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The Witch’s Book of Shadows “This engaging, personal, and well-researched book explores a little-considered subject, the Book of Shadows, from every angle.” —Yvonne Aburrow, author of All Acts of Love & Pleasure: Inclusive Wicca “If Books of Shadows are your bag, then look no further. Jason Mankey once again shows off his skill as a well-practiced Witch with this collection of stories, tips, and tricks about that most personal of magical tools: the Book of Shadows. A great addition to every Wiccan’s shelf.” —Jenya T. Beachy, author of The Secret Country of Yourself: Discover the Powerful Magick of Your Endless Inner World “There are many ways to create a Book of Shadows, many things to put in one, and many ways to use it. Read this book and you’ll find the way or ways that work for you. Along the way you’ll learn the history of magical books, some famous Books of Shadows, and something that is often overlooked: how not to use a Book of Shadows.” —John Beckett, blogger at “Under the Ancient Oaks” and author of The Path of Paganism: An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice

“As always, Mankey brings insight and delight to the magickal process. The Witch’s Book of Shadows is an in-depth yet approachable guidebook to all the elements of crafting your own Books of Shadows. Dive in and enjoy!” —Lasara Firefox Allen, bestselling author of Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality


Witch’s Book of


photo by Tymn Urban

Jason Mank ey

has been a Pagan and a Witch

for over twenty years and has spent much of that time writing, talking, and ritualizing across North America. He is a frequent visitor to a plethora of Pagan festivals, where he can often be found talking about Pagan deities, rock and roll, and various aspects of Pagan history. He is currently the editor of the Patheos Pagan channel and can be found online at his blog, Raise the Horns,


The Craft, Lore & Magick of the Witch's Grimoire

Witch’s Book of


Jason Mankey Llewellyn Publications Wo o d b u r y, M i n n e s o t a

The Witch’s Book of Shadows: The Craft, Lore & Magick of the Witch’s Grimoire © 2017 by Jason Mankey. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Llewellyn Publications, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. First Edition First Printing, 2017 Book series design by Rebecca Zins Cover design by Lisa Novak Cover Illustration by John Kachik Interior illustrations by Mickie Mueller Llewellyn Publishing is a registered trademark of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Mankey, Jason, author. Title: The witch’s book of shadows : the craft, lore & magick of the witch’s grimoire / by Jason Mankey. Description: FIRST EDITION. | Woodbury : Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2017. | Series: The witch’s tools ; # 6 | Includes bibliographical references. Identifiers: LCCN 2016047265 (print) | LCCN 2016051780 (ebook) | ISBN 9780738750149 | ISBN 9780738751917 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Witchcraft. | Magic. Classification: LCC BF1566 .M27653 2017 (print) | LCC BF1566 (ebook) | DDC 133.4/3—dc23 LC record available at Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business transactions between our authors and the public. All mail addressed to the author is forwarded, but the publisher cannot, unless specifically instructed by the author, give out an address or phone number. Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific location will continue to be maintained. Please refer to the publisher’s website for links to authors’ websites and other sources. Llewellyn Publications A Division of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive Woodbury, MN 55125-2989 Printed in the United States of America

Other Books by Jason Mankey The Witch’s Athame (Llewellyn, 2016)

F or

all the circles, groves, and covens over the years, including but not limited to the Oak Court, Green Spiral, the Lansing Pagan Village, Windshadow, the Walnut House of Cats, Cedarsong Grove, and Oak’s Shadow. Thanks for helping to make me a better Witch and a better person. Much love!


I ntroduction   1 What Is a Book of Shadows?  6 Your BoS Is About You!  8

1: Some Different Types of Books of Shadows  11 The Coven Book of Shadows  12 A Tradition’s Book of Shadows  14 The Individual Witch’s Personal Book of Shadows  17 The Journal Book of Shadows  21 “One Specific Thing” Book of Shadows  23 The Operative and Active Book of Shadows  24 every trick in the book :

You Are Writing Your Own History Thorn Mooney  27

2: Putting Together a Book of Shadows and Making It Your Own  31 Finding a Book of Shadows  31 A Book of Shadows in a Three-Ring Binder  34 Making a Three-Ring Binder Look Great  37 The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Three-Ring Binder  38 The Cut-and-Paste Book of Shadows  41 The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Cut-and-Paste Book of Shadows  44 The Handwritten Book of Shadows  45 A Handwritten BoS Presents a Few Extra Challenges  48 The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Handwritten Book of Shadows  49 Arranging a Book of Shadows  50 Decorating and Personalizing a Book of Shadows  59 every trick in the book :

No-Fear Grimoire Crafting Laura Tempest Zakroff  65

3: A Brief History of Magical Books, Words, and Symbols  69 The Cave Painters  70 From Symbols to Writing to Books  75 A Few Legendary Magical Writers  79 xii •••


every trick in the book :

The Emerald Tablet Christopher Drysdale  85 A Few Famous Magical Books  88 every trick in the book : A Modern

Witch & The Egyptian Book of the Dead Kiya Nicoll  96 The Key of Solomon the King (Clavicula Salomonis)  98 From Grimoires to the Book of Shadows  102 Magical Books in Pop Culture Today  107 The Necronomicon  110

4: What to Put in a Book of Shadows  115 The Opening Pages  117 Rituals 120 Ritual Extras  124 Witchcraft Extras  128 Magick and Spellwork  134 Divination and the Future  142 every trick in the book :

A Blended Book of Shadows Asa West  145

xiii •••


5: The Book of Shadows—Out of the Shadows  149 From Sheba to Cunningham to RavenWolf: BoS’s from 1970 to the Present Day  151 every trick in the book :

An Excerpt from Gnostica News 162 Are There Any Secrets Left?  165

6: Alphabets, Fonts, Inks, and Symbols  169 Ogham 172 Foreign Languages and Magical Mottos  174 The Creative Use of Fonts and Scripts  176 Magical Symbols and Shortcuts  181 My Favorite Symbols and Shortcuts  182 Homemade Ink and Pens  185 Notes 191

7: Goddesses and Gods of the Books  193 Goddesses and Gods Associated with Literacy, Spellcraft, Alphabets, and Wisdom  194 Spells and Rituals Involving Individual Deities  196 Sophia and Jesus: Jewish and Christian Magick  202 Odin and the Runes  206 The Blessings and Curses of Aradia  212 xiv •••


8: The Book of Shadows in Ritual  219 The Advantages of Reading from Your BoS During Ritual  221 Reading in Ritual  223 We Can Do Better Than Reading from a Piece of Paper in Ritual  227 What a Book of Shadows Is Not  228 every trick in the book :

Holding the Keys to Mystery Christine Hoff Kraemer, PhD  230

9: Cleansing, Consecrating, and Other Rituals  235

Consecrating and Blessing a BoS for Personal Use  238 A Coven Book Blessing  244 Retiring a Book of Shadows  251 Letting Go of a Book of Shadows  253

10: New Frontiers and the BoS  259 My BoS on a Flash Drive and a Tablet  261 A Print-on-Demand Book of Shadows  265 The Cloud and Even Further Frontiers  268

Bibliography and Further Reading  271

xv •••



My first

Witch tool was a Book of Shadows. It was

a tiny little Nepalese journal that I picked up at a local head shop/hippie store. Instead of being black, it was a virtual rainbow of colors on a soft cloth cover. Its pages were handmade (at least according to the stamp inside of it), with none alike. Some of them felt like tissue paper, while others were far more sturdy. It was a rather appropriate BoS (BoS—that’s how many Witches abbreviate “Book of Shadows”) for me at the time. I was kind of a tree-hugging free spirit and loved the idea of a resurgent 1960s type of counterculture. With its emphasis on the earth and the seasons, Witchcraft felt like a natural extension of what I had already come to believe as a young 1 •••

adult. My book was pocket-sized too, and I envisioned myself scribbling in it at jam-band concerts, jotting down the sort of secrets that can only be revealed during an eight-minute guitar solo. Though I still own that first Book of Shadows, I never did that much with it. Dreaming about its contents was far easier than creating content for it. There are a few ritual sketches inside of it, and I did transcribe a chant I learned at my first Pagan festival (a chant that is now so commonplace to me, I nearly giggled when I came across it before writing today). There’s also a Christo-Pagan ritual in it, written when my first footfalls on the Pagan path were more tentative than surefooted. On the last page of that early BoS is a call to the Inuit goddess Pinga written for a long-ago Samhain ritual. That first BoS is a curious little snapshot of my early life as a Pagan and a Witch. There is a lot of confusion in its pages, and it contains several ideas that ended up being spiritual dead ends in my life. I like to flip through it sometimes to remind myself of how far I’ve come, but it’s not all that representative of where I am today. On the plus side, it does take me back to a simpler time in my life, which is sort of fun. My second attempt at a Book of Shadows yielded much more fruit. That book was originally a blue leather-bound journal with a sun on the cover that I purchased at a local Barnes and Noble. Its pages were lined and uniform, and I filled much of it up over the next few years with rituals, 2 •••


poems, and even some handcrafted mythology. It’s still my favorite BoS, and I’ve used it at handfastings (marriage ceremonies) and an assortment of rituals around the country. It contains some of my earliest coherent thoughts as a Witch and still occupies a place of honor in my ritual room. Also important to me is my wife’s BoS (don’t worry, she doesn’t mind when I flip through its pages). Her first BoS was a rather generic brown journal—there were no suns or moons on the cover of her book. When I have a question I don’t know the answer to, I sometimes page through her writings in hopes of finding the information I need. Her BoS has not weathered the years particularly well and is literally falling apart at the seams. If you were to ask my wife and me about the two most important tools we use in Witchcraft, we’d both say our athames and our books. We often refer to her first BoS and my second as “our books.” They’ve been such an important part of our journey that we feel as if they deserve a little extra recognition in our lives, even if the way we refer to them is a bit mundane. Over the last eight years, the number of BoS’s in our house has risen dramatically. After being initiated into the Gardnerian tradition of Witchcraft (named after its founder, Gerald Gardner), my wife and I were given the first third of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows. Because Gardnerian Witchcraft is an

3 •••


initiatory tradition with three different “degrees,” or levels, a complete Gardnerian BoS is assembled over the course of several years as individual Witches learn new things and progress through the system. Shortly after being initiated, my wife and I left our home of fifteen years for America’s West Coast. There we found ourselves starting a new coven not connected to any particular Witch tradition. As that particular coven grew, we built a Book of Shadows around it, composed mostly by me but also with a lot of input from other members of the coven. Eventually I started building new BoS’s for myself, utilizing the ritual structure of our California coven (which we eventually dubbed the “Oak Court,” after the name of the street we live on). The Oak Court also does a fair number of public rituals, and both my wife and I eventually put together additional books for such occasions. As our coven continues to grow and innovate, our BoS grows along with it, with more rituals, spells, and poems becoming a part of our written legacy. My wife and I continued our studies in the Gardnerian Craft and were initiated into the third degree of that tradition a few years after starting the Oak Court. This resulted in us receiving not only the rest of the Gardnerian BoS but also several other Gardnerian Books of Shadows from covens around the world. As covens are generally autonomous (there is no King

4 •••


or Queen of the Witches), each group is free to add whatever they wish to their BoS’s. This results in very different-looking books, even among Witches of the same tradition. As of this writing, I have over fifteen different BoS’s on my bookshelf, and that’s not counting the ones that are a part of traditionally published books! Each and every one of them is special and represents a different point on my ongoing journey as a Witch. Some of them I share freely with other people, while others are for my eyes only. Many of them are drastically different from their companions on my bookshelf, but all of them are Books of Shadows. I’ve had a love affair with books for as long as I can remember. I find that few activities are as pleasurable and informative as reading, and this love for the printed word has extended to the Book of Shadows. I fancy myself a BoS collector these days and enjoy building new books at what’s starting to feel like an annual pace. I don’t expect everyone to share my love of the BoS, but if I can capture a bit of why they are so special to me, I’ll feel as if I’ve succeeded with this book. If you are experienced at keeping a BoS, I think you’ll still find some useful information in these pages. To those of you relatively new to the Craft, I hope this book helps in the crafting of your own BoS (or BoS’s!). It’s my hope that this book will shine a little bit of light on your path.

5 •••


What Is a Book of Shadows? In many ways a Book of Shadows is whatever a Witch wants it to be. Some BoS’s represent a specific tradition, while others represent a very narrow segment of a particular Witch’s beliefs, practices, or interests. If a piece of writing has meaning to a Witch (or group of Witches), it can go into a Book of Shadows. A BoS is not a bible or an absolute. It simply documents the spiritual life of a particular Witch or Witch tradition (and everything in between). It can be public or private and doesn’t even have to be a book in the traditional sense. A BoS that exists only on a hard drive or “in the cloud” is still a BoS. If someone says, “That’s my Book of Shadows,” then it is! It’s the most personal and varied of all Witch tools. A BoS can be extremely organized or rather chaotic. Its contents can be decades old or fresh off the Internet. There is no right or wrong with a BoS; there is only what’s right for you. More than any other tool on my altar, my Book of Shadows represents me. It contains my rituals, my words, the poems of others that I treasure, and even my blood. If I were going to bare my soul as a Witch to an outsider, I would pick up my most beloved Book of Shadows and hand it to them. I might use my athame more often in ritual than my BoS, but I’ve spent far more time with my book in and out of ritual than with any other tool.

6 •••


While the term Book of Shadows sounds like some centuries-old magical secret, it’s of relatively recent vintage. It wasn’t used to designate a “Witch book” until the early 1950s and most likely evolved outside of an established Witch tradition. It’s a lovely turn of phrase but not a particularly old one. Even though the term Book of Shadows is less than a hundred years old, people have been writing, keeping, and producing magical texts for millennia. The history of the BoS travels from tablets to scrolls to books, and while the words we use to describe those things are different, the idea behind them is the same. An ancient Greek scroll from 2,300 years ago might not be a proper Book of Shadows, but it is most definitely related to what we do today with our BoS’s. The first BoS shared by Gerald Gardner (there’s that name again—he’s a pretty important figure, being the first modern public Witch) contained the rites and rituals of his Witch cult, a tradition that’s known today as Gardnerian Wicca. The actual writings in that BoS were (and are) oathbound, meaning individual Witches who receive that BoS have promised to keep its contents secret. For several decades the only way to gain access to the rituals and rites of modern Witchcraft was to be an initiate of a Witch tradition. During that period of time (from the early 1950s to the early 1970s), a Book of Shadows served as a how-to guide for many Witches and was handed down from

7 •••


initiator to initiate. There were no printed Witch rituals in general circulation and no how-to books yet in print. Initiates were free to add things to those early BoS’s, and many did. BoS’s were not written in stone, and while many of the rituals and ideas passed along have stayed the same, Witchcraft has always been a dynamic and evolving faith. As a result, the original writings of Gerald Gardner have been expanded upon and added to over the last seventy years. One of the biggest fundamental changes in Wiccan Witchcraft occurred in the 1970s, with the printing of the first Witch rituals. Now people had access to rituals without being an initiate, but this didn’t remove the mystery that lies at the heart of a good Book of Shadows; instead it added additional layers and made it even easier to embrace Witchcraft. Now solitaries and eclectic groups could keep and create their own BoS’s, and many initiated individuals began keeping a second (and even third) BoS to highlight the material that was now available to them in books.

Your BoS Is About You! I can’t stress enough how personal the BoS is. The only things that should ever go into your book are the things that resonate with you. The BoS is the one tool that we completely shape and mold around us as Witches. An athame always has to at least vaguely resemble a knife, but your BoS doesn’t have to look at 8 •••


all like mine or anyone else’s (and doesn’t even have to be a book). It can be written in any language or not have any language at all (a book of pictures works just fine too!). In this book I provide suggestions, along with a bit of practical advice. I’m sharing things that have worked for me and are a part of my BoS (and those of my friends), but they may not apply to everybody. Use what you want and discard the rest. Make your BoS about you and it will be just perfect!

9 •••


chapter 1

Some Different Types of Books of Shadows While there

is no right or wrong when it comes to a

BoS, there are a few book styles that are more common than others. But that doesn’t mean every BoS will fit neatly into one of the categories outlined here. In fact, most BoS’s are a combination of styles. Just as most Witches are multifaceted people, so are their BoS’s. I’ve arranged the following styles according to when they were first documented in modern Witch history, but just because a particular format was the first to be used doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better. A lot of Witches today start out with their own Book of Shadows before encountering one from a coven or tradition. Just as the BoS has continued to develop over the last few decades, so do individual Witches grow and change at their own pace.

11 •••

The Coven Book of Shadows The BoS I use most often in circle is my coven Book of Shadows. It contains the rites and rituals of my coven, along with a little bit of information about our beliefs and practices. I put it together myself from several different sources, and when someone is initiated into our circle, they are given a copy of the BoS. The first tome in Witch history referred to as a Book of Shadows functioned much like my coven’s own BoS. It contained the rites and rituals of one specific group, and people were allowed to copy its rites and rituals upon being initiated. A coven Book of Shadows is a shared liturgy among Witches and represents what those Witches do when gathered together for sabbats and esbats. The material in a coven BoS can come from a variety of sources but is generally assembled by those in the working group. As my own coven has grown over the years, we’ve added some details to our coven books, such as information on where our rituals originated. We’ve also added some Witch material separate from rituals, some advice (such as the Wiccan Rede: An it harm none, do what you will), and some magical operations that have been particularly successful for us. A coven BoS is generally always being added to as the coven members create more things together.

12 •••

Chapter 1

A coven BoS represents the beliefs and practices of a specific Witch group. While I put my coven’s book together, it has material from many different members of our group. It’s a document for us and not any one particular person. The individual Witches in our group are free to add its contents to any other books they are keeping and to add material to their own copy of our BoS. Our particular BoS is printed in such a way that it resembles a traditional book, and we include blank pages near the end because we assume every individual Witch in our circle will want to add to their particular copy of the book. My wife and I have begun keeping a second book for our circle, although it is not officially a part of our coven’s BoS. Inside we include the names of the Witches who were at each ritual, what magical operations were performed, and any other information we think might be of importance. If our ritual includes any direct interaction with the Lord or Lady or divinatory operations, we include those too. I often think of it as our coven diary. A coven diary is a useful little document to keep, especially if your coven engages in drawing down the moon (or sun). Drawing down involves the Goddess coming into circle through the body and voice of the high priestess and often speaking to the coven. When a goddess talks, it’s best to listen, and if you can write down what she says, all the better. The advice she

13 •••

Some Different Types of Books of Shadows

offers might prepare you or the coven for future events. When the words of the Goddess come true for us, we often end up putting them in our coven’s regular BoS. When covens are successful, they often hive off from one another, meaning that some of the Witches within it leave the mother coven and go off to start their own group, keeping the original coven’s rites and rituals. If the teachings of a coven survive over a generation and end up being transmitted far and wide, a new Witchcraft tradition is born. The BoS of a tradition is a bit different from that of a coven.

A Tradition’s Book of Shadows When a person is initiated into a tradition, they are usually given (or allowed to copy) an already existing Book of Shadows. Flipping through the pages of an initiatory line’s BoS is like going backward in time. The BoS of my tradition stretches back several decades and includes the wisdom of dozens of other Witches who have contributed to it over the years. It’s an extraordinary document and one of my most cherished Witchcraft items. Unlike my coven’s BoS, my tradition’s BoS contains a wide variety of material. Since it was originally put together in an age before the “Wicca 101 book,” it contains all sorts of practical information on how to work magick and build an effective Witchcraft practice. It’s far more complete than the BoS 14 •••

Chapter 1

I created for my own coven and covers many topics with a depth and breadth of understanding I’m incapable of. In the tradition I’m a part of, our BoS can only be added to and never subtracted from. This has resulted in a book that is much larger than what it was originally when it began its life as a document for one particular coven. There’s a misconception in many Pagan circles that a specific tradition’s Book of Shadows tends to be static, but nothing could be further from the truth. High priestesses are always adding to their tradition’s BoS, sharing the lessons they’ve learned walking between the worlds while running an earthbound coven. While tradition BoS’s often contain a wide range of material that’s different from coven to coven, most groups generally preserve a group of teachings that they recognize as being core to the tradition. Core material can differ from tradition to tradition but is often made up of rituals and the tradition’s earliest writings. All of the Books of Shadows dedicated to our tradition contain at least this universally recognized core material. Traditional material is often oathbound, meaning that initiates are not allowed to share the goings-on and writings of their tradition with non-initiates (sometimes known as cowans, which is a word originally used by Freemasons to refer to the uninitiated). Sharing oathbound secrets can result in being kicked out of a traditional coven, and in some groups

15 •••

Some Different Types of Books of Shadows

there are magical penalties as well. Being given a tradition’s BoS is a very sacred and serious thing and is a sign of trust and respect. The Book of Shadows shared in a tradition is often shared in stages, especially when that tradition engages in rituals of initiation and elevation. The most common initiatory system involves three degrees. At first degree, the initiate is made a Witch of that particular tradition and generally is given a BoS full of practical material and magical advice. The BoS I was given at first degree contained none of my tradition’s group rituals but did include some material advising me on how to practice as a solitary Witch. At second degree, I was given more material to put in my BoS, most notably many of our tradition’s rituals. My high priestess and high priest believed I was ready, as a second-degree Witch, to actively assist in our coven’s rituals and even lead them on occasion (with some supervision). At second degree, I wasn’t ready for all the material they had to give me, because much of it applies only to Witches running their own coven. Upon receiving our tradition’s third-degree elevation, I was given the rest of our Book of Shadows. Much of that material was about how to initiate new Witches and properly run a coven. The BoS dedicated to my tradition is now in three parts,

16 •••

Chapter 1

and only certain Witches who have been properly elevated can look at the second and third parts of my book. The BoS dedicated to my tradition is currently over three hundred pages long, and that’s just the first-degree part of the book! Since it’s so long, we don’t require our initiates to hand-copy our BoS; instead, we hand them what we jokingly call our forklift BoS in a three-ring binder. We are also always sure to include a few blank pages at the end in case we need to add a few more things to our BoS.

The Individual Witch’s Personal Book of Shadows The most common type of BoS today is probably that of the individual Witch. A book of this type can (and probably will) contain a little bit of everything. Most Witches begin collecting information and writing down ideas long before even meeting another Witch, let alone becoming part of a tradition. My first BoS’s were of this type and contained a little bit of everything I found useful in my personal practice. Describing an individual BoS is nearly impossible because they are all so variable, but they all tend to be less ritual-centric than the BoS’s found in covens and traditions (at least in my experience). When I put together my first few BoS’s, I tended to simply add any bit of information I found valuable

17 •••

Some Different Types of Books of Shadows

or useful. Successful spells and bits of ritual went into my BoS, and I also included personal reflections post-ritual. If it felt magical, I felt comfortable putting it in my book. One of the most liberating things about having a personal BoS is that you don’t have to answer to anybody when you put something in it. It’s possible that you might want to share the contents of your book with someone, but there’s nothing requiring you to do so. When I’m adding stuff to my coven’s BoS, I know that the people I practice with are going to end up seeing it, so I make sure that the material is clearly articulated and easy for everyone else to pick up on. In my personal BoS I can do whatever I want and be as obtuse as I desire! No one else is looking, and this can be quite liberating. A personal BoS represents the individual Witch in a way no other tool can. Its contents are curated by you and only you! Writers like me can suggest what to put in a BoS, but they’re only suggestions. The ultimate decisions are yours to make. Even after writing a great coven BoS and picking up the BoS of my tradition, I’m still drawn to my personal Book of Shadows. There are bits that belong only in that particular book, things that only I think of as essential to the practice of a Witch. In my days as a Witchling, I used to enjoy reading the BoS’s I found included in easily available books, such as Scott

18 •••

Chapter 1

Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Those BoS’s make Witchcraft look so easy and organized, but they are nothing like the ones most individual Witches have. The ones from books are often too structured, too organized, and feel too much like an established tradition rather than an evolving practice. My personal BoS varies wildly from page to page. It moves from nineteenth-century English poetry to instructions on knot magick. We Witches are always growing and finding better ways to practice our Craft and increase our knowledge. As a result, most individual BoS’s become a hodgepodge of ideas, spells, and rituals. A little bit of disorganization isn’t an indication of a cluttered mind; it’s proof of a constantly growing mind. As a Witch, I’m a multifaceted practitioner. I love my covens and I love my tradition, but there will always be a part of me that wants to do my own thing and have a space for my own thoughts and ideas. That’s where my personal BoS really comes into play. It is an extension of everything else I do and yet is something completely different. I’m grateful that Witchcraft offers so many possibilities. Over the years I’ve put together many BoS’s for personal use, and they vary a great deal. Some of them are just for the rituals I do in public. Often these books include my rituals in the order they were performed. Some of these books are especially decorative and impressive-looking, so I use them

19 •••

Some Different Types of Books of Shadows

when performing a handfasting, a wedding, or a funeral rite. Those sorts of public rituals aren’t linked to any one tradition and were generally written by me (though they often were constructed with input from happy couples and sometimes mournful family members). I have a personal BoS that contains the things I find most important to me in my initiatory tradition. Since my Gardnerian BoS is hundreds of pages long, I have a smaller version in my own handwriting containing the elements that I think are most important to that tradition. I put it together explicitly for me, and I don’t care if anyone else can follow along with it (or read my handwriting). I think it contains the essence of a tradition I love, but what I think of as essential may not be an opinion shared by everyone in that tradition, so I keep it to myself. Even though I wrote my eclectic coven’s Book of Shadows, I still have a separate personal BoS specifically for that circle. It contains our rituals, along with some ideas and reflections about our rituals that I don’t want to share with anyone. It also looks more impressive than the version of our coven’s BoS that I give to our members. A personal BoS can and should be whatever you want or need it to be. Every Witch is different, and we all are going to cherish different things as individuals. Later in this book I’ll

20 •••

Chapter 1

suggest several things to put in your BoS, but in the end you should include only the material that you find valuable.

The Journal Book of Shadows I know several Witches who keep a daily journal documenting all of their spiritual and magical pursuits that they refer to as a Book of Shadows. The majority of Witches I know do not keep a daily BoS, but I think the practice has some value. Witchcraft is a serious magical path that requires a great deal of discipline, and writing every day is a way to develop that discipline. Attempting to find something magical or spiritual on a day-to-day basis can also serve as a reminder that the wondrous often exists just outside our front door. While most Witches don’t keep a daily magical journal, entries in a BoS about particularly meaningful and important milestones are rather important. Upon reaching the rank of third degree in my tradition, I wrote a long piece in my BoS about the experience. I wanted to capture what the ritual meant to me as a Witch and to document the symbolism of the ritual as I interpreted it at the time. Documenting the most important steps on my journey as a Witch has helped me see what I’ve accomplished over the years and just how much I still have to learn. Many Witches like to record their sabbat experiences from year to year, and in some covens such books are mandatory. 21 •••

Some Different Types of Books of Shadows

Having several years of sabbat rituals laid out beside one another is a great way to chronicle one’s progress in Witchcraft. Over the years I’ve been surprised at just how much my perceptions about certain sabbats have changed (and in some cases stayed the same). In addition to writings about sacred rites, words about sacred spaces fit nicely into a BoS as well. I’ve never performed ritual at the Grand Canyon or Stonehenge, but being at both places helped me to feel the Witch blood pumping through my veins. Dream journals are very popular in some Witch circles and are another version of a journal BoS. For many Witches their dreams are doorways into the subconscious and sometimes a window into the future. Scientists say we don’t remember most of our dreams, which makes writing down the ones we do remember even more important. Reviewing dreams is much like reviewing past rituals: they can tell us where we’ve been and where we might be headed. The journal BoS is the most personal of all BoS’s and, because of that, is the most difficult to write about. Just remember, if something is magical to you, it’s worth jotting down. BoS journal entries don’t have to go in their own book either; many of mine are positioned between rituals and spells. Most BoS’s end up being a hodgepodge of personal, coven, and group material, unless, of course, a Witch wants to create a BoS for a specific subject. 22 •••

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“One Specific Thing” Book of Shadows I have a Witch friend who is an avid herbalist and gardener. She’s at her best as a Witch when she’s outside in her backyard, surrounded by the plants of her garden. Because herbology is such an important part of her life, she has a Book of Shadows dedicated to that particular practice. For most of us, a few pages in our BoS about our favorite plants is usually more than enough, but what if you want to document hundreds? That’s when a subject-specific BoS can be especially useful. The most common type of “one subject only” Book of Shadows is dedicated to spellwork. Magick doesn’t just help us manifest change in our own lives; it’s also how we connect with our deities and the natural world. Witchcraft is a magical religion, and to ignore magick is to miss out on all that the Craft has to offer. Keeping a book dedicated solely to spells, with a few remarks here and there on their effectiveness, makes for an especially powerful and useful type of BoS. While magick-only books are probably the most popular type of BoS, there are all sorts of other things that might go into a single-subject BoS. I keep a book full of historical Witchcraft documents that I treat very much like a BoS. The writings in it are sacred and, in most cases, oathbound, so I can share them only with a small group of people. Before writing this book, it never would have occurred to me to think of that collection as a Book of Shadows, but it most definitely is.

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We all have our favorite things and our own particular areas of expertise. Keeping track of such things benefits not only ourselves but also other Witches down the road. My herbalist friend let me borrow her book once while I was constructing my own magical garden, and her advice and expertise helped make my garden that much better.

The Operative and Active Book of Shadows A Book of Shadows should be practical, first and foremost, and while it’s nice to have a 500-page forklift BoS, it’s not much fun to use in ritual. To get around this, I like to take the most useful bits of a very large BoS and turn them into what I think of as an operative Book of Shadows. An operative BoS is one that can be used easily in circle and contains all the information I need when presenting a ritual. My operative BoS during ritual is often the CliffsNotes version of my tradition’s or coven’s BoS. When performing Gardnerian ritual, for example, I take the most essential bits I need for what we are doing out of my forklift book and place them in a three-ring binder. The important part of the operative BoS in such instances are the pages I’m using to conduct the ritual, and when I’m done with whatever we’re doing that night, I take those pages out of the binder and put them back in their original home. Oftentimes the actual binder that I’m using is unimportant to me and not adorned in any particular way. 24 •••

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I also have a few books designed simply to be used as an operative BoS during ritual. They tend to contain the basic ritual structure for whatever coven I’m working with and omit all of the explanations and history found in my other books. Since I designed them all for me, they are also all personal BoS’s, but they are personal books with a very specific ritual purpose. It’s certainly possible to fit everything into one book, and it’s great when that happens, but a BoS should be practical above all else. If yours starts growing too unwieldy, there’s nothing wrong with dividing it up or creating a supplemental book just for the things you use most often. Recently a friend of mine sent me a copy of Doreen Valiente’s original Gardnerian Book of Shadows. Valiente was one of the most important Witches who ever lived, and I love having a copy of her book on my shelf, but it’s different from the books I’ve actively had a hand in creating. I will always be adding to my own books and those of my covens and traditions, but I would never add to Doreen’s. It was her book, and it’s a valuable BoS that will be cherished for generations to come, but its story is complete. Doreen’s book is what I think of as an inactive Book of Shadows: it’s a book that’s still being used but no longer being added to. The Book of Shadows that came with Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is another inactive book. Cunningham designed it to be a particular way,

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and since he’s no longer here with us, he can’t change what’s there or add to it. We can certainly take the words he wrote and put them in our own books and use them, but when we do so, they become something else. They become a part of our work and our traditions, and they sit next to our own BoS scribblings. And when an author makes the contents of their BoS public, that’s exactly what they hope will happen! The BoS’s I currently write in and use during ritual are examples of what I think of as an active Book of Shadows. They are a part of my current practice and are being added to on a regular basis. That’s not true of all the BoS’s I’ve put together. My very first BoS still sits near my magical tools, but I don’t plan to ever add to it again or use it during ritual. How we categorize our books is of little consequence as long as the end result is something that speaks to the individual Witch. A good BoS is one that is used and helps the Witch better understand the broomstick they ride. Ultimately, when it comes to our personal books, we are all our own final authority.

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Every Trick in the Book:

You Are Writing Your Own History

a lot of us keep Books of Shadows with the future in mind.

Those of us in established traditions often pass our books to our downlines. Parents may wish to pass their books to their children. Even if you don’t intend for anyone to inherit your books, you yourself are likely to return to them again and again to measure your progress, to see how you’ve changed, or just to visit with your past. Looking back over almost twenty years’ worth of my own Books of Shadows (and having been the beneficiary of more than one from other Witches within my tradition), I offer you this: In twenty years, you won’t care about the text you copied word for word from that bestselling Wicca book. You won’t care about the things you printed from the Internet, unaltered. Those things will serve as tiny indications of what you found interesting at the time, but they won’t say much about your internal questions, your hang-ups, your beliefs, or what you were actually doing in your practice. They won’t reveal anything about you. Those words already belong to somebody

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else, and they’ve been copied and printed by thousands of people. They’ve already been preserved. What the future needs is your voice, your words. Learn to journal, whatever that may look like for you. When you perform a spell, don’t just include instructions; write about your process and the results. Write about whatever book you just finished reading. Write about the people you meet. Write about what you’d like to try or what you’d like to research next. Glue in photographs of your altars, your covenmates, your ritual space, and yourself. Use paint and ink and stamps and anything else you can think of, even if you’re not much of an artist. (You might surprise yourself by becoming one!) Write notes in the margins. Collect quotes that matter to you, but then include your own commentary. Ask questions. Confess doubts. Complain. Brag. Congratulate yourself. Swear. Copy and hoard to your heart’s content (I still do!), but don’t neglect to include yourself in your Book of Shadows. That’s what’s going to matter to you in twenty years. Even if those entries are embarrassing to read later on, they’re the ones that will reveal your growth and provide the most insight into who you are and what’s important to you. And that is how you track your own progress and grow in your Craft. That is what your children will want to inherit. That is

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what your coven will benefit from the most. That is the history of your Craft, whatever Craft you practice. No one ever has to read any of it, of course. But unless you destroy it, there’s always the chance that your book will end up being passed to another Witch. You are writing history— your tradition’s history, your family’s history, your personal history. Don’t leave yourself out.

Thorn Mooney

Thorn Mooney is a Gardnerian high priestess, tarot card reader, teacher, and blogger who currently lives in North Carolina.

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Body, Mind & Spirit / Witchcraft “This is the complete guide to the Book of Shadows … Mankey has given Wiccans a great gift.”—John Beckett, blogger at “Under the Ancient Oaks” and author of The Path of Paganism

Powers of fire, spirits of the south, bless and consecrate this Book of Shadows open before you. May it be a source of light and wisdom as I walk the path of the Witch. So mote it be! Discover the fascinating history, tradition, and modern uses of the Book of Shadows. This fun and easy-to-use guide provides essential information on creating and consecrating a Book of Shadows, as well as how to make it a part of your practice. Learn about the various types of Books of Shadows, their roles throughout history, and how they differ from regular spellbooks. Enjoy advice and excerpts from the grimoires of well-known modern and historical Witches. Explore a wide variety of ideas for what to include in your own Book of Shadows. Like a magical chart showing where you’ve been and where you’re going, this wonderful tool is your personal guide to Witchcraft.

Jason Mank ey is a Pagan blogger, a columnist for

Witches and Pagans, and the managing editor of the Pagan Portal on Patheos. He talks about rock and roll, Pagan deities, and various aspects of Pagan history at Pagan and magic festivals across North America. Jason lives in California and can be found online at blogs/panmankey. $15.99 US / $18.50 CAN • Twitter:@LlewellynBooks • Instagram:@LlewellynBooks

The Witch's Book of Shadows, by Jason Mankey  

Discover the fascinating history, tradition, and modern uses of the witch's Book of Shadows. From creating, buying, and finding a Book of Sh...

The Witch's Book of Shadows, by Jason Mankey  

Discover the fascinating history, tradition, and modern uses of the witch's Book of Shadows. From creating, buying, and finding a Book of Sh...