So I did something that some witches might be horrified by. I stopped using a physical paper book for my book of shadows and went completely digital. I’m going to talk about why and how in just a moment, but I know some of the people who read my blog won’t have a clue about the terminology they’ll encounter (hello, people who are here for the writing and publishing stuff, or the photography stuff!) so I’m going to quickly define a few terms, as I use them, first.
Person of any gender who does witchcraft (not specifically wiccan).
Witch who draws from a variety of spiritual paths and traditions to create their own.
Personified/archetypal representations of aspects of the human condition, nature and cultural experience.
Set of words and actions used to focus intent and desire.
The art, ceremony and practice of focusing intent to achieve desired results.
Book of shadows
May also be referred to as a grimoire or a book of mirrors. Some witches use these terms interchangeably and some view them as completely different things. A witch’s book is (usually, generally) a place to gather reference material relevant to their practice as well as to record spells and workings they do.
OK, now that you’ll all have a vague idea what I’m talking about, let’s get into it.
My history with witching and technology
My book of shadows has taken many forms over the years, almost always handwritten in a notebook or binder. This is partly because I adore stationery and I get a massive kick out of filling notebooks with things that make me happy, and partly because I’ve been witching forfuckingever so many of my witchy habits that started over twenty years ago have endured.
Also. Also. SO MUCH of the stuff you’ll read in books or online about keeping a book of shadows strongly implies, and sometimes outright states, that the Only Way is the handwritten way. I’m not really pro only-ways about anything of a spiritual nature, but the logic was that handwriting something makes you feel more connected to it, makes it more personal, makes it more real. And it does, for some people.
I am, and always have been, a techie little human. I wasn’t even online until I was a teenager in the mid-90s, but my childhood was spent elbow-deep in whatever computery things I could get my hands on. I’ve never felt that something was less real or less meaningful simply because it came with a plug attached or had a screen. Now, at the age of thirty-seven, I get to live in a world of accessible ebooks, social media, digital cameras and a level of global human interconnectedness that I couldn’t even have imagined as a ten-year-old typing lines of code into a C64.
As my experience of technology evolved, so did my witching. For about the last decade, I’ve half-jokingly described myself as a cyber witch or a techno pagan. Magic is everywhere. It’s in trees and storms and the ocean but it’s also in dark rooms with twinkling lights and in sigils saved as digital files to charge when I plug in my phone. I believe that technology is as real and beautiful as anything else and, as with any tool, it’s all about how you use it.
The evolution of my book of shadows
I couple of years ago, I started using Microsoft OneNote (which is surprisingly intuitive and aesthetically pleasing for a MS product) to keep some of my witchy things in a format that could sync across my laptop and phone. This meant I always had my reference material with me and that I could read it in the dark, both of which were mainly practical concerns. Also, when it comes to recording dreams, post-ritual notes or details of workings, I type much more quickly than I write by hand. Plus, my typing is always legible, which can’t be said for my handwriting.
I still had a paper version of my book of shadows in a pink Filofax Clipbook, but as time went on, I found myself using my digital version more and more to the point where I simply wasn’t going near my paper version anymore. This week, I retired my Clipbook and moved completely into my OneNote book of shadows.
Why a digital book of shadows works for me
Information is rarely static in my world. I might spent hours, days or weeks researching something and making notes, but I will almost always return to it, add things, remove things and rewrite things, later. As lovely as a handwritten page can look, and as meditative as the process of creating it can be, I need my witchy book to work for me in the most practical way possible. Handwritten pages just didn’t do that for me.
My book of shadows is a living document and as it grows I often find myself shuffling parts around and reformatting things to fit the needs of my ever-evolving practice. Sometimes I’ll spend time focusing on learning about specific deities or magical practices before shifting my focus to something entirely different. Being able to drop something and pick it up later is important to me. My book is in a constant state of change and the ease of editing that comes with a digital format fits really nicely with this.
I’ve never followed anyone else’s traditions to any great extent and I don’t believe any witch should feel they have to, so when I find a way that works better for me, I’ll go that way even if it’s not what everyone else is doing. Recently, I’ve encountered people who keep a Tumblr- or Pinterest-based book of shadows, which is wonderful if it’s what helps them connect to their spirituality as part of their daily life. My IRL witchy sisters-from-other-misters both keep beautiful handwritten books because that’s what fits with their practice. Basically, you do you. I’m not telling you that any way is better than any other way.
What’s in my digital book of shadows
Everything in my book is alphabetised, colour coded and fully referenced because…OK, just because of the kind of person I am. My book has seven sections at the moment. These are:
Notes about the deities I connect with, devotional writings, prayers, symbolism, and ideas for offerings and altars.
Dreams, readings etc
Records of significant dreams, tarot readings and spiritual experiences.
Song lyrics, quotes, chants and other bits and pieces that make my soul sing.
Notes and research about everything from elemental correspondences to herbs and incense uses to Celtic and Norse festivals. I add to this constantly because I’m always seeking new knowledge. Don’t even try and tell me Odin would be like, “No, your passionate search for wisdom is invalid because you’re not making shapes on sheets of mashed-up wood with a plastic stick full of ink.”
Words and tools for ritual work, from banishings to casting circles to protection and everything in between. Basically, the stuff I use for the things I do.
Detailed notes about card meanings, both general and for specific decks, as well as procedural notes for readings. Yes, I’m the kind of witch who uses the words ‘procedural notes’ in reference to my practice, but I’m also the kind of witch who often completely ignores convention and reads mainly by empathic perception. So whatever works, you know?
Records of spells, rituals and other workings I undertake. When I’m planning a working, I find it helps to create a list of what I’ll need as well as notes about what I’m going to do. This isn’t for any magical reason. It’s just because my brain doesn’t always function very well and I’m easily distracted. When I finish the practical part of any working, I sit outside in the garden with a cup of tea for a bit, then snuggle up on the couch with the cat and write about what I experienced during the working.
Give me the wild skies and the flickering flames and shells carried gently home from the shore in reverent hands, but also give me the glow of a screen through sage smoke and the frenzied tapping of keys in the small hours and the next revelation borne on electrical currents finding its way to my heart.
There is no only way. There is only your way. And never let anyone tell you you’re less of a witch because your way doesn’t look like theirs ❤