The Personal Book of Shadows: Compendium of Sacred and Scientific Knowledge, Wisdom, and Evolving Experimentation by Elisabeth S.

I’m the type of insecure wallflower who has deleted social media accounts, blogs, photos, poems, and journals because 1. I am not good at commitment or planning, 2. I shame myself for being eclectic and lacking consistency, and 3. a sentiment I have either created or exists in some form externally prods me to brand myself, something I cannot do well (see no.1 and no.2). Oh, that doesn’t mean I don’t find the brand smart, and maybe calling it a “brand” condemns it to consumerism and commodities, when really it is being focused where I am distracted and a frivolous sensationalist.

On the whole, currently, I suppose I’m experimenting with accepting this all-over-the place eclecticism that has seemed to follow me my entire non-linear life and trying to commit to embracing whatever mess I create, even if it feels disjointed and that I can never have a nice, clean, mono-personality. Who am I? About 8 different people. Can anyone relate? Okay, maybe I just need to grow up. I have a feeling it will just have to happen in my next life.

Yesterday, though, I had a conversation with two other drifter millennials, and we quite decided or at least proposed and put it out there that, although our lives seem to be in a perpetual brainstorming stage, maybe that is okay because we are creating something new and great. So, yes, some people not present in that conversation of our age have gathered their lives in a less chaotic and more obviously productive fashion. But I say all this to lead up to, in a very clumsy way, I jibe with the idea of a Book of Shadows for its openness to idiosyncrasy and endless juxtapositions but also find it terrifying because it is a tangible, physical thing. The other thing I’ve done is constantly whittle down notebooks because I viciously tear out the used pages, not able to accept the blend of the new with the old. Abandoning projects is what I’m an expert in. (I have failed you, Katie).

I have recently discovered the potential of the Book of Shadows from the Instagram account @Bone_witch, where she, along with having covetous photos (that people unfortunately steal from her, so hopefully giving credit is sufficient) gives her suggestion of what goes into one:

  1. Rules to Live By
  2. Holy Days and Rites of Passage
  3. Symbols and Correspondences
  4. Spells
  5. Recipes
  6. Crafts
  7. Chants, Prayers, and Songs
  8. Dream Journal
  9. Journey/Meditation/Magical Progress Journal

There are actually a lot of sites with suggestions (another one). What I love about this is that it is entirely personal and you can focus it completely on your version of any religion(s) or spiritualities or literary/philosophies that works for you. How amazing would it be to have all the ideas and knowledges that I love in one place?

In brainstorming what I would do, I would like to share some of my ideas, and would like to know if you have created anything like a Book of Shadows and if you have a recipe or spell that you particularly feel is essential and beloved.

Rules to Live By – Here, @bone_witch explains some people include the Wiccan Rede but anything that serves you will do. I personally like my revised version of some of the 12 Laws of the Universe coupled with some of the example precepts in a list found in Albert Flynn DeSilver’s Writing as a Path to Awakening (xiii-xviii) and also some sutras from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Four Noble Truths.

Holy Days and Rites of Passage – Honestly, I have a severe lack of rituals and sacred-shared holidays in my life coupled with a severe longing for them. So here I have the opportunity to research and figure out what makes the most sense to me, maybe taking into consideration where I live in my current itinerant, nomadic, gypsy life. I am in Ireland right now, where the Neolithic structure particularly well-known for the illumination of passage and chamber on Winter Solstice resides. I love in general the idea of seasonal festivals, celebrating Gaia in her cyclical stages. Of course, it is better to do it in community, right? I will have to figure out how to find people who do this sort of thing.

Symbols and Correspondences – Here are the elements (earth, air, water, and fire) and what they symbolize. I think you could put moon phases here as well. I was thinking about including the chakras as well and perhaps some mudras. Perhaps even some ayurvedic information such as the three gunas (rajas, sattva, and tamas) and the three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha), you know, just categorical information I want to remember.

Spells – I love this category, especially because I am a poet and feel I could draw some inspiration from what is out there and compose some of my own. To me, spells are akin to mantras or even affirmations, lyrical lines to repeat and bring forth into the universe and within us so that we can replace some of the negative thinking and perhaps harmful agreements we might have internalized with more healing, positive, and compassionate to self and all sentiments. I very much want to counter negativity in myself and others with love, spinning more positive energy into the world, but also being realistic and working with the flow of the universe. I thought this protection spell by Samantha Mars was cool.

Recipes – I have long been craving some sort of concoctions that are herbal and medicinal and comforting in nature. When I was back in the States, there were various apothecaries in Colorado that I stumbled upon that offered salves and tinctures and tonics. I really doubt I will do any foraging. I actually don’t even know the search terms to use to find what I am looking for. It could even be a simple, delicious pumpkin bread with cardamom I can whip up for my moon time. Who knows.

This post is long enough, but I thank you for dreaming with me. Do any of you already have a Book of Shadows? Please let me know in the comments.

Elisabeth S., Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches online composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. Currently, she is working on a chapbook of poetry and traveling through Iceland, Spain, and Ireland. 

Author: Elisabeth S.

Elisabeth S. has a Ph.D. in Religion from Claremont Graduate University (2014) and teaches philosophy, literature, creative writing and composition in Colorado.

6 thoughts on “The Personal Book of Shadows: Compendium of Sacred and Scientific Knowledge, Wisdom, and Evolving Experimentation by Elisabeth S.”

  1. My spiritual practice evolved out of living my life and spending a lot of time in the wasteland…At mid – life I discovered feminism and learned that I was an ecofeminist – a person who believes that what is happening to herself is also happening to the Earth. I also learned that I had never inhabited my body – a revelation that changed my life. Although I attended and still do solstice gatherings etc my own practice evolved directly out of dreams, discovering the reality of the goddess, my roots,my need to live through my body, and my deepening relationship with the Earth.

    Each of us has an individual story to tell…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I just love folliwing your adventures since our time together at CGU. Your writings are always writ large with self disclosure, honesty and the pursuit of the divine in yourself, nature, poetry, and when present, in others. Like you, I’m decolonizing myself from patriarchical religion, turning instead to nature and ritual and our matriarchal ancestors to heal my lack of self worth and place in this life.

    Enjoy Ireland, a complex country of the ancient goddess tied to nature. I’ve been twice, with strong family roots that continue to call me back home.
    I’m in awe with the woman you’ve become!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think about you often while being here, knowing you have your own connection to this place. If you have any recommendations, I’m often lost on how to find such elements here in their more obvious manifestations, so please feel free to let (us all) me know. You are really sweet. Thank you for your love. I take and honor it. Always a blessing to read a comment from you. “to heal my lack of self-worth” – yes, but how? You give us beautiful ideas. A lifelong process I hope not. May it come swiftly for you, me, and the entire world.


  3. Thank you so much for elaborating on your Book of Shadows, Ms. S. I too have started so many projects only to see them slide by the wayside, but this one is near and dear to my heart. My thealogy is dream-driven, literally, and I’m talking about listening to my night dreams which saved my life and brought me to Goddess, not about ‘life dreams.’ You have inspired me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a beautiful response. Thank you for your kindness and the wonderful insight into your life. I’ve actually been figuring out perhaps how I can, if this Book of Shadows project becomes another of those half-composed for me, and it sounds like what you mention. I find poetry quite natural for me, and so I have been turning my second chapbook in process ever so in that direction to fulfill some of what the BoS might do/have in it. I suppose we could even dance our Book of Shadows. We can certainly dream them. Be well.

      Liked by 1 person

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