Witch journal with a skull and candles

The Book of Shadows: Where Witches Keep Their Secrets

The Book of Shadows is a fundamental resource for anyone practicing Wicca

The Book of Shadows is the name given to the journals that many witches maintain. The name was officially coined by Gerald Gardner, who popularized the Wicca religion and made it available to the masses. Previously, the followers of Witchcraft had to work in solemn privacy due to the danger of being annihilated by the Catholic frenzy to end all non-Catholic religions.

An ignorant-proof journal

Pagans or any culture that followed the existing faiths at that time were hunted down and destroyed (some even burned) for believing in another path. So, witches had to write down their in-depth knowledge into books that were kept hidden from the public.

Sometimes the writing in these books was also encrypted so that the ignorant non-believers of Magickal religions wouldn't have a clue what was written in these books. That is one explanation for how these books came to be called the Book of Shadows.

One of the ways by which witches kept their secrets was by renaming many of the herbs and flowers to names such as Dragon's Blood, Fruit of the Underworld, Witch's herb, Bishopwort, Scotch Broom, Ladies seal, Beggar's buttons, Devil's milk, Five fingers, Tree of death, Devil's eye, Old lady, Bull's blood and so on. Seeing recipes using Five fingers and Dragon's blood, many people would have fled for their life!

A witch writing in a book of spells
Sometimes the writing in these books was encrypted | Getty Images

Although it is customary for new witches to copy from the High Priestess's Book of Shadows, it is not necessary and in recent years, many witches have been encouraged to start their own journals. Due to the popularity of the internet, there are many sites where witches update their e-book of Shadows or append to their Book of Shadows online blogs. This also allows witches to compare notes, discuss ideas and help each other grow more knowledgeable day by day.

The Book of Shadows can be a vital resource for anyone practicing Wicca. One example is the book guide for the Solitary Practitioner, the author Scott Cunningham added his Book of Shadows in its entirety. It is written in romantic, baroque fashion and is tremendously helpful for anyone who is new to Wicca.