The Witch’s Book of Shadows (Book Review)

There are two main types of witches: those whose practice mostly centers on rituals, and those who rarely do a formal ritual. Jason Mankey is firmly in the first category. This is reflected in a book on books of shadows that focuses more on books of rituals than on spell books. In fact, this book talks a lot about the author’s own path as a Gardnerian and the books he’s inherited as part of his path. Which is interesting in its own way but almost completely irrelevant to the vast majority of readers who have no interest in pursuing Gardnerian Wicca.

I like that he talks about having multiple books over the years, instead of feeling like you have to cram everything into one giant tome. I also like the focus on being practical and making a book you will use rather than on merely reproducing a movie prop. Though I love that aesthetic, it has a tendency to put so much pressure on us that some witches have no BOS because they can’t have the perfect BOS.

Mankey covers the history of magical books, putting together your own, what to put in one, magical alphabets, deities, using your book in ritual, cleansing and consecrating your book, and using technology such as an iPad in circle and the idea of storing your BOS entirely on a flash drive or in the cloud.

In addition to the text written by Mankey, there are also smaller essays called, “Every Trick in the Book.” My favorites are, “You Are Writing Your Own History” by Thorn Mooney and, “No-Fear Grimoire Crafting” by Laura Tempest Zakroff. Zakroff’s sections liken the BOS to a family cookbook that has been handed down and has notes in the margins and index cards and clippings stuffed in. She says:

It’s a work in progress, a growing, changing hodgepodge of stuff — which is exactly how you should view your Book of Shadows!

Your BoS should be an active, working collection of your thoughts, a place to gather your ideas and collage your favorite images and inspirations, a book that gets wax spilled on it during this candle spell and wine spilled on it during that esbat. it’s not the physical beauty of the book that makes it special or sacred, but the collection of experiences you gather upon its pages.

location 703 of the ebook

I liked her essay enough that I almost wish she’d written this particular book, with perhaps a short essay by Mankey on preserving the BOS handed down in one’s tradition.

One notably bizarre section of the book was on, “Retiring a Book of Shadows.” I like the part where he discussing passing the magic from the book into a new volume, as your active book will change over the years and a retired book may be shelved. Where he lost me was the idea that one would burn their book when it gets old and shabby. He says it’s about “oathbound promises,” which would make sense if he were talking about burning a witch’s book after they had died. But he’s talking about a binding wearing out and the book “leaking pages” (here I made the note, “Wait until he hears about book repair tape!”). Old and rare books are archived and handled with gloves, but burned? Just for being beat up? Like the Velveteen Rabbit, that’s when a book becomes Real.

As much as I gripe, the book does have plenty of ideas worth using and plenty of suggestions I may try. In particular, I liked his section on the difference between cleansing, consecrating and blessing. If you use your BOS mainly for ritual, you may appreciate that focus but if yours is more of the cookbook of spells you may be frustrated that the entire focus of the book is on stuff you won’t really use. There’s plenty of material here that you’ll inevitably find something that inspires you.

four out of five stars

The Witch’s Book of Shadows

Jason Mankey

Llewellyn Publications, 2017

The Dreamer’s Story Tarot Journal (Book Review)

The Dreamer’s Story Tarot Journal (Book Review)

The Dreamer’s Story Tarot Journal is the companion to the Dreams of Gaia Tarot. It features full-page, full-color reproductions of several of the cards (44 if I counted correctly; more than half the deck).

It’s set up in a similar way to other Blue Angel Journals like The Jasmine Becket-Griffith Writing & Creativity Journal or the Book of Shadows and Light. It has lovely ivory pages, some blank and others lined. This one, thankfully, doesn’t have any distracting quotes on the pages.

Although the pictures are from a tarot deck, the deck differs so much from a standard tarot deck that the images aren’t overtly tarot; they could simply be fantasy paintings. Since the journal itself is not a guided journal and doesn’t mention tarot at all anywhere but the cover, this could easily be a journal you use for another purpose. It lends itself particularly to being a Book of Shadows or dream journal. It might also be a place to record your insights after meditation or ritual. I can even see it being used as a morning pages journal, when you’re switching from a dream state to an awakened one.

Like other journals from this brand, it is not hardcover. However the softcover is quite sturdy and the signatures are sewn. It’s beautiful in a way that makes me want to frame the artwork rather than write on the pages. One of the most stunning journals I’ve seen.

5 out of 5 stars

The Dreamer’s Story Tarot Journal

Ravynne Phelan

Blue Angel Publishing, 2017

Jasmine Becket-Griffith Writing & Creativity Journal (Book Review)

Jasmine Becket-Griffith Writing & Creativity Journal (Book Review)

This journal is absolutely beautiful, especially if you’re already a fan of Jasmine Becket-Griffith’s artwork. Although it’s not hardcover, like other Blue Angel Publishing journals it is a strong sturdy paper cover and the signatures are stitched.

Pages are ivory, some lined and some blank. Occasionally there is line art of one of her pictures that you can color on the page. These are small and tucked into corners. There are also occasional quotes but they’re not on every page and they’re not too cringe. They seem to go along with the journal, like this quote from Dr. Seuss, “I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells.”

Throughout the book are full-page, full-color reproductions of several of her artworks, which is probably the primary reason someone would choose this journal over another. They are gorgeous. If you’ve previously bought any of her coloring books, calendars, decks or other products, you’ve probably seen many or most of these images before. I spotted several favorites.

This is easily one of the most beautiful journals I own. It would make a lovely tarot journal, book of shadows, or, like the cover says, writing and creativity journal.

Jasmine Becket-Griffith Writing & Creativity Journal

Jasmine Becket-Griffith

Blue Angel Publishing, 2017

The Book of Shadows (Book Review)

The Book of Shadows is a journal. It’s a mostly blank book with about 20 pages at the beginning for reference. These pages briefly touch on things like moon cycles, elements, days of the week, herbs, incenses, crystals, the wheel of the year, and various types of magic.

The rest of the book is for you to fill out. The left-hand pages are blank, while the right-hand pages are lined with a space to fill out the date at the top and the moon phase at the bottom. There are over 200 pages to be filled.

It comes in two bindings: hardcover and flexibound. Mine is flexibound and the cover is a soft plastic that feels a bit rubbery. Pages are sewn and will hold up to a lot. It’s cute and well-made. I don’t love the feel of the cover but I do like the lettering and detail around the edges that looks like gold leaf.

If you’re looking for a journal to use as your book of shadows, this one is decent quality and affordable. It’s not a guided journal like The Mindful Witch and it’s not as beautiful. It’s nice that it says, “Book of Shadows” on the front and spine but you could probably find any number of journals you like just as well or better. It all comes down to how much you like the cover of this one.

Overall it’s a solid product that’s exactly what it says on the spine.

4 out of 5 stars

The Book of Shadows: A Personal Journal of Your Craft

Introcution by Cassandra Eason

Sterling Ethos, 2014

Book of Shadows & Light (Book Review)

Book of Shadows & Light (Book Review)

Book of Shadows & Light is a journal intended to serve as your personal book of shadows. The paper is thick, smooth ivory, with some pages being lined and other blank. There is a very short section at the beginning with information about lunar cycles and the wheel of the year but the rest of the journal is unguided.

One distracting thing is the quotes on the pages. At the bottom of each journal page there’s a quote. An example: “Tree beings are among the kindest and most loving of all the elementals.” That’s a short quote, but some of these things are literally a full paragraph long and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them. Some of them sound like the author’s own journal entries and most of them make me cringe. You may respond differently to them, perhaps finding them inspiring or meaningful.

Scattered throughout the book are full page color inserts with “witchy” pictures ranging from antique illustrations of myths and fairy tales to modern photography of subjects like a woman walking through the woods or standing at an altar. The images are alright but few of them really speak to me.

Although this journal is paperback, it has a sturdy, quality cover reinforced with a folded flap. The signatures are stitched, which you rarely find in a softcover book. It isn’t flimsy. I’m used to journals being hardcover, but I have bent this book backwards and forwards and even removed pages and it’s not falling apart or even getting raggedy.

The quality of the book itself is high but it just isn’t as beautiful as other journals from Blue Angel Publishing. I don’t love it as much as I wanted to, but there’s nothing really wrong with it. It could make a great book of shadows for someone who resonated with the artwork and quotes.

3 of 5 stars

Book of Shadows & Light

Lucy Cavendish

Blue Angel Publishing, 2017

The Mindful Witch (Book Review)

The Mindful Witch (Book Review)

The Mindful Witch is an absolutely gorgeous guided journal. Beautifully illustrated in full color, this hardcover is divided into four sections: My Journey So Far; My Mindful, Magickal Year Ahead; My Grimoire; and Book of Shadows.

My Journey So Far gives you space to reflect on yourself and your practice, with questions like, “Imagine that you are building a witch resume for yourself. What are your unique talents and abilities?” This section briefly touches on altars, spells, rituals, the elements, magical correspondences, seasons, moon cycles, days of the week, and the wheel of the year.

My Mindful, Magickal Year Ahead makes up the bulk of the book. For each month there is a section for the full moon with a moon name such as The Wolf Moon (January) or The Harvest Moon (September). There are guided questions and a list of correspondences such as elements, colors, stones, gods and herbs for that moon. Then there’s an astrological new moon section (such as New Moon in Aries for April). After the journaling questions for that moon, there is a monthly section to help you set your intentions each month. At the end of the month there’s a page prompting you to mindfully reflect on your month and what worked and didn’t. These pages are reminiscent of planner pages with monthly goals and reflections, except here they’re in a magical context.

The next two sections of the book are not long enough to provide much value but are merely a jumping-off point to show what you might include in a grimoire or book of shadows.

My Grimoire is six pages of three spells: The Honey Jar, An Easy Money Spell, and A Simple Protection Spell.

My Book of Shadows has space to record seven of your own spells with notes, intentions, supplies, and directions. This would give you a template of how to write your own entries in a separate journal.

Despite the last two sections being too small to be very useful, the book is well-designed and lovely. It would take a new witch through an entire year of new and full moons and give some beginner advice on how to plan and conduct rituals and spells.

A lot of people find their book of shadows frustrating and confusing. It shouldn’t be, but it frequently is. That’s because we don’t know if we’re supposed to be writing our own sacred book or keeping a journal. Is it a personal workbook for us or something to immortalize us for posterity? We get overwhelmed with all that we want our books to accomplish and many of us get stuck with an expensive blank book into which we’ve copied a few correspondences before giving up and shelving it.

The Mindful Witch solves this by being beautiful enough for posterity but useful enough to be your workbook. It’s structured and provides a roadmap for navigating the early steps of your path as a witch. Although suitable for brand new witches, this book would also make a decent journal for an experienced witch, even if you’ve already been keeping a book of shadows for years. It’s very much a book I wish I’d had when I was starting out and was so confused about what to do and how to keep my grimoire.

5 of 5 stars

The Mindful Witch: A Daily Journal for Manifesting a Truly Magical Life

Jenn Stevens

St. Martin’s Press, 2019