Everyone who has read books or talked to someone about magic or witchcraft has heard of a Book of Shadows or some sort of magical journal. I cannot stress the importance of the journal. In my opinion, this is the most important magical tool to have.
Why is the journal so important? Well, think of your experience with magic as a science. Each spell you try is like a scientific experiment. If you donít record the results of your attempt, how will you learn from the experience? Next time you attempt something similar, you can look back on the things you did the first time, and the results that it produced. Then you can make the necessary adjustments so that you donít make the same mistakes as you did the first time. Gaining knowledge and experience in magic comes with time. But it comes faster if you have a record of your successes, failures, etc. to look back on. You will learn from your mistakes, and perhaps when you look back, you can see some factors that you hadnít considered at the time.
So what goes in such a journal? A magical journal is, at its simplest, a record of information you have gathered and the things you have done with that information. Such information includes things like correspondences for herbs, oils, candles, etc., spells, incantations, divination, dreams, and anything else in the great spectrum of magical information. Also, is the application of that information. This is the rituals, spells, whatever you do with that information, and also the results of those things. If the spell worked, how fast it worked, etc. The magical journal can also serve as a sort of diary. Some choose not to do this, but I find it helpful. Recording your thoughts, feelings, distractions, fears, and so forth can help you to focus as well as to help you in the future when you look back. You can see what was going on in your life at the time, and how that could have influenced the things you did. And, as a writer, I find that taking a little dear diary time is just plain good for the soul.
And now on to more specifics. This may seem obvious, but have no doubt that some need this advice: always put the date on every entry. On every piece of information, record where you got it from whether it be website, book, or friend. That way you can always go back for more if you need it. I always put the time of day on my entries, and the day of the week. Some include the moon phase, and other things as well. This can save time later on, so that you donít have to go look those things up. Other things you can record are the weather on that particular day, how you were feeling, how you prepared, exactly how you did the spell, your thoughts during and after, and the results. Noises and distractions can impact your magic. You can also include photographs and such. The setup of your altar, your ritual garb, you and your new athame, etc. It may seem cheesy, but this is a scrapbook of your journey. Think about when you are flipping through this book ten years from now. What would you like to see? What are you going to regret that you DIDNíT include? The more detail you record, the better your understanding will be later, even if you laugh at how stupid you looked in the cloak you bought.
So, how do you go about making a magical journal? There are many different types of journals. Any old notebook will do fine. I have found, however, that three ring binders work better than most notebooks. With a binder, you can divide up your information by subject, so that it is more organized. You can also put more things in it. If you print out some information off of a website (such as this article), you can punch holes in it and easily put it in your binder without hassle. With a notebook, you would have to get out the scotch tape or a stapler. Usually, the result of using notebooks is a big mess, papers falling out, and total journal chaos. Another way to keep your journal is on the computer. This is probably the cheapest method if you own a computer. This method has been called keeping a ďFloppy of Shadows.Ē Typing is faster than writing for most people, and floppy disks are cheaper than buying notebooks, since they can hold more. You can also make your own magical journal with whatever you choose. It is your journal, so get creative and put a bit of yourself in it. I have tried many ways to keep one, including notebooks, binders, and computer. It is not necessary to do it the same way every time you run out of space. I have volumes and volumes of journaling, and they are not all the same. What you like best will depend on who you are, how much you write in it, and also your organizational skills. Your journal does not have to be fancy, or expensive. All it has to do is be you.
Over the years, as my journal library has grown, they have become a source of pride for me. I look at my volumes of self and smile. Inside those books is my journey, and inside those books is me. Keeping a magical journal may seem like a chore at first, but it will grow into more as you do. You will use it, you will look back to get ideas and information, and you will regret everything that you thought about writing but didnít. And one day you will look at the shelf of books and smile, for you know that all the hard work you put into them has put you where you are.