Before I get into the article I have to announce that I am so excited that my Book of Shadows A5 planner dashboards have arrived! They’re available in the shop at a half price discount since they arrived so late in the month. I’m so OCD that I had them printed, so they’re nice quality. This is one of the things I have that I made for me and my witch/pagan friends, so it feels a lot like my old zine days (though I’m planning on publishing a zine again soon). I’d love to do them every month, but I need to sell a few to pay for printing and licensing fees (since I paid to use the images, oh yeah, good karma). Finger’s crossed that some like-minded witches and pagans find them!
This all started when I tried to find planner supplies for my grimoire. There’s nothing out there that’s specifically designed for witches, so there’s either 1) no market or 2) a market no one is catering to. I don’t know about you all, but for me, compiling a good Book of Shadows is a big deal to the practice of my Craft. I finally bought an A5 (half letter size) six ring binder that I’m excited to start using. The New Year (Lunar or Solar) is such a wonderful opportunity for things like this, I think. I love a project!
For me, figuring out a Book of Shadows format was a near-identity crisis! Counting some missteps it took the whole year for me to figure out what I really wanted. Here’s some advice from my try/fail/do it the hard way experience of 2016.
Grimoire or Book of Shadows?
I tend to use the two terms almost interchangeably, but they do have different meanings. In short, a Grimoire is impersonal and a Book of Shadows is personal. So a Grimoire wouldn’t feature your personal dreams, tarot readings, crystal grids, etc., but a Book of Shadows would. Grimoires would be comparable to Commonplace Books: collections of interesting facts, puzzles, and quotations that people used to maintain. It wasn’t a personal diary, but it was personal in an impersonal way. A Grimoire would be similar; it’s not a magickal diary, but it does have magickal information. In short: You can put Grimoire information in a Book of Shadows, but you cannot put Book of Shadows (personal) information in a Grimoire and still have it considered a Grimoire. Some people suggest keeping two books (Flying the Hedge has a good article), and my partner suggested this very thing last night. I designed my dashboards for a Book of Shadows, because it’s about the here and now (specific months and dates) and it’s not “evergreen” material, which is what goes in a Grimoire. Eventually, I plan on maintaining both, and by “eventually” I mean soon or immediately.
Format: Handwritten or Typed
Handwritten versus typed is the great debate, and there was even an article about it in Llewellyn’s 2016 Witches Companion book. Alongside it is the physical book or digital collection debate. There is the argument that transferring things to paper by hand does ingrain them in your memory more, and it does. The counter argument being that typing is faster and more convenient, plus you can search your work easily. Some people are OCD and hate their handwriting, or write so slow or sloppy that it hinders more than it helps. When you lay it out, the options are:
- Purely handwritten, physical hard copy only. Pros: No one can hack it, and it can’t be accidentally deleted or lost in a computer crash. Con: You could literally lose it, some people hate their handwriting, you have to pick a format (discussed later), and it’s less flexible than digital.
- Handwritten and typed, physical hard copy and digital copy (both). Pros: You can scan handwritten pages and combine them with typed pages on a computer so the whole thing can be backed up. If it’s both printed and stored digitally it’s very unlikely that it will be lost. Cons: When you reorganize it once you have to reorganize it in two places, and it’s a lot of work if you maintain it in two places. Doesn’t have a consistent look.
- Handwritten and typed, physical hard copy (both) and digital copy (typed pages). Pros: Typed things have a backup on the computer that are easily reorganized. Still has the primary feeling of being handwritten and compiled. Cons: Doesn’t have a consistent look. Typed and printed pages can feel less “special.”
- Purely typed, physical hard copy (ie: printed out from your computer, might have a digital backup). Pros: Looks consistent and organized. Easy to reprint pages if changes need to be made. Easy to reorganize depending on storage format. Able to back up work while maintaining physical copy easily. Cons: Doesn’t feel as “special” as hand writing entries. Typing doesn’t move information into the memory as effectively as writing it.
- Purely digital, digital copy (ie: blog/website, Google Drive, Pinterest). Pros: Easy to search, reorganize, convenient. Most people type faster than they write by hand. Cons: Not necessarily secure, feels less “special.”
After considering it for a long time, I’ve decided to do #3: a hard copy combination of handwritten and typed/printed (saving the typed to my computer as a backup). That way I can include longer things that I cannot want to write out by hand (long rituals, long quotes from books, etc.). I also keep my personal journal (where I complain about muggle concerns) on my computer, so it seems logical to keep part of my magickal information on the computer, too. I am not putting my personal journal in my Book of Shadows because I’m enshrining my griping magickally! My goal is to have both the Book of Shadows and Grimoire mostly handwritten, however, because I feel like putting your physical handwriting into it makes it more magickal.
If you really hate your handwriting, but still want to do the hard copy version, they’ve started selling typewriters again (I saw one at Michael’s recently). I think it’s a really cool compromise because it still takes effort to type with a typewriter since it’s less forgiving of mistakes, which makes it a good half-step between physical and digital.
Importantly, you will probably not share your Book of Shadows with others, because it is so personal, and you need to protect it magickally. A Grimoire, on the other hand, can be shared with others because it’s purely research.
Spirals, Planners, and Comp Books, Oh My!
Once you decide on a format, the next step is deciding where to house it. If you go purely digital you can use a private blog (WordPress, Tumblr, etc.) or make your “Book of Shadows” posts private and your “Grimoire” posts public. I feel like the digital versions are the easiest; maybe that’s also why I feel like they’re the least rewarding. If you go hard copy in any combination it’s more work, but I feel like that makes it more rewarding.
Choosing a place to host my Book of Shadows was the hardest step for me, and I agonized over this decision for weeks at a time. Basic options include:
– Spiral notebook or Composition Book
– Journal (bound)
– 3 Ring Binder
– Planner (usually 6 rings)
– Moleskine Notebook
– Discbound Planner
I quickly ruled out Moleskine, spirals, and comp books because I wanted to be able to move things around. However, against my better judgement, I was sucked in by a beautiful journal at Barnes and Noble; it was dark blue and had astrology maps on the cover in gold. I was so dedicated about using it at first, but got frustrated because I had no idea what to write, felt like I was rambling, and hated that I couldn’t remove pages. That’s when I realized that moving pages was a must, must, must.
Next, I tried a Discbound planner, but it just didn’t work for me; I was always worrying that the pages were going to get damaged and I bought one that way too large. It was also way too happy, which seems strange, but the cover was all, “Follow Your Heart,” and I found it to be too saccharine for a Book of Shadows. I mean, I’m doing magick here, not pretending to be excited about a children’s sporting event. Burn! I digress …
Then I tried an A5 3 ring binder, but it just didn’t feel special enough. Finally, I settled on a 6 ring planner from Kikki-K (which is still in transit, so I can’t tell you how it worked out). I confess that this was close to the most expensive option, but my Book of Shadows is important enough that I don’t mind spending a little extra. That being said, when I was a baby witch in High School (memories!) my coven leader kept everything in spiral notebooks; it was what we had access to and it blended in with our school stuff. Pick the format that works for you where you are now.
I hope that you found this helpful in your own quest for a functional, beautiful Book of Shadows and/or Grimoire. I’d love to hear you thoughts in the comments and blessed be!