Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ritual Recordkeeping and Books of Shadows.

One of the more important bits of Occult house-keeping (at least, to me) that is often overlooked is record-keeping. How often has each of us done a ritual, or even minor working, and then forgotten about it? Weeks later a result appears that may have been tied to the working we think we remember doing, but there's no way of telling for sure.

Not only do we owe it to ourselves to track the effectiveness of our methods, but to those for whom we work. If we did a ritual promising something to a force or deity, and failed to come through on it due to simple forgetfulness, it weakens our magick, because our Will is not so iron as we thought.

This goes hand in hand with keeping a journal.  Hormones shift over the course of days, and a lifetime. Tracking the way we feel, the way we respond to seasons, and the planetary alignments can be extremely helpful in predicting changes that can influence how we work.

At this juncture we encounter: 
Ye Olde Chestnut of The Book of Shadows.

Most Traditional Witches (those who say "Traditional Witch NOT Wiccan") will tell you that the "Book of Shadows" has no place in Witchcraft. I sorta disagree. The phrase "Book of Shadows" is clumsy, but one of the best explanations for it that I've ever heard was that it is a Book made of Shadows. The shadow, as in the patch of umbra that follows us around, is a part of us, yet immaterial. When we have passed, it is gone. It is the record and account of a single witch, containing both the "writ" of their niche in Craft, as well as personal notations, always in their own handwriting. In this way it is as singular and personal as an individual's shadow.

Gardner's BoS - Dutifully scribed in a Comp notebook.
Record-Keeping, Journaling and Ritual Drafting. 

I keep the "Fancy" books for solid knowledge, Sigils and history of working with spirits, the unchanging writ of certain rites and rituals. But I also have a regular three-ring binder filled with pre-printed, pages.
One is a diary page, done in a simple word-processing program, with some information fields. It has the usual date and time spaces, but also FAR more information on the astrological state of things, and my mental and physical feelings. Another is a complex ritual record sheet which has the ritual info itself on one side, and a "results" sheet on the other side. I also have calender pages at the beginning to keep track of dates and schedules in a more coherent way, and sheets for drafting information on herb uses, and the like.

Now, this may seem like a "lot", but honestly it's not. I do not fill in -all- of the information each time, but for the ritual sheets it does help me to collect my thoughts, and helps me to take pause and determine what my motivations and plans are for this ritual and whether or not there might actually be a better time.

In addition to all this I have lined notebook paper, and blank drawing paper. This is for those times where I need to jot down an idea hastily, and incorporate it into the mix. It's also for calculating the planetary hours (oh how I would dearly love a program that does it for me), and the like.

I feel that anyone, especially new witches, or those just picking up on certain natural trends, would really benefit from such a folder or book. If only for the focus it can help bring.

 Fractured Books.

Why split the book? Because before one has memorized rituals, one still needs to read them. And sometimes -well- after they have been memorized, memory fails you at the worst of time. Extensive notations obscure the core text, making it nearly impossible to make out the next line in dim, flickering, candle light. "Orthodoxy" is useful, but for a witch only after one's learned "Orthopraxy". Why we use this herb rather than that need only apply once one has learned well that we -do- use that herb.

In modern coven-groups I suggest adding yet another "book". A large, heavy, three-ring binder (or many of them) in which coven records are kept. For government recognized groups, a photocopy of the paperwork authorizing and granting tax exempt status. Coven-council minutes and meeting records, donation records, and the various things a small church needs to keep track of and keep available.


  1. your format for each sheet is great advice! you should scan a copy up so we could all see it. i've tried so many times to maintain a spiritual diary of my spells and rituals but i always end up letting fall to the wayside... i think something like your binder would help!

  2. I'm trying to find the best way of presenting the sheets. I'm probably going to create PDF files of them, and host them (or have a friend host them) for a while.

  3. I keep such notes and records on my computer and I'm working on compiling a Grimoire from those notes. I'm using 2 different alt-scripts to protect people who may be snooping through my things from potentially dangerous magicks such as Kuchiyose found in Onmyōdō and Shinto.

    I'd be happy to share info on these things with others, provided that they do go off half-cocked and get themselves killed with a botched Kuchiyose.