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How to Make a Book of Shadows

Updated on February 24, 2016
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Nightcat is a practicing witch who loves to write about Wicca and many of the Gods and Goddesses she’s had the pleasure to encounter.

Welcome and Blessed Be!

Moonlight filters through the forest canopy. Mist gathers on the ground, crawling up your robes, snaking against your upraised arms. The book of shadows before you seems to glow as you recite the words of power.

OK, so that's never going to happen in real life. Your BOS (Book of Shadows) is just as likely to be read on the kitchen table, or propped on your lap in a super cramped apartment, but a witch can dream, can't she?

Here we'll go over how to make a book of shadows, take a look at some awesome online videos, and of course, go shopping. As always if you have any question please leave them in the comments section below.

First though, let's get some Q and A out of the way. Trust me, it will be worth it. Because you have to know why all the misinformation is out there and why so many real witches won't speak to you. All writing and photography is my original work. If you want to copy or quote for Internet use, credit where credit is due and a link back are appreciated.

I'm dedicating this Hub to all the witches who have died for their beliefs, in the Burning Times and modern days. May you rest in peace.

All videos are used for descriptive and entertainment purposes only and no copyright infringement is intended. If you wish to have you video removed, please let me know.

Quick Tips

Those plastic sleeves they sell in most stores protect pages from wax, stray offerings and other spills.

Some folks feel a BOS hand built from the ground up is more magical.

If you aren't using your BOS, ask yourself why. Too bulky? Not your style, old and out-dated? Figure out your problem and revamp.

Retiring your BOS? Some folks burn or bury old magical items.

One awesome BOS

Myths About Books of Shadows - These raise my blood pressure

Witches use them to call up the devil. As if. We don't even believe in the Christian devil. We take personal responsibility for all the bad stuff we do. Most of us feel mankind is bad enough without any outside help, thank you kindly.

It is evil. No way! Wicca is a positive nature-based religion. We strive to do good. A Book of Shadows is a really fancy prayerbook we make all by ourselves.

Destroying a BOS hurts the witch. Nope. She may never forgive you, but you won't hurt her. Stop watching all the hokey horror movies, please.

A Book of Shadows will make me all-powerful! Excuse me while I laugh. Where do people even think these ideas up? Oh yeah, Hollywood.

It is OK to just "borrow" or "just look" at one. No way. You would flip out if someone just picked up your holy book, and flipped through it, or stole it seeking power right? Same rules apply here.

It is OK to laugh at a BOS. Wicca isn't a real religion anyhow. Who taught you manners? Apparently nobody. You should never laugh at the books of any religion, period.

Those six hundred year old spellbooks are for reals. There are plenty of folks selling e-books claiming to have spells from the 1400s to 1600s. No sorry, the fact is the majority of people back then couldn't read, and paper and ink were at a premium.


How Old is the Oldest Book of Shadows?

Good question. If we look at Shakespeare (the man was rather fond of witches) we can see what he has to say. Think of the infamous sceen from Macbeth. Double, double... But like most common folk his witches couldn't read. (Some pagan historians will argue that point.)

While Wicca's root word does mean wise ones, these educated pagans couldn't always read, much less write things down. I'm talking about pagans several thousand years before Shakespeare's time, when paganism was still the norm.

The oldest magic, which pagans in the old days would have still called religion, was all passed down orally. A priest or priestess, member of a congregation had to memorize all those prayers and songs.

Yes there were ancient proto written languages like runes, but we have no way of knowing if everyone, just a few, or even just one or two used and understood them.

Going back further than Shakespeare to the 1400s (think of Johannes Gutenburg's new fangled printing press) we see again witches were said to say spells, but nobody seemed too keen on grimoires (spellbooks) until after the Salem hysteria.

What evidence we have of a so-called devil's book comes from hearsay in witch trails, gained by the repeated rape and torture of witches. This wasn't even a spellbook, but a book witches supposedly signed to gain powers.

So even in the 1600's a witches spells apparently just came out of the ether from some higher power. If I had to guess, considering how carefully some witches still have to hide, I'd be greatly surprised to see a personal spellbook going back further than a hundred years or so.

The oldest written spells however, date back several thousands years. Have a Look


Why do some witches get so angry when I ask about a Book of Shadows?

You are getting to suffer for what we put up with. Which, trust me, will change the sweetest fluff bunny Wiccan into an avenging God or Goddess. Think of being us. Endless movies link us with the Christian Satan, a being we don't even believe in. There are herds of giggling tween and teen girls who "get into" magic for the fun of it.

Power-seeking nutcases make us all look bad, and to top it off, we are the only religion that it is OK to make fun of, or deride in movies, film, TV and books. Witch after all is an insult word. So imagine dealing with all of that, then someone online tugs your cyber sleeve and wants to know about magic.

No witch alive has any way to tell if you are a serious person answering the call of the Goddess, or just a bored person looking for fun and excitement. So perfectly nice people like you have to pay for stuff other people did. It sucks, but sadly, that's how the Internet currently works.

I've seen plenty of sincere seekers ignored because witches can become wary. One too many bad experiences online have hurt them deeply, causing those wonderful Wiccan hearts to become closed off from the world.

They don't mean to ignore you or be so distrustful. But unfortunately it happens. It can be so easy to become hostile and combative to protect ourselves in the often cold and hostile world of the Internet. It happens to the best most caring of witches, so don't take it personally.

We all too often forget that a human heart is behind the lines we read on our computer screen, or our distrust warps perfectly friendly words into a cyber attack.

All that said? Some witches are just royal grouches. Or they might just want some privacy, OK? Just remember to be loving and respectful and persistence should pay off.


Some Dont's

Don't ever lend your BOS out to non-magical or magical people. This is your special book. Not a toy or a game. If you can't even respect your BOS as a sacred tool, you're off to a poor start. I'm not trying to be mean or harsh. A lot of folks feel your BOS has an indwelling spirit. Said spirit gets plenty hurt if you just parade your BOS around or don't feel protective of it. You can always make copies if people seriously want something.

Ditto showing your book of shadows around to impress your friends. This is a sacred book. If your only reason to do this is to impress someone, I strongly encourage you to get into the latest fad instead. Again, so not trying to sound mean, but Wicca is a religion, even if it is the most fun religion on earth, we do have respect our tools. Trust me, sometimes your BOS is the only one to have your back. Return the favor, OK?

Don't diss your BOS. If you just dump it wherever, drop soda on it, treat it poorly, you will never make the special bond a witch should with her magical tools. Yes this goes back to the belief that in its own way, a book of shadows is alive and aware. Treat your new pal the way you want treated, OK? I glam my girl up, sing to her, whatever. We are total BFFs.

Don't just expect that a few hundred printed spells will make you all magical or solve all your problems. The BOS just sitting there will do nothing. It can't do the work for you. Yes, magic is hard work, thanks for noticing. That's a rule even the most seasoned witch forgets. I'll look around at all my fab books, herbs, and BOS and wonder why the Goddess isn't rewarding me for all the magical swag. Does she not see my most epic awesomeness? Oh, yeah, I have to get off my lazy butt and work.

Don't expect movie magic. There are no spells to make you younger, change you into something, or make you mega rich. A BOS has no magical powers to keep you alive or stave of illness or death. Again, even witches who should know better plunk down our money for spellbooks that promise just that. So don't feel bad. Everyone wants to make a lasting contribution to the magical community and being the first one to make these kind of spells work would be so awesome. Hope springs eternal, after all.

Don't post pictures of your personal book. Because there are strange people out there who might try to hurt you with it. I don't want to mention names, but there are creepy sick people out there. They teach a brand of magic that is all about hurting people. Again, I do not feel they are real witches, but sadly, they and a lot of other people do. Anyhow, they will use anything they can get to try to hurt you.

I honestly don't think this sick kind of stuff works, but why take chances? You are my tiny little witchlet now, and it is my job to protect you. I know some guys and gals out there feel we should post photos and stuff, and that is cool too. Just be prepared for troll land, OK?


Do all witches have a Book of Shadows?

No, and for good reason. Some see spells for what they really are, prayers. They don't feel a prayer needs to be boosted through ritual or the use of candles or herbs. Or they live in an area when such a book might endanger them.

The majority of witches today have to hide. Sadly, not even our best friends, families, or people we work with know what we are. So as part of that hiding, some witches simply can't have a magical book.

Whether you have one or not relies entirely on how safe you feel. Ditto for telling people you practice a Pagan religion. Sure some folks will accept you. But there's always danger in being different, and sometimes danger is deadly. Even when it isn't deadly, it can lead to a lot of fear and stress on your part.

For example, when Silver RavenWolf went public, some people were OK with a her being a witch, some weren't. Enter a child who was a total bully. Well, he was being a bully so she pulled a perfect imitation of the Wicked Witch of the West out, just for fun, on Halloween.

A week or so after, he trips on the playground and his mother blamed RavenWolf. Said she had used magic to hurt the child, which of course she didn't. But her attempt to laugh off being a witch and to put a bully in his place blew up in her face. Can you imagine how scared she must have felt?

It is a sad fact that young witches are still killed in the US and worldwide, either through bullying, or rarer attacks by groups. So think long and hard if you ever desire to be accepted for who you really are. Trust me, as a walker between worlds, pretending to be non-magical is no sweat.

I'm not saying it is fair, but it beats being dead.


Ideas for what to put in a wiccan/non wiccan book of shadows

Have you ever shared a spell or ritual for an online BOS?

See results

Step One: Think of why you want a Book of Shadows

So, what would be a good reason to want one? A sincere belief in the Goddess and God, a calling from Divinity to a magical path, a God or Goddesses whom you have dreams about. Wanting to help people while practicing the Old Religion, or just a sincere belief you've always been magical anyhow.

A BOS is fun, and a wonderful ally to have, but make sure you figure out your why in the first place. It just makes the rest of the steps easier and a lot more fun. Also be aware that spells can at times misfire, doing the exact opposite of your intent. So you might want to be thinking of what kind of magic you wish to fill it with. Do you want a lot of spells to attract wealth, health or happiness? Are you a born healer?

These misfires doesn't happen all the time nor do they mean Goddess is mad at you. But it might help you choose the area of areas of magic you wish to study. As time goes on you'll find the spells that work best for you and can specialize.


Your Book Of Shadow Will Choose You

The prefect book will choose you and you'll get the best results by being chosen.
The prefect book will choose you and you'll get the best results by being chosen.

Step Two: Let your book choose you.

Yup, you heard me. Many witches, myself included believe our magical tools pick us. In their own way they have an indwelling spirit. If that spirit clicks with you, you can make wonderful magic. If not, you just wasted two hundred bucks on leather-bound perfection.

You might get picked by a spiral notebook, trapper keeper (me), computer for a cyber BOS, or anything else. Sure, there's nothing wrong if a fancy bound book at the bookstore picks you. Just keep in mind you may be giving your heard-earned cash to folks who don't even believe in magic. They just make what sells.

I don't care either way, but we witches often find ourselves becoming advocates for pagan rights without meaning to. Example: I was in this awesome, and I mean awesome with a capital A shop one time. All ready to whip out my credit card and do huge damage. Well, the owner and friend were sitting out front. I have excellent hearing, so even across the shop I head them.

Laughing about two open witches who had been in the store. The sneered at how stupid witches were, how dumb they were to believe in magic, and how much fun it was to sell the dummies crystals. Then they went on to say how ugly they were and all witches were ugly.

Broken-hearted, but angry for my unknown sister (and me) I marched right up to the owner. I told her her words were cruel and they hurt. I also told her she was a total phony. There she was, running a New Agey store, pretending to love and care about people. But she was a mean, cruel and spiteful person.

I had tears in my eyes by the time I was done, and could have saved my breath. But I spoke from my heart and let her know the only ugly thing I saw was her, because her ugly nature was showing.


Step Three: Figure out what to put in there

I keep a collection of everything. Handy sheets both printed in my own hand, or printed off the 'Net on all the Gods, Goddesses, spirits and whatnot I know and love. Sometimes it can be hard to remember who does what, and who can help the best.

I also have some wicked cool collections of stories on the Days of the Dead, personal rituals, Wiccan and pagan humor, recipes for Bastet and more. You can put stuff like that, only rituals, only spells whatever. Also think of medical notes with the herbal cures and more.

You can have a separate BOS for each season, festival, God/dess, or whatever. Some folks make one to share with folks and a private one. They can take these to group rituals if asked, or share with folks online.

Always protect your personal book of shadows. While nothing bad will happen if it should get stolen or misplaced, you do have to show respect. All that magical info comes more or less from us (with Divine inspiration, of course). but don't forget there's a Goddess out there who made you and your BOS.


Simple Is Often Best

There is no right or wrong way to dedicate your Book of Shadows, just what works best for you.
There is no right or wrong way to dedicate your Book of Shadows, just what works best for you.

Step Four: Dedicating your Book of Shadows

Some folks dedicate before page one goes in, some folks after. But use a basic ritual for dedication, then write a simple spell inside to protect the book, and you. This keeps disturbed people from stealing your book and trying to use it to hurt you.

These people are so not witches, they are sick wannabes. And all wannabes ever want to do is hurt people. Especially magical people who won't help them hurt others. So you don't want them snagging your stuff and hurting you, OK?


How To Videos

Dedication ritual

You'll need:

your altar

a symbol for each element

incense

candle

small offering

A simple ritual to make an item sacred, and therefore magical. You know to never use it for mundane uses afterwards, right? OK, then. You can center, and imagine a pentacle of white light with you at the center. A magical shield of white light grows around you and the BOS.

In this light you can light a candle, use a scent offering such as incense or perfume, or whatever you think works best. Many witches pass the book through the incense smoke for both fire and air, sprinkle some water or perfume for water, touch it to the earth, or a rock for earth. Those using metal may touch an athame to it.

Ask the God/dess to help you dedicate the book, ask that it never be used against you in harm. Once you feel the Goddess has heard you, leave a small offering on your altar, thank Her for listening, and close your circle.

You can put a copy of this ritual in your BOS. Leave room to put notes on how well the ritual works. If something seems wrong later, you can look into your notes to see the problem. Stuck for an offering? Think of the aspect of Goddess you are working with.

For Bastet I'd use sweet soda or sparkling fruit juice, or milk. (I don't drink or I'd offer beer of champagne.) For something to eat I'd offer chocolates or a tuna spread with gourmet crackers. Anything Egyptian would work well. Maybe a tiny something such as a small string of beads, a tiny scarab.

Since she enjoys sharing, I'd take part of each offering to put in a cup or bowl for her, then enjoy the rest. Her offerings could then be left in nature or fed to temple kitties if you have any.


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      Jessica 3 months ago

      I disagree with some of your don'ts.

      While I personally would not LEND my BOS to anyone like I would a CD, I have no problem letting people I know, love, and care about look at it and ruffle through it. I have 3 very good and close friends who I love, who are also Wiccan, and we allow each other to look at our BOS on occasions when we have them with us. We like to see what each other has done, how they're laid out, etc. And yeah, maybe we're proud of it and what we've done, maybe we made the cover out of leather or drew illustrations inside, so in a way we're showing it off. I have a Book of Mirrors that is my personal Pagan journey journal, and that is not shared. We don't journal in our BOS.

      I think that marks, scuffs, and messes make your book more special. I like the idea of dripping wax from a candle in ritual getting on a page, or smearing a bit of charcoal ash from a burning ceremony on the page that has the spell for such a thing. BOS are like cookbooks. They are meant to be used, to get splatters on, to get ashes on, to get dirty. The BOS gets imbued with the ritual energy, and honestly, it's kinda fun to have it look "weathered and old". I'm not saying to throw it across the room, but don't be afraid of a little sacred dirt.

      I'm currently making a BOS from scratch, binding it, etc. I show pics of my progress all the time on a FB page separate from my every day page. my separate page is home to only 14 friends, people I know and trust to know my religion. But not only that, I'd have no problem posting pics of a completed BOS on a forum. I don't believe someone can use a pic of it to send me harm. Now if I took a pic of my dedication page with my given and Wiccan name, then I could get some black energy my way. I wouldn't do that. But showing a cover without any way of connecting it to me personally, online? Not concerned.

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      Raven 6 months ago

      Really enjoyed your matter-of-fact humor about the obvious...respect, protection, sincerity etc. Thank you and blessed be. Much gratitude

    • Nightcat profile image
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      Nightcat 3 years ago

      @marinemom7: My pleasure, marinemom7! Glad to be of help! :)

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      marinemom7 3 years ago

      I'm very new, and learning slowly as to not make mistakes and find my true path in Wicca. Thank you so much for these words and instructions. For about the last 5 years I was curious, and slowly but surely I began to see my purpose, and find my way to Wicca. Throughout my journey to this point, your site has made me feel more at ease, more connected and more able to understand than any other. So with my most sincere gratitude, again thank you.

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      Nightcat 3 years ago

      @katariofthecresentmoon: Thanks for visiting, katariofthecresentmoon. :)

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      katariofthecresentmoon 3 years ago

      Thank you for sharing, it's so hard to find someone willing to talk about this.

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      elibeth-durham 3 years ago

      Those were the most beautiful words i ever heard, i really liked learning about it.

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      Nightcat 3 years ago

      @The_Kelster: Thank you, The_Kelster! I appreciate the visit, hugs! :)

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      The_Kelster 3 years ago

      Really nice lens!

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      Nightcat 3 years ago

      @Meganhere: Thank you so very much, Meganhere! Hugs! :)

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      Meganhere 3 years ago

      Beautiful lens. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

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      Nightcat 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Well said, Uma! The BOS is in constant flux. Always somethin to add or be ridof as you grow and change. Mine used to be studded with gems because I was so self-absorbed in my aprerance as a witch. But as time went on the gems were pulled off, scattered onto gifts for my family, ancestors and spirits. Thanks for the visit! Hugs!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Beautifully inspiring my friend you have again created something special.

      A side note, I am Pagan and Proud that my holy book is named a book of shadows. Master Marsh taught that if you wish to truly see something you must contemplate it's shadow. Interfacing with light, forms leave traces of their ever changing nature. Rather than THE Bible, the accomplished fact, finished, thus stagnant and without life which is constant flow and change our Book of Shadows offers paths to ever new sacred. The ever flowing, ever changing, sacred at the core of All That Is.