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!
Update! This post has been fully revised and updated May 2017 and the new version appears on my new website: Crystal Court Coven. Please join me there!
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. 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 contain 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 (shown up top) for a Book of Shadows, because it’s about the here and now, containing specific months and dates. It’s not “evergreen” material, which is what goes in a Grimoire. Eventually, I would like it maintain both a Book of Shadows and a Grimoire.
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 the writing debate 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.”
What will likely happen is a combination of more than one of the above, especially if you maintain both a BoS and a Grimoire. I went back and forth a lot, and ended up doing a purely handwritten Book of Shadows. It didn’t start out that way, but ended that way because I feel like putting your physical handwriting into it makes it more magickal. I had to do a lot of work to get over leaving scribbles on the page when I misspelled something, and I confess that I do rewrite pages from time to time.
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 may want to protect it magickally. This is especially true if you want to talk it out of the house or live with people who don’t know you’re a witch or don’t support your path. 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
– Composition Book
– Journal (hardbound)
– 3 Ring Binder (any size)
– 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, couldn’t lay it flat, and hated that I couldn’t remove pages. I couldn’t let go of the idea 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 something.
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. 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.
Update April 2017: I abandoned the beautiful Kikki-K planner because it was just too fussy. It was so expensive that I was constantly anxious about “messing it up” and ended up never using it. I ended up buying a Bando notebook from Barnes and Noble because it lays flat and I’m not scared to use it. I know that sounds silly, but it’s so hard to write in things that don’t lay flat, apparently that was my #1 requirement. I’m absolutely happy with it and have used it a lot. This just goes to show what a personal process your Book of Shadows is and that it might take some time, and money, to figure out what works for you. It’s worth it though, in the end.
Before you do a BoS/Grimoire dedication and put a hex on it to jinx the lives of any who gaze upon it … give yourself a trial period with the book/medium. I strongly suggest doing both typed and handwritten, in a few places, before going all in on one and magickally protecting it, etc. For a little while your stuff will be all over the place, and that will be stressful to OCD witches like me. Remember, you can always transfer anything you like into your final book when you do figure out what’s right for you. Testing out a bunch of different types of books is not something you’ll regret and it is well worth your time.
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!