B is for Book of Shadows

So I just heard about the Pagan Blog Project, and thought I’d sign up for it. I had been wanting to do something like this for a while, but had no ideas. This’ll at least give me somewhere to start. I might go back and do the past two A weeks, but I might not. But at least I’ll be posting here every week, so that’s something.

So, this week, we’re on the letter B, and I’ve decided to talk about my Book of Shadows, which is one of those things every Pagan is supposed to have in one form or another. Some call theirs grimoirs instead of Books of Shadows, and I’m sure there are other names people use too. At its most basic, whatever it’s called, it’s a book that contains information about your pagan path, from beliefs and practices to magic spells, rituals, and herb lore. Each is as unique as the witch or pagan who creates it. I’m not sure it’s compulsory in any way though, and I’m sure some get on just fine without one, but I digress. It’s a pagan thing, a Book of Shadows, and I find them quite interesting to talk about.

I’ve had a few over the past decade or so that I’ve been Pagan. Tried to make one via a lever arch file and a dodgy attempt at making it look ~ancient. That was my first attempt. After that, I tried another lever arch file. Then there were three files. Have you noticed a pattern yet? 😛 I’ve often preferred the file version to a written book, because I collect so much information that it makes more sense to keep it that way. As an eclectic, there is a lot I like to keep handy so I can refer back to it. It’s easier to switch information around and reorganise it when it’s in a file, so it’s more convenient for someone who does need to change things around all the time. I don’t have a single path. Mine meanders and wanders from here to there and back again. Having only one BoS that doesn’t change would be pointless.

Because of my meanderings, every now and then, I have to re-evaluate what’s in my BoSs and decide if I still actually need some of the information I collect. As my path is eclectic, I don’t like having things in my BoS that isn’t relevant to me. Some I merely retire, with the view that I will go back to it at a later date, but for others, it’s better to get rid of it as it’s no longer something I want to include in my path, or it’s something I left behind and should purge myself of. I’m not walking that path anymore, and none of that information is useful to me anymore, so I get rid of it. I find this system works quite well with my path, so that I always have what I need.

But at the same time, I like keeping something of the old ones around, so I can see where I was at that particular moment in time along my path. It’s not quite a spiritual journal, in which I have meticulously kept track of everything, but I remember them, and what form they took, and what information I kept in them. My path is always changing, so it’s nice to have a reminder about where I was and where I’ve been. I think it’s important to remember those things. I don’t think you can grow spiritually without being aware of where you’ve been. Every experience teaches you something new.

I have two BoS’s at the moment. Three, actually. I have one I keep on my USB stick, which I’ve called my Book of Secret Lore. It’s a digital version and it was something I wanted to start a year or two ago as a way of collating online information without necessarily having to print it out. I was in the middle of revising my previous and completely chaotic BoS and this was a good temporary way of starting again.

I also have a notebook, just an ordinary 128 page notebook, which I’ve been using as a BoS-cum-workbook. It’s a more practical thing I can write in that doesn’t feel as daunting as writing in one of those beautiful BoS’s with leather covers and thick handmade paper, for example. I write up prayers and divination readings in there, and will continue to use it as such.

I have also recently bought a foolscap leather-bound notebook, which I intend to use as a more theoretical BoS. The way I see it, the ordinary notebook is for drafts, and final copies of things will be written in that leather-bound notebook as a permanent copy. This gives me the space to draft things before I write them down in my good book and figure out what I want to say.

I’ve sketched out a vague outline of what I want it to include. The book has five sections, and each has it’s own vague subject. Like, the first section is for personal theology and information/experiences with the Gods, while the second is more for queer paganism, such as a queer wheel of the year, queer festivals, etc. Third section is for festivals, rites, prayers and devotions. The fourth section is for magic. The last section I’ve reserved for correspondence tables, such as lists of planets, herbs, colours, stones, plants, etc. Any other list-type things I want to keep handy in an Appendix for reference.

That pretty much covers everything important to my path right now, and is general enough to encompass any changes, such as being handed over to the Greek Gods by Sobek, as that’s where I need to be right now.

I’ve been Pagan for over a decade now. I feel it’s time I made a more permanent record of my beliefs, experiences, and practices, so that if I have someone to pass it on to, there will be something for them to have. Something that lays it all out. Otherwise, it’s all in my head, and in a smattering of blog posts. So I see my challenge this year as working on defining my path enough to have a permanent record, and I daresay this Pagan Blog Project will help with that as I write every week about something to do with paganism and my path.

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4 comments on “B is for Book of Shadows

  1. Michele Griffin says:

    Great post! I never thought of using a file system… that would make life so much easier!

  2. Alex Vanguard says:

    @Michele, Oh, yeah, it’s so much easier to just be able to move things around and rearrange things. Particularly when you have a LOT of information that you’ve collected over the years. I use plastic sheet protectors for more delicate things or anything that can’t be hole-punched. I use file dividers to break things up into sections. Stationery for this is just so cheap over here that it’s a very inexpensive way to do a BoS. You can always decorate the file itself if you want to make it look special, too, and that can be a good way of getting to know your new BoS and consecrating it for that task. 🙂

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