It is customary for Wiccans to adopt the concept of the Book of Shadows. Most especially when one is a solitary practitioner of the Craft. One does not have to be connected to any tradition so to create their own Book of Shadows.
A Book of shadows is a diary or a record of a Witch’s practice. It is principally a “religious text and instructions”. These books can also be called: Witches gospels, or Keys, or a variety of other names.
These books contain ‘the how and the what’ the particular Wiccan does during the performance of their Craft. More specifically, it is in those books that Witches first categorize and then detail the rituals and spells that work. Found within these books are a list of magical herbs and oils employed, the compositions of each incantation, the course of the rituals themselves, the recipes for magical foods, the calculations of astrological charts, etc. In other words, a Witches’ Books of Shadows are a diary of Wiccan activities which include the Witches’ own personal interpretation from runes and tarot card readings to their prophecies and messages from the spirit world.
Just as much for the old Wiccan, the newer Wiccan as well as the solitary practitioners have their own copies of Books of Shadows or Grimoires from published books written by high priestess or high priests. Some Witches choose to keep theirs a secret, while others share with others, so to insure the continuation of the Craft.
Some of the contents found in a Book of Shadow can be added to, but not removed. As the practice of the Craft can differ from Wicca to another. Gerald Gardner suggest to all interested in doing so, to simply make their own hand written copy of his Grimoire; so to incorporate into the instructions found in his book, their own ‘energies’; thus making it then, their very own magic! However, some might take offense to the duplication of their work.
It used to be that when a Witch died, her/his book of shadows was destroyed. However, unless specifically instructed to do so, books are passed down or even published. This is mainly due to Books of Shadows having found their way in popular American culture.
The keeping of a practitioner’s own book of shadows dates from ancient times. This was a practice by Witch-cultures down through history. Some believe that the burning of a Witch’s book was mainly because the deceased did not wish to be discovered to having been a witch during their lifetime.
Some refer to books of shadows as high magick aids; or Grimoires. Certain people believe that the term ‘shadows’ first came from a Sanskrit divination manual. Apparently, one could predict things according to the a person’s shadow.
In some of the Traditions, the book of shadows is also called ‘The Grimoire’. Grimoire itself, is an alteration of the french word ‘gramaire, grammaire’, meaning grammar in english. Specifically, Le grimoire is, an indecipherable directory of witchcraft spells. The contents of the grimoire itself is written-out in a scripture that would make the book appear to be a manuscript written in hieroglyph; a doodling; a sort of writing; in stenography; characters; in cryptography.
Because of their fear of Witches trials, or the fear of that it’s content might be used against them, Witches of British traditions never wrote down instructions. Though, some questionable texts where found illegibly written to the reader.
Taken and adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia