Book of Shadows? Personal Journal? Does It Matter?

There are days, such as today, that I get stumped for what to write. In the past, I have taken two different routes towards solving this – I either just write off the top of my head or find an old post to rewrite in some fashion. Honestly, the first method just sucks. The post tends to come off as a rambly piece of work. The second doesn’t do much better, particularly when my perspective hasn’t changed much. So, I am about to spend part of the morning wrestling internally with what to do or what to approach. Welcome to my writing process. LOL

So, I went and peeked in the Email box, and found a question that I believe would be interesting (thanks A!). One’s Book of Shadows. Do I have one? No. Not by that name. Or even by that conceptual purpose. But first, let’s dig into what a Book of Shadows seems to be in a traditional sense.

Going off the Wikipedia page (I know – not a terribly great source of information, but a decent starting place for information, in my opinion):

A Book of Shadows is a book containing religious text and instructions for magical rituals found within the Neopagan religion of Wicca, and in many pagan practices.

Disregarding some of the grammatic descriptives, essentially, a Book of Shadows seems to be a repository of instruction, outlined ritual formats, and other useful information for the individual keeping such a tome. What gets kept in it? Well, from what I have come to understand, information that is important to the individual creating and keeping it. Ritual outlines, spells, notes on what does or doesn’t work in one’s Spiritual practice, copied quotations that have meaning to the individual…maybe even recipes. That’s from what I have come to understand.

When I was starting out in Wicca, I was encouraged to keep my own Book of Shadows by my teachers. I didn’t. Well I did at first. But it seemed an exercise in futility to me. Things that I added did not have the same meaning to me months later. Plus, any quotations I wrote down came from books that I already had on my shelf. When I left Fort Worth, Texas for Germany (thank you, United States Air Force), I completely abandoned the practice.

These days, I do keep something somewhat close to the concept of a Book of Shadows. However, I call it a Personal Journal. I don’t keep it in a paper format either. At one time I had it saved directly on my computer as an ever-growing Word document. However, I realized – via my Disaster Recovery education – that this was sheer folly. Magnetic hard drives do fail. So, I shopped around and settled on a cloud-based solution in EverNote. I have about four years’ worth of entries located here. I have only shared access into these files with one person, for a short period of time, and even then only with a certain section of what I wrote.

So, what do I write in there? Well, I work on blog entries there. I write synopsis of my day. I even have notes concerning my Bardic and Ovate grade work there. I keep notes concerning rituals that I participate in, and on unusual moments that occur in some of my daily devotions. In a way, you can say that my full life is in there.

Why a cloud-based solution? Well, I can access it from my computer, my laptop, my iPad, and even my phone. I can also access it from any computer I may have available to me. I just need to enter my userid and password – and then I am in and able to read or write. For me, this is very handy. However, I do realize that there are those folks who prefer the handwritten aspect over the computer. I have always believed that to be completely awesome. Everyone has different tastes as to what they prefer.

So, what information do I want to keep in my version of a Book of Shadows? How do I determine what is or is not important? What if the stuff that I want is vastly different from what others want? Who is doing things the right way?

Let’s start off with the who is doing it right and wrong argument. I absolutely loathe the “this or that” binary argument. What works right for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. What I consider to be “valuable” information might be considered as “trite” and “useless” information by someone else. Just as I dislike referring to my journal as a “Book of Shadows”, someone else may find that term to be useful and appropriate for themselves. Neither of us has a complete hold on the absolute truth. But we do know what works right for ourselves. Thus, let’s jettison this entire binary argument that things are either this or that. There is plenty of room in-between and beyond for a lot of other perspectives.

This holds true for what information goes into your Book of Shadows, Personal Journal or whatever you want to call it. No one can tell you what is important to you, other than yourself. What you record in those entries is completely up to you, no one else. Unless you want to give them the permission to dictate that to you. But that’s a piece of discourse for another time. The information in those entries, scribbled on pages or entered in a digital format, is what is important to you. Simple as that.

What do I consider as important information? Well, for me, that depends on the entry being made. Sometimes, its just a matter of documenting what had happened. Other times, I go into greater detail of how things happened, and my feelings during all of it. Many times, for me, its just a documentation of the day or the moment. However, I do have ritual frameworks outlined in some entries, a broad handful of poems that I have written, and a pair of super-shitty short stories I have tried my hand at. For me, this is what makes this more of a Personal Journal for me than a Book of Shadows. Even though, much of what I have in those entries does fall into the inane definition that I outlined from Wikipedia.

The truth of the matter is that your Book of Shadows will be whatever you want it to be. You are the one putting the information into the entries. You are determining what is important to add or not. You might wish to separate your notes about daily activities from your Book of Shadows. To be frank, I do exactly this inside of EverNote, as each type of entry has its own folder. I consider these to be more chapters than separate compendiums. Again, its what works for me. You need to do what works for you. Whatever that winds up being.

If you are on the fence about doing something like this…writing things down. Give it a try for a month. Then go back and read what you have written. Determine if it is something that works for you or not. Contrary to what some folks may believe, not every Pagan has a Book of Shadows or gets into journaling. For me, it is a worthwhile amount of time spent in my day. But I am not going to speak for everyone. That would be foolish of me.

In the end, a Book of Shadows? A Personal Journal? Some other descriptive? In my mind, it really doesn’t matter, so long as what you put in it has meaning and significance for you. That’s just my two quid.

–T /|\

Divination and Journal Writing

I used to do an anonymous question segment over on Facebook, until someone decided to grind an ax because I apparently didn’t live my life to their expectations. So I decided to end that particular segment rather than deal with a troll or spend time ignoring that person. But I did so with a handful of questions unanswered, which I decided to answer privately. I had another slew of questions asking if I did other things. So I thought it would be interesting to answer those.

Q: Do you do tarot readings or some other form of divination, fortune-telling or gazing into the future?

To be honest, I am reluctant to do things like this. In truth, everyone has the capacity to do tarot cards or any other form of divination. With more experience, and belief in yourself and your abilities, I believe that one can make those abilities quite good. But not me. Its not that I don’t believe I could do tarot readings or crystal scrying or any of the rest of that; its that I don’t want to know. I really don’t want to know about the future. While I can do the readings and the scrying, I suffer from analysis-paralysis. I do a lousy job of trying to read the layouts correctly. I put too much personal bias into what I read, so my readings are either way underwhelming for what happens or way overblown. However, that’s just one part of things. I truly do not want to known the coming future. For me, life is about experiencing events for myself. I don’t need an early warning of what is coming. I need to be ready to experience life as it shows up at my door frame and I need that experience to be honest and clean – without bias. So, no, I do not do any such thing as divination.

Moments like this, standing in front of the fire and thanking the Gods for the safe travels of all, used to frighten me. (Picture by John Beckett)

To be honest, that has gotten in the way of some of my studies, as there are some requirements to take up and continue a divination practice. That’s really hard to do when I have avoided divinatory practices for so long. To snip that issue off at the stem, I have chosen to utilize divinatory practices as something akin to a study, more than anything else. The results that I achieve through tarot layouts are for studies of how to read the layout and interpret the cards, but I choose not to apply what I read there into daily life and events – again, because I do not want to know. So far, this methodology has worked for me, for the most part. Super strong events in life are hard to keep from bleeding through into card readings, but I do the best that I can.

Q: How do you keep your daily journal? Do you use a digital format or do you hand-write?

I keep three different journals. The first, my daily journal, is kept in digital format. I find it easier to have at my fingertips most of the time. I use Evernote for this function. For me, its easy to use, does everything I need to, and allows me to search through gobs of notes that I have. My other two journals, my Gwers work, and my poetry journal, are handwritten. For these two, there’s something more intimate about handwriting things. And in all honesty, I tend to retain knowledge when I physically write items of knowledge. I use simple, lined notebooks (single subject, not spiral bound) for both of these endeavors. I have a shelf in my home office where I keep these journals, but the shelf is not even one-sixth of the way being full. I hope one day soon that changes.

I don’t write everyday in my Gwers-work or my poetry journals, but I try to get something in each of them at least four times in a week’s time. My daily journal, on the other hand, I write in everyday. The subject matter is exactly what you think it is – what happened to me over the course of the day. Occasionally, I will leaf through the pages and see how things were going on a particular day. I not only find it cathartic to write and read from it, but I also find it informative. Sometimes, I have found emotive patterns that I have developed over and issue or towards a person. Analyzing those patterns has helped me to find better, more informative, less tense manners in dealing with those issues or people going into the future. In essence, I have managed to find far more Zen-like approaches to some of the more difficult issues and people in my life. Applying those is where much of the difficulty comes in because…well, people. I can predict how I would like to approach something, but other people do not always help with the approach. 🙂 But that’s a topic for another time.

Well, that’s all I have for the moment. I’ll have a few more things coming up in the next few days. With the work schedule being 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday, I have to pick my times for writing smaller essays and the such. Speaking of such, I have a few short essays that I am writing for a few publications. Hopefully, some of them get published. I am spending time writing, revising, rewriting and polishing those particular pieces. Best foot forward, ya know? As the status on those pieces changes, I will let you know. In the meantime, pushing forward on those pieces…and fingers crossed. Have an awesome day!