lives in a cabin out in the woods. On the bookshelf of the cabin next to the fireplace, on the very tiptop shelf, the elder keeps a treasured Book of Shadows. You to reach up and take the book down from the shelf. What does it look like? This is your BOS. You are the wise elder – the book is of your making.You might think of your BOS as a direct reflection of your view of Wicca, or as your gift to future generations. Of course, it is certainly not necessary to create a formal BOS. You may find your Spell Binder works perfectly for you and is flexible and casual. You may also choose an ornate Spell Binder.
Creating Your Presentation Book
Transferring pages from your Spell Binder to your BOS can be either very simple, or extremely difficult, depending on the format of presentation book you use, and the amount of work you wish to do. “scrap booking” has become very popular in recent years and Witches can benefit from this popularity though the easy access of custom papers, adhesives, inks, punches and binders.
Your BOS and Spell Binder may be one in the same, or you might be more comfortable with having 2 separate ones, allowing you to create a beautiful BOS. I personally think that the wooden ones Lady StarFish sells are SUPERB for a BOS. You may find that your BOS changes with you, for example you might start out with journals and pre-bound books, change to a small and portable day-runner type organizer, and then switch to simple notebooks. Whatever you decide, the whole point of this section is for you to learn some of the many ways to make your BOS special, unique and very much YOU. Because you will grow and change, I recommend that you choose a flexible system of some sort.
Keep In Mind When Designing Your BOS:
1. Find out what you really need to have in your BOS before spending time creating it, and before spending much money. To do this, keep a Spell Binder type system and find out what you use most.
2. Consider whether you need your BOS to be with you during rituals or while making recipes. Do you need plastic sheet protectors? Do you need your book to be angled on a bookstand? Does your book lie flat? (many pre-bound books don’t) There are easel binders which are like a three ring binder, except the cover folds out at the bottom to create its own easel. These are convenient, but the hinges do eventually wear out.
3. How long will your chosen BOS system last? How long does it need to last?
4. What appeals to you the most?
The point is, is that it is unique to YOU, it is a part of you.