Most witches, and even some non-witches have heard the terms grimoire and book of shadows. Both can be used for one of the most important things in your craft, recording your experiences.
Recording what you learn, how and when you do rituals and spellwork, your reflections on experiences, and just about anything else related to your craft helps you to keep track of what does and doesn’t work for you.
For some people this means a fancy grimoire, for some it’s a three ring binder, and for others it’s a small book of shadows.
To some practitioners the terms grimoire and book of shadows are essentially interchangeable. I think they’re different, but both are valuable to my practice.
So what are they?
Origins of the Book of shadows
The term Book of Shadows (BoS) first showed up as a name for a magical text in the 1950’s. This was when Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, first used the term to describe the book in which he kept his magical information.
The information includes spells, rituals, correspondences, symbols, etc.
A BoS was originally kept by a coven, not an individual. All of the information in it was kept private to the coven.
Eventually this proved to be impractical and individuals began to keep their own BoS.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, there is no one original BoS that has been handed down over the centuries. Every BoS is uniquel to the person or coven that has created it.
Origins of the Grimoire
Unlike BoS, the use of grimoires dates back to ancient times. The term comes from an old French word that was used to refer to all books written in Latin. The concept dates farther back than that and is said to originate from Mesopotamia.
A grimoire is any book used to record incantations, spells, charms, and anything else related to magic.
The practice of keeping a grimoire appears to have eventually spread to Europe and beyond. Although, it could be questioned whether it was truly spread or people naturally started recording their experiences.
So they're basically the same?
Yes and no. It depends on who you ask.
In my opinion and my personal practice, they are very different.
The use of a BoS has shifted since it was first started. The more contemporary use is to record personal thoughts and reflections on your personal magical practices.
Grimoires are commonly kept by witches and other magic practitioners to use as a resource for information they commonly use.
To me, the purpose of a BoS is for personal reflection and exploration while a grimoire is more for a general resource that anyone can learn from.
In my grimoire I will (because I haven’t actually started mine yet) write about herbs and their uses, information about astrology and zodiac signs, Norse mythology and the meanings of the runes, etc.
In my BoS (I call mine my shadow journal) I will write about my favorite herbs, my personal astrological information, my own interpretation of the runes, etc.
My BoS is also for taking notes. I have a lot of information about the Elder Futhark runes, and notes on spells/rituals that I have done. It also houses my reflections on meditations, rune readings, and spellwork.
To add another difference, my BoS is for my eyes only. It is very personal and I will share it with very few close people, if anyone at all. To me, a grimoire is meant to be passed down and shared. This is the resource I will pass on to any children I may have if they choose to practice magic.
Where can you find a grimoire/BoS?
Your book(s) can be anything from a fancy leather bound book, to a simple lined notebook, to a three ring binder, or even typed and saved online!
The possibilities are literally endless.
Some people even make their own!
The important thing is that it is functional for you.
If you love to keep things super organized, a three ring binder would be great! You can move pages around and insert pages where you need them.
If you want to include drawings or collages you might consider a sketchbook or other notebook that isn’t lined. On the flip side, maybe drawings aren’t your thing and you like the framework of lined paper.
A dotted notebook and bullet journal approach is another great option!
Perhaps you’re a broom closeted witch and the best option would be a spiral notebook like you might use for notes in school, something you can easily hide.
You can also keep your information in digital form; maybe on word or google docs. Just make sure you keep a back up somewhere safe!
Choose whatever will work best for you!
My Grimoire and Book of shadows
I have a grimoire and a shadow journal. I also have a travel journal but I have yet to actually use it.
My grimoire is currently empty. It is a beautiful stetchbook with Van Gogh artwork on it. I’m waiting to start filling it until I have a better idea of what will go in it and how I want to organize it. For now I’m compiling information in google docs.
My shadow journal is a book I made myself! I painted fabric, tea stained paper, and sewed it together. It was a wonderful experience and I feel very connected to my journal because of it! The way it’s constructed lets me add pages whenever I need.
I used this video from Azura DragonFaether to learn how to make a book.
My travel journal is a very small sketchbook with more Van Gogh on it. I keep it in my bag when I travel in case I have anything to record when I’m away from home.
The bottom line
Call your book(s) what you want.
If you only want one book and you want to call it a grimoire, that’s fine.
If you want to have two books and call them a book of shadows and a book of mirrors, that works!
You could have three and none of them have names.
The bottom line is it’s all about what works for you!
No matter what you call your books, how you use them, or what they are, they’re yours and no one else’s.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Do you have a grimoire? A book of shadows? A book that goes by another name?