What Goes Into a Wiccan Book of Shadows?

My Digital BOS Pages

Wiccan Book of Shadows

There are many Wiccan ritual tools that may aid a person in their religious practices. The Book of Shadows (BOS) is arguably the most essential. In fact, if cataclysmic events required me to flee my homeland, and I could only fit one tool in my bug out bag, it would be my BOS. I feel like just about everything else is expendable. I can find a substitute for blades, cups, pots, discs, censers and candle holders; I can even work without them. But the nearly 2 ½ decades it’s taken me to accumulate the knowledge and experienced as outlined in my BOS is not so easily or quickly replaced. I even have much of it memorized—but still, it’d be hard to recall everything and cobble it back together.

So what goes into a BOS? That depends on the Wiccan, really… and I hate to say there are any absolutes. I will say there are the most essential things, the somewhat essential things, and then there are the optional things.

I also want to mention that, while I absolutely respect that many non-Wiccan Pagans and Witches have adopted the tool for their own use, the content with different religions may vary. This is an article aimed at Wiccans, thus the contents discussed are more specific to that religion.


Most Essential BOS Items

The most essential items in the BOS are generally those items that are most essential to the religion and practice of it. These are the kinds of things you’ll go back to again and again, the kind of stuff you need to keep on hand or that you may refer to from time to time. Some things that are more essential found in the BOS include:

  • Information on the Wiccan religion itself (beliefs, tenets, ethics, etc.)
  • Info specific to your trad or path
  • Information on the Divine (your deities, theology, etc.)
  • Ritual (structure, tools, methods, procedures, Esbats, Sabbats, outlines, circle casting, etc.)
  • Essential Liturgy, prayers and chants (Charge of the Goddess, Wiccan Rede, invocations, power-raising chants, etc. )
  • Ongoing spiritual journal

These are the basis for your spiritual growth and practices. These are the things you’re one day going to know so well, inside and out, that you’re not going to have to go back and reference them very often, but they’re still something you’re occasionally going to go through and rethink throughout your life as a Wiccan.


Somewhat Essential BOS Items

These items are not necessarily vital to being Wiccan, though you may find them useful to mention them at least—but for some of you, these might be very vital sections to your spiritual practice. Things will vary from Wiccan to Wiccan, as I will discuss in a minute, but first let me give the list:

  • Sabbat information (dates, traditions, incense, altar decorations, etc.)
  • Esbat information (moon phases, moon energy, etc.)
  • Element information
  • Meditations
  • Magic (information/instructions)
  • Dream journal

The reason these things are not entirely essential is because the emphasis any Wiccan puts on them may vary. For example, if you live for Sabbats and love planning big family or community celebrations, you might want to have fairly large sections for your Sabbats. If, on the other hand, Sabbats are something you mark very quietly, without a lot of pomp and circumstance, a few little blurbs on them can fit all on one page. Likewise, not every Wiccan records their dreams. If you don’t, you should not feel pressured to do so for a BOS. Some Wiccans place more emphasis on the elements than others, so they may need a bigger section.

Still at some point in your book, you will probably touch on at least some of these. You may not need an entire section, but they’ll no doubt enter into your practice in one way or another.

Gerald Gardner's Book of Shadows

Gerald Gardner, Wicca's founder, created the first Book of Shadows.
Gerald Gardner, Wicca's founder, created the first Book of Shadows.

"Sage, should I just save myself the trouble and buy a completed BOS from E-Bay?"

No-- there is no such thing as a 'completed BOS'. It's a constant work in progress, and it's supposed to be a personal journal and record keeping system for your own spiritual journey. Many people who frankly in my opinion watched too much Charmed like to sell 'complete' BOS's full of (usually plagiarized) spells and mumbo-jumbo. This is a complete waste of your money and defeats the purpose of a BOS altogether. The only purpose to buy a BOS is to read, enjoy and learn from it-- it shouldn't take the place of your own personal BOS. It doesn't have to be fancy-- you can buy a blank book or keep notebook papers in a 3-ring binder, but do make your own!

Optional Things

Optional things are things you might include in your book because you simply would like to. These are things that are not necessarily inherent to Wicca or vital to being Wiccan, but that you have adopted because they have spiritual meaning for you. Or they may be things that you feel add your own personal sentiments and energy to your book. Some of these things include but are not limited to:

  • A BOS blessing
  • Poetry, artwork, inspirational quotes, etc.
  • Astrology and astrological correspondences
  • Divination practices (Tarot, Runes, scrying, etc.)
  • Herbalism (anything from growing them to using them magically or medicinally)
  • Recipes (infusions, potions, incenses, favorite Sabbat/Esbat foods, etc.)
  • Crystals, Gems and Metal Studies and Practices
  • Other Religions & religious teachings that inspire you (Eightfold path of Buddhism, Chakras of Hinduism, etc.)
  • Alternative Healing & energy work
  • Spells
  • Spiritualism & working with spirits (ghosts, spirit guides, spirit animals, etc.)
  • Psychic practices and studies (telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, etc.)
  • Crafts (tool crafting, spiritually inspired artwork, etc.)

Of course this is not a comprehensive list, as it is your book. When it comes down to it, all the information should be essential to your religious experiences. There’s no limit to what your book might include.

What I Love About My BOS...

Is how I can revisit my spiritual journey whenever I want, and see it unfolding. It's so easy to forget details, but it's not necessary.

As an example, check out my article Musings on Samhains Past: A Personal Essay in which I reflect on my experiences and the things I've learned during this most sacred Sabbat, pulling passages out of my own BOS.

What A BOS Should Not Include

While there are things the BOS should or at least can include, there are also things it should not include. Some of these items I would list are:

  • Things that hold no meaning to you, but a book or friend said it should be in there
  • Things that you rush copied from the internet or books just to stuff your BOS full and make it look bigger
  • Things you shoved in there that are essentially useless to you, you just haven’t gotten around to cleaning it out
  • Copyrighted information that you have not credited (especially if you plan on sharing your BOS, you should not mislead anyone into thinking you wrote certain things when you didn’t)

You can probably see a trend, here. Basically, the BOS is not for gathering junk, it’s not for thoughtless stuffing or to make us look Super-Wiccany to others. Wiccans don’t stand around having a “My BOS is bigger than your BOS” arguments.

It’s not how big your Book of Shadows is, it’s what you can do with it. It’s meant to be a tool, a tool of learning and transformation.

So when you’re thinking, “What should I put into my Book of Shadows?” stop right there. A better way to approach it is that, when you do come across something meaningful to you, you might say to yourself, “This is worthy of my Book of Shadows.”

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Comments 16 comments

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi Wiccan, oh I totally agree with you! my Book goes with me everywhere. Admittedly I haven't really practised much over the last few years, but my book is safe and cosy ready for me to add whenever I feel something important is ready to go into it, you can't buy an already written one, as its all about you and personal, great hub! voted up and shared, nell

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 3 years ago Author

Hi Nell Rose, thanks! I think as we grow older a lot of people drop the formalized practice because so much is internalized it becomes 2nd nature and you don't need a full ritual to bring it out anymore, I think we go into a new phase with a lot just on autopilot and have developed the instincts not to need a lot of formalities. I don't add to my book as much as I used to, but it's still important to have on hand! Appreciate your comments!

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Thanks for sharing this great information. I have heard of the Book of Shadows but didn't really know what they were for or what was in them. It must become so precious over time as you build up insight and experiences.

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 3 years ago Author

Thanks, CMHypno. Yes, it is a very personal too, all the experiences and epiphanies and inspired writings that go into it, it's a big part of learning & growing in our faith and then after a while it becomes a pretty treasured keepsake. Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your comments.

jirel profile image

jirel 2 years ago from Philippines

I have a friend and he calls himself a warlock. He mentioned about this book. I love the fonts used.These things have always fascinated me.

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 years ago Author

Thanks Jirel; lot of people who practice various forms of magic have 'borrowed' the tool from Wicca. It's very useful. Your comments are much appreciated.

SFIAOgirl021 19 months ago

I agree about the BOS I'm not initiated yet because I'm still learning but I know I will do the initiation when I'm ready for it. Anyway I believe it's important to start my BOS now putting notes on how to do certain rituals what pantheons I tend to go towards and why and of course I plan to add more personal stuff later on but I want to be able to pass my BOS on to my kids someday (cause I definitely plan on kids) and it can be a guide to them on how to do rituals and give them other kinds of advice on herbal things and spells and things like that so that when they are ready they can start their own BOS one day. Plus it's a lot easier to write down notes for rituals and herbs and everything in one book so you don't have to go and try to remember which book you found the thing in in the first place or try to remember it all from memory. Maybe I'm weird planning as far as kids in my future but I feel it's something I really want to do because I absolutely plan on sharing my faith with my kids while they grow up. Plus if I can find an HP someday I'll have them bless the kids however that is done I know they do some kind of blessing or something but I don't know the full dynamics of it all yet.

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 19 months ago Author

Hi SFIAO; we actually keep a family BOS, which I started for the kids when they were young. My husband is Pagan, too (We actually met at an Ostara ritual, so we just celebrated a little anniversary, lol) and there was no question that we wanted to raise the kids in a Pagan household, while encouraging them also to be seekers and choose their path for themselves one day.

Everyone added to it as they wished to it-- I wrote in some simple family prayers and rituals for Esbats/Sabbats that they could recite, the kids would even draw pictures or glue leaves & flowers into it they found on nature walks or pages torn out of a magazine that they found interesting... whatever. I kept it separate from my own BOS, which I'm sure will be passed down to my daughter, who is also Wiccan. They have pretty much outgrown the family book at this point, but ~ well, I keep it for now. Maybe there will be grandchildren some day.

We did have Wiccanings for the kids... a baby blessing ceremony. I've been meaning to write a hub about that for months now, and your mention of it has now given me the push I need to complete it. So keep a look out for it.

SFIAOgirl021 19 months ago

That sounds exactly what I want to do for my kids a Wiccaning I can't have kids because of personal health issues but I do want to adopt a few for sure so I'll be sure to find an HP when I do so I can get a blessing done for them and I'll raise them so that when they are old enough they can choose their own path for themselves. Thanks for the post it helped me learn some things and made things clearer on what I want to do for my own kids someday.

SpiritualWitch 15 months ago

I'm just getting into making my own BOS and I agree you shouldn't buy one that's already made. It is a very personal experience and one BOS may or may not have what another BOS does.

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 15 months ago Author

Hi SpiritualWitch; totally true. Buying a published BOS is totally defeating the purpose of what the tools is supposed to be. They can be interesting reads, maybe good references, but the point of the tool is to amass records and information relevant to your own spiritual path. Thanks so much for commenting, good luck with making that BOS!

Patriciaenola 9 months ago

I have seen a comment on Pinterest - which I am alleged to have written but do not recall - this site !! however is of interest - just keep out of Facebook

Jessica 5 months ago

I came to Wicca a year and a half ago. Shortly there-after I suffered an injury to my writing hand up to the shoulder that makes it so that I cannot write (i.e hold a pen or type out a lot of stuff) for more than a minute or two. Because of this I end up copying and pasting nearly everything from the internet into a Word document. My hand is already beginning to hurt as I type :(. What I do is take what I copy and then read through every word of it, changing it to suit me, fixing errors, etc. I then note at the end of every section the website it was taken from. I know that there are others out there who have been shamed for this, since it's not "OK" to have things in your book that you didn't write out yourself by hand, but I don't think people should feel shame when they are physically unable to do so. If there are people who need to print from the internet and put it in their BoS because of this reason, then I believe that is completely acceptable.

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 months ago Author

Hi Patricia; I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 months ago Author

Hi Jessica; I also believe it is completely acceptable to use the tools we have, especially when out of necessity. Hand writing is recommended, if one can, so their book doesn't become anything but a great book of stuff that they occasionally look at. Not everyone can write that much by hand (I can't; I get writer's cramp real easy when gripping a pen/pencil for long). The point is to focus on what you're putting in, take care in really reading through, thinking about things, customizing them.

Paganheart 3 days ago

Just now starting with my BOS, thanks for the guide. I have been a novice for quite a while, still finding my footing and what works best for me. This will be a great help for my future self and helping guide me to my Eclectic self.

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    Mackenzie Sage Wright (WiccanSage)535 Followers
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    A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.

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