Witch Essentials: Book of Shadows

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I’m not by any means a purist when it comes to practicing witchcraft, but there are some things you just can’t do without – one of those is a Book of Shadows. More traditional witches will prefer a literal book, often choosing something extravagant. Which is fine – in all honesty if I had the budget to get a huge leather-bound tome, I definitely would. But writing things by hand isn’t for everyone and online Books of Shadows are a growing thing, either as an online journal, a word document or a public blog. Or if you do enjoy writing by hand (as I do), ther20170702_124039e’s nothing wrong with just setting aside a notebook to write down spells and rituals. Mine is a handmade one bound in fabric that I found in a beautiful shop in Whitby called Gutsy Gingers at my first Goth Weekend – if I remember correctly, it was about £14 and worth every penny. Whatever you choose, I think it’s important to keep a record of your craft.

At the very least, spells and rituals should be written in your BoS. From a practical point of view, it’s handy to have them at hand if you ever need them again. Spells for things like good luck, healing, success etc. are going to be spells you go back to throughout your life. Also if you use rituals to honour days of power in the Wheel of the Year or any other annual celebrations, using the same rites each year is a lovely way to establish a feeling of tradition. That’s how I started my BoS, also including smaller charms (things like pouches that I made). 20170702_123937

Since then I’ve expanded on it; my BoS has become more than just a record of spells, but a reference to pretty much everything I learn in relation to my craft. I’m a little bit eclectic but tend to refer to myself as an Earth witch – basically somewhere in between hedgewitch and kitchen witchery with bits and pieces of other things thrown in. My BoS reflects this, and it’ll be different depending on what kind of craft you practice, what elements you prefer to work with, whether you work more with spirits and so on.  For example, I incorporate runes in a lot of my rituals and have a set that I read from time to time, so I have runes and there corresponding meanings drawn in the back cover. From then I have a few pages set 20170702_123958aside for writing herbs and their properties (both magical and medicinal), and a few more for pressing leaves and identifying which tree they are from. I add bits as I learn them, so these are less neat than the front pages – for rituals I tend to write them in rough first so I can scribble out and alter things as I go. Writing out the final version in my BoS not only is more aesthetically pleasing (which I have to admit I’m a sucker for), but it’s easier to read if you do use it again in the future.20170702_123946

 

Long story short: if you’re a witch, some form of BoS will make your practice one hell of a lot easier!

Blessed Be )O(

How to be a Wiccan 101

Hint: there is no hard and fast way to be a Wiccan.

There are many, many different ways to be a Wiccan, even more to be a pagan and even more to be a witch. And I am getting a little bit sick and tired of reading books that tell you that you must do a b c, or believe in x y z to be a ‘good’ Wiccan.

I’m also getting sick and tired of writers conflating Wicca, witchcraft and paganism. THEY ARE NOT EXCHANGEABLE TERMS. I can forgive someone who is new to these concepts, but people who write Wiccan/pagan/witchcraft based books? Not so much. I’m not claiming to know everything, but I am going to try and set the record straight especially to newer Wiccans, pagans and witches who are worried they’re ‘doing it wrong’. I was there for quite a while myself, trust me.

happy lil witch
Look at this happy lil witch. You think she’s being told what to do?

First of all, the terms Wicca, witchcraft and paganism are often used interchangeably by writers, but they don’t mean the same thing. Paganism is a blanket term for any belief system that doesn’t subscribe to the major world religions, often with a higher focus on nature worship. Wicca is just one branch of paganism, and even that has many sub-sections. Think about it like this; within Christianity, you have loads of denominations. Protestant, Catholic, Quaker, etc. And within those, you have even more; within Protestantism you have evangelical Protestants, Methodists, Calvinists, the list goes on. Assuming every Wiccan believes exactly the same thing is like lumping all Protestants together, and assuming all pagans are Wiccan is like assuming every Christian is Catholic. Just because it is the biggest denomination doesn’t mean it is the only one. Witchcraft, although it is mostly pagans who practice it, is actually a secular practice. You can be any religion, or even an atheist, and still practice witchcraft. I know some Catholic witches who incorporate the angels and saints into their craft. I know some Wiccans who don’t practice at all. So while you can be all three (like I am), you don’t have to be, and you shouldn’t assume that people are.

Now that the definitions are out of the way, another problem I’ve often seen in Wiccan writings is the the tendency to tell people that their way of practicing is the right way. That is the problem I have with organised religion, and why I was so drawn to Wicca in the first place, so it’s frustrating to see it is still present. By all means, tell readers about the Wiccan Rede, describe the Wheel of the Year and give suggestions of how to celebrate them, explain the Rule of Three. But make it clear that these are Wiccan beliefs and not all pagans follow them. Some pagans don’t believe in karma and therefore think cursing is appropriate in some circumstances. I certainly don’t and as far as I’m aware, the laws of karma are central to Wiccan systems so it is unlikely that you’ll meet a Wiccan who is okay with cursing, but that is just Wicca, not paganism in general. I really can’t stress that enough.

I’ve read books in which Wiccan writers have stated it as an absolute necessity that you are ‘initiated’ into Wicca, whether by a self-dedication ritual or in a coven ceremony, and I absolutely disagree. I think it is a beautiful thing to do if you can do it properly, but when I was a young witchling I was convinced that none of my spells would work and I couldn’t do any rituals at all unless I had done this ceremony. So I bought myself some jasmine oil (which by the way is pretty damn expensive, and I was a highschool student without a job at this point) and sat myself down to perform this ritual, trying to get my head in the right place and feel this rush of power and transform into a Wiccan. It was honestly the worst ritual I have ever performed. I was stressed out because I  I wanted to do a ritual for Samhain but thought I had to do this first, my parents came home halfway through and were hurrying me to come down because they had brought food home, and I had to rush through it. I thought I had somehow failed and couldn’t be a real Wiccan. But I went ahead with my Samhain ritual anyway. And it was incredible. I always count that as my first ritual, and it was such a moving experience I ended up crying while I prayed. That was when I realised I had been a Wiccan right from the start. I believe that when you say to yourself, ‘This is the right path for me, I am a Wiccan.’ and you know in your heart that it your true faith, then that is all the initiation you need. If you want to mark the occasion with a dedication rite, that is up to you. I just don’t think it is necessary; Wicca isn’t an elite club. It is a religion. The God and Goddess aren’t going to ignore you if you haven’t performed an extravagant ritual to join the ‘real’ Wiccans. Do what feels right.

I hope you have found this useful, especially if you are new to or are considering becoming a Wiccan, pagan or witch and are unsure where to start. You don’t have to buy a lot of expensive tools just because it says so in a book, you don’t have to perform spells exactly how they are set down and you certainly don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right to you. I’m not saying that these books are useless; they were a great starting point for me in terms of realising my faith and in terms of the magical properties of herbs, stones and symbols they are insanely useful, but I wish someone had told me all this before I understood it myself. I’ve come to realise that to only hard and fast rule in Wicca is to harm no one, so as long as you stick to that as far as possible then you’re all set.

Blessed be )O(