How to Keep a Book of Shadows for the Modern Era

Keeping A Magical Journal

When I first read about modern witchcraft, I kept coming across the idea of the Book of Shadows. At the time, it sounded like some kind of grimoire filled with recipes, correspondences, and obscure knowledge picked up on mystical travels. Then, in reading more New Age stuff, the same idea seemed to be more a container for mantras, poems, and songs passed down from teachers of all sorts. I started one. I filled maybe five percent of it with recipes and whatnot that I have never re-referenced. The Book of Shadows was impractical in my world, where I needn’t hide my mystical explorations, so I set it aside.

The Magical Journal was Born

Still, I needed something. That something turned out to be a Magical Journal. It began as a regular old diary, somewhere to keep a few notes and maybe work out on paper some of the stuff that most perplexed me. It became an invaluable tool for building my capacity and magical skills. If you’re starting out on your own magical explorations or have been at it awhile but feel like you’ve plateaued or something’s lacking, I recommend keeping a Magical Journal as a tool to help you on your way. Even if your magical explorations don’t seem as magical as one might find in the New Age aisle at your local bookstore, as is the case with practices like animal communication, it’s a good idea to create your own Magical Journal to help you record, remember, and most importantly make sense of the new skills you’re exploring.

What Form to Use?

The idea of a Magical Journal really began as a combination of a Dream Journal, a regular old diary, and a place for any other odd notes you want to collect all bound into one edition. I started off with spiral bound notebooks, the cheap kind you can buy in stacks when it’s time for the Back-to-school sales. Later, I adopted the almost equally cheap composition notebooks instead. They store better and are easier to carry along to where ever you may be going. Early in my training, I went through several per year easily. Now, it’s probably closer to one per year. I’m a writer, so it’s no wonder I filled so many pages, especially early on. As you choose the form you want to use, keep in mind how much you like to write in general as well as your budget and plans for storing your journals. If you want to keep them for posterity, you might want to invest in acid free blank books rather than the the kind I’ve chosen. If you like to draw, you’ll likely want unlined or maybe graphic-paper style journals. Anything goes, so long as it’s useful to you.

Date, Index, Organize

I date my journals so I can glance at the front cover to see what time period it spans. That helps when I want to look back on the earlier parts of projects that span longer periods or find a reference to something I know I did or encountered at some past point. It also helps me keep them in some kind of order in my drawer.

I also index projects, although not every project gets indexed and not all my journals contain index references. I jot a brief title and description of the project in the outer margin on the first page the project occurs, such as “Wee Folk Dream: Dream of meeting with a teacher about a joint project for bridging the worlds.” On every page that contains information about that project later, I jot the note “Wee Folk Dream” in the margin. Indexing makes it easier to find and remember details on various projects, especially when there seem to be all sorts of workings going on at once. Years later, I’ve found I kind of wish I’d taken the time to index a little more thoroughly than I did, but at least the projects I did index are easy to find.

Keep it Where You’ll Use It

I keep my journal by my bedside. I take it when I see the Shaman or meet with Medicine People of any sort. I bring it with me if I’m not sure what may come up, like when I go for a Massage Therapy session or attend a class on a related field like herbalism. I make notes during the class or session if that’s appropriate. When it’s not, I take the time to jot down what I need to remember in the car before I head home then follow up as soon as I can with the full details and story. Sometimes, it takes the whole day before the family’s settled down enough for me to write it all out. Those brief notes I jotted down in the car usually jog my memory enough for me to get down all the details that are really important for me to remember. If I forget something, no worries. I reckon it’ll either show up again or it wasn’t that important at that point anyway.

What to Record?

Much of what I put into my journal has been details from dreams and journeys, notes on workings I’ve tried or want to try, and musings on stuff that’s on my mind. Magical work, like spiritual work, brings up a lot of questions. I like to work through those questions on paper, at least in part. I have often taken them to my teachers, dreamed or journeyed or meditated on them and still felt stuck. The act of writing them out often unlocks whatever was blocking my progress, and then whatever I learned from my teachers or dreams or journeys or meditation sinks in more deeply and completely. Plus, writing down the difficult bits helps put them into perspective, which makes them a lot less difficult.

Sharing…or Not.

I do not share my Magical Journals with anyone. I suppose some day I’ll die and they’ll be there waiting for my progeny to read, destroy, or store in an attic or basement somewhere. For now, they’re personal and private, filled with Magical energy that wouldn’t be as powerful if it were to be shared.

I do sometimes reference information in my Magical Journals that I share with others. If, for instance, I have a dream I know is meant to be communicated to someone else, I’ll jot the details into my journal and use them to tell that someone the story of the dream. Or, I might use details from my Magical Journal to consult with an advisor, Shaman, or Medicine Person. I don’t, however, hand over my journal to someone else, and I recommend the same policy for anyone keeping a similar journal.

Keeping your Magical Journal, in short:

  • Choose the form to suit your personal style, needs, and desires.
  • Keep your journal where you’ll use it: It’s a tool, not a decoration.
  • Record, make notes, and write out whatever seems useful to you.
  • Index, date, and organize as much or as little as suits you.
  • Keep it private; This is your Magic. Share information but not your journal.

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