Every Witch or Wiccan is expected to start by writing their own Grimoire. A Book of Shadows is not something suited to mass production — it needs to be specific to you, and ideally containing only what you have tried and experienced for yourself.
This is a little bit like writing your own bible. That may seem sacrilegious or pompous, but at one time the books that are now collected in the bible (and every holy book) were nothing more than...
Can you imagine what the world would be like, if everyone had to write their own holy book, based on what they themselves had experienced and learnt and valued about their religion?
I think this would be a huge improvement, since each person would then understand that religion without personal experience is nothing but empty words. It'd also be a great improvement that no one could hold up a book as Absolute Truth From The Mouth Of God, and insist that everyone else must bow to its doctrine. The truth would be much more apparent: that every holy book was written by people, not by God. Hopefully with Divine guidance, but always filtered through our individual mental frames of reference.
But I digress.... ; )
When Is A Book Of Shadows Not A Grimoire?
Some traditions in Wicca consider a Book of Shadows and a Grimoire to be separate entities — 2 different books that Wiccans use. There's a lot of benefit to this.
One (I'd call the Book of Shadows, or Working Book of Shadows) would be a working binder or file where you can collect all the notes and information you come across in your studies of Wicca and magick, write down ideas that come to you, and stuff that you're not sure about but are interested in exploring. Nothing in it has to be perfect or figured out… it's all a work in progress. This is where you can keep track of your explorations.
The other (I'd call the Grimoire, since after all the root of this word is equivalent to "written magick") would be your formal collection of spells and rituals and magickal information that you've used and want to keep record of. Things would be transferred from the Working Book of Shadows to the Grimoire once it was something you were sure of: you've worked with it; you're probably not going to want to change it; you're sure of its accuracy.
You can have both books, if it appeals to you, but for the purpose of this course I'll assume you just have one Book of Shadows / Grimoire, and I'll use the two terms interchangeably to mean the same thing. (Unless stated otherwise.)
So whenever the course says to "write in your Book of Shadows," you'll probably want to write it in your Grimoire (because by the time you finish each lesson, it won't be theoretical or unclear to you). You can decide when any piece of information should go in which book.
Your Encyclopedia of Wicca
If you could get your hands on an encyclopedia that explained everything you want to know about Wicca and magick, you'd jump at the chance, wouldn't you?
It's worth a lot to have such a resource!
And you can make it for yourself.
But surely it's more mysterious than that! Surely it would be better to get a Book of Shadows from someone who really knows what they're doing, instead of making it up as a beginner!
It's so tempting to think that we don't know enough, we're not good enough. It's normal to wish to have some high-potency, secret, super-Grimoire that "an expert" wrote.
Here's the thing.
In Wicca, we are all the experts on our own experiences. Every Wiccan is their own priest/priestess. In Wicca, you are your own spiritual authority. This is one of the chief doctrines of Wicca. I know that goes against probably everything you've ever been taught. And I know there are people out there writing Grimoires for sale.
You don't need them. In this course, you will learn what you need to know. You will not be writing as an expert on Wicca, not this year, but if you don't start now you won't be writing as an expert any year! And there will be truth and authority in what you write from your own experience.
Over time, your increased skill will make your Book of Shadows a worthy text for your Wiccan practice.
Have a little faith in yourself. Have a little patience, a little compassion for you as a newbie. This is how you develop your Power.
Trust me: it'll be well worth it in the long run.
Writing Is Magick
Remember how the written word is a form of magick?
You might think that this means you should write/print your Book of Shadows by hand.
And you'd be right! (See, you're really very good at this!) : )
Some people will say differently. Some will tell you that you can type your notes, keep a digital Grimoire on a computer, or even print out other people's notes and put them in your Book of Shadows.
Of course you have unconditional free will over what you will put in your Book of Shadows — it's yours, after all. And, as you're coming to realise, there ARE no absolutes in Wicca.
But consider this...
1. Handwriting has energy that typed/printed pages lack. That energy is yours; it's from a deep place in yourself; and it has a shimmer of magick to it. I think this alone makes it valuable to do your Grimoire by hand.
2. Writing by hand accesses a different level of consciousness, a deeper level of consciousness, than is accessed at a keyboard. Every writing method access different levels of consciousness. Handwriting seems to engage more right-brain (creative, magickal) consciousness than typing does.
3. If you write by hand, you won't be dependent on having a computer available wherever you and your Grimoire happen to be.
4. Someone else's work will not have the resonance that your work will have. You can use another person's spells etc, but try them out first. Only then will the magick be true for you.
And then write them in your Grimoire for yourself. This way, they are authentic and more potent.
(If you have both a Book of Shadows and a Grimoire, as discussed above, then you can have both: type in or print out whatever you want, and put the best stuff in your Book of Shadows. There is something to be said for being able to have back-ups!)
But does it really matter? It comes down to your intentions. What do you want a Book of Shadows for? If it's merely your recipe book of neat Wiccan ideas, then printing by computer won't matter so much.
If you want something that is alive, charged with power, and meaningful, then you'll only put in the Book of Shadows what you've experienced yourself... even if the idea originated with someone else.
As always in Wicca, the choice is yours...
And as always in life and magick, the result reflects what you put into it.
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