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They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are brand new. Others are passed down from generation to generation. You can find a few on bookstore shelves. Others are heavily guarded secrets.

I’m talking about a Wiccan or Witch’s “Book of Shadows.”

An early edition of Gerald Gardner's Book of Shadows.

While much of Wiccan tradition stems from Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows, many traditions within Wicca have their own version which is passed down from coven to coven. Since Gardner brought the modern form of Wicca to the world (he claimed it was an ancient system), much of what is practiced and known within various Wiccan traditions have their roots in this text. Such concepts as the Charge of the Goddess, Drawing Down the Moon, Initiation of Degrees, and others are found within these pages. In this way, Gardner’s Book of Shadows is loosely viewed as the source text of the wider Wiccan faith.

After Gerald Gardner, Wicca branched off and formed new traditions…and new Books of Shadows.

For those who belong to a specific coven and tradition, the coven itself will likely have a central Book of Shadows for the group which outlines practices, ceremonies, and other sacred information unique to that group. Outside of this master text, individuals within the group usually keep a personal Book of Shadows.

As for ecclectic solitary practioners (those who do not belong to a specific group a draw from a variety of sources), their Book of Shadows may be as unique to them as a fingerprint. Some are hand-crafted, one of a kind texts. Others are store-bought notebooks.

Here’s mine:

My Book of Shadows

Simple, yet effective. A practitioner’s Book of Shadows holds information about spells, incantations, recipes, rituals…all the techniques and details of one’s practice. Everything I’ve done this month by process of trial and error, ends up in this text. This is where all the details are hammered out and perfected for use. But modern Witches and Wiccans aren’t limited to a paper medium. A Book of Shadows can take the form of a computer file as well. And in extreme cases where such a document or text is taboo within the home, a Book of Shadows is stored in the mind of the practitioner.

What’s your Book of Shadows like?

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