By Charlotte Babb
Hundreds of books on how to do magic fill the shelves at bookstores and libraries, and if those are not available to you, the internet is also a wide ranging resource, as full of information and crap on this subject as with any other. Many of these books are the published editions of the books of shadows of experienced magic workers.
Magical practitioners are human beings just like you, but with their own energy signature, their own experiences, and their own philosophy of life. Following Silver Ravenwolf or Diane Stein or Ted Andrews or Richard Webster is excellent for learning, but you are likely to find that some of their recommendations work better for you than others, or that they disagree on certain issues. Your book of shadows records your personal successes and challenges so that you can develop your personal skills as well as your own practical magic.
A book of shadows records your magical workings, your rituals and tools, the intent of the working and follow-up records on the results. If this sounds like too much work and not enough fun, you might want to re-consider why you want to learn magic.
A book of shadows is more of a cookbook or a lab report than a scrapbook. While the books portrayed in movies such as Practical Magic are large and fancifully arcane, a simpler journal will be more productive over the long run. You should probably record the date and a short background on the issue, which is obvious to you now, but which will, you hope, resolve itself into long past history when you send your magical energy into it and resolve it.
A second benefit of keeping a book of shadows is the acceptance on your part of your responsibilities for your actions and choices. Every action or inaction, every response or avoidance is a choice. To the extent that you are aware and conscious of your choices, to the extent that you accept your power in making choices, you gain personal integrity, a key ingredient for all work on the psychic plane. The consistent practice of recording your work, your feelings, your intentions and your rituals clarifies your self-knowledge through the very act of putting your impressions and sensations into words.
Third, writing these actions is a concrete action in itself. It adds value to the process by making an artifact. Just as creating a dramatic ritual can increase the energy you raise, adding your interpretations with specific details adds to the information you have about yourself. But save your drawings, poetry, visualizations and other creative endeavors separate from the records of your magic. They have their purpose too, but including all of your personal journal items makes it harder to locate the exact ingredients of the posy that worked so well for attracting a new job or friendship.
Keeping your book of shadows from the prying eyes of others may be a priority for you. Buy a fireproof lockbox from an office supply store to keep it and other personal papers safe. But don't hide the book so effectively that you forget to use it. Plan your rituals in advance, record how they go, and then go back to monitor the results. Magic takes time, so leave a space for follow-up notes between entries. You might also consider adding an index in a plastic sleeve pasted into the back of your book so that you can up date it easily.
Reading through your book of shadows is a good way to remind yourself of the growth you are making and the issues that you have overcome--and the ones that you still find challenging. Your personal book of shadows lets you record that information that helps you to continue to make yourself the change that you want to see in the world.
Want to be your own fairy godmother? Read Wishes Can Come True by Charlotte Babb for stories and tips on how you can leave the old stories behind and manifest what you want in your life.