Crafting the Book of Shadows: Copying from an Initiator

Clearly I am a proponent of the notion that every magical practitioner should keep his or her own personal journals and archive of their rituals and practices, and I strongly believe that the decision to share or keep that material private should be the practitioners.

However, I am also working within a tradition that asks its initiates to copy, in their own ‘hand of writ’, the book of shadows of the priest or priestess who initiates them.  This is the book begun by Gardner and Valiente and most likely has a few revisions, additions, and deletions passed down through the years and initiations.  Some systems–such as the Long Island line in Gardnerian Wicca–have rules that the book may be added to, but nothing can be removed.  Others maintain their book should remain constant, while others seem to change all the time.

As I am not yet an initiate into my Gardnerian line (not even all that sure what it is yet), I don’t entirely know what my line’s position on the transmitted BOS is.  However, I have made some decisions on the matter myself.

Because I am such a stickler for keeping my own personal records and because I know I will almost certainly not personally agree with each and every aspect of the transmitted craft (though I am willing to work within it), I have decided to copy my initiator’s BOS word for word and keep it a static text.  Anything I maintain for my personal practice, I’ll eventually re-copy into my ever-changing personal BOS.  If or when I initiate a person, I will provide my initiator’s copy if I initiate them into that tradition…or my own BOS if something happens in the future and I end up with a whole new tradition.  Who knows?  Stranger things have happened.

Plain Moleskine Notebook

Because I’ll have a static text, I won’t have the same need for editing that I have with my own book.  I’ll also definitely need some archival quality material since I may well have it with me for the rest of my life.  So I’ve decided that I’ll transcribe it into a classic Moleskine notebook, most likely the unlined Classic 5″ by 8 1/4″, 240 page size.  I find that this size works quite well for most applications and is the one most “book sized”, so I’m not likely to misplace it.

Moleskine’s products are acid free, which means the pages are not likely to corrode over time, especially if archival quality ink is also used in the writing.  I have one such book I haven’t touched since early 2009, and the pages look as fresh as the last time I wrote on them.  By contrast, other more luxurious-looking journals of mine have fallen apart in as little as two years.

Moleskine’s notebooks have a few other perks as well, which has served to make them quite popular over the years.  Many of my colleagues like to use them as their primary notebook since they feature an elastic band which helps keep the book closed inside bookbags, and they have a ribbon sewn into the binding which helps you find your last written page in the journal.  There’s also an expandable pocket in the rear cover, which functions nicely to keep a few scraps of paper or important mementos enclosed without the danger of losing them, and the spine is sewn, which allows the notebook to lie flat when open (definitely a concern when referring to a ritual and hands need to remain free!).

Most Moleskine aficionados, though, love the journal’s paper.  In addition to being acid-free, it’s a creamy ivory color that makes every ink or pencil mark look important and beautiful.  It’s also quite smooth, which is certainly nice when using a quality pen.  More importantly, the paper is not prone to bleed-throughs.  (However, I’ve found some inks that do go through.)  All in all, they’re a quality product.  Better yet, they’re affordable enough and popular enough that I won’t grieve if I make an uncorrectable mistake in copying the BOS:  I’ll just get another Moleskine and start again.

All in all, I think this will be a great working solution for a static BOS.

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One thought on “Crafting the Book of Shadows: Copying from an Initiator

  1. Yeah…I had problems with the Moleskine. The pages are thin enough that I could see my pen’s ink very prominently through it, so I could only use one side. And, holy geez, one Moleskine is not enough, even for a single degree’s BOS. I *might* be able to do it if I only copied the ‘essentials’…but yeah. No.

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