I will just call it a ‘book’ for simplicity 🙂
Here are some of my thoughts on creating and keeping a book. YMMV
Ask yourself what your book is actually for
My book is a tool in my practice. It is meant to inspire me and help me grow. I include things I want to learn or understand better. I add sigils and spelled pages so the book itself is magical and can provide for me when I need it. I write about ethics and morality, and what I believe is important. I also write tips and tricks that seem useful but that I am unlikely to remember. I do not include anything I already know well, because I don’t see the point in writing down information I already know that I will never look up.
Everyone keeps a magical book for different reasons. Ask yourself what yours is for, and use that as the core of your book.
Don’t write your book for other people
Don’t think of your book as being an heirloom that will one day be used to train other witches or be passed down to your children. Think of it more like a school notebook that will help you get to the next level. Very likely by the time you become a mentor or have wee little witchlet babies, your opinions or beliefs will have significantly changed and nothing you are writing down now will be important. Think of your magical book as field notes, not the finished memoirs of your magical journey.
What is the point in stressing over the exact placement of your color correspondences, and spending four hours decorating the pages with utmost care, when three months from now you may discard colors as being unimportant, and six months from now your journal will be full and you’ll need to get a new one anyway? When you are fifty or sixty and have a lifetime of information to share, then such pains would be worthwhile. For now, is the information you copy off the Internet or out of other books really so worthy of all that care and attention?
Don’t rewrite books that already exist
It is a romantic notion to have a tome that explains magic, details how to cast spells, reviews every plant you’ll ever encounter, and has an encyclopedia of spirits and rituals to boot. But creation of such a thing would take months, if not years, of full time work. The good news is that such books already exist, and you do not need to rewrite them. I admire the patience of those who decide to rewrite field guides of plants around the world, drawing their own pictures to boot, but I would much rather pick up a copy of Medicinal Plants and Herbs on Amazon for $6, and save myself months of labor.
To create accurate entries in your book, you will need resources such as these anyway. I understand that not everybody has the resources to collect books, or the privacy to download PDFs of books, or swing by the library whenever they need something on plants or mythology or what have you. But if you do have access to such resources, just buy the book somebody else wrote and save yourself the trouble of trying to replicate professional publications.
I’m not saying that including information from other books in your special book is bad. I am saying that if you intend on writing a full-length publication on plants or animals or magic or whatever, it may be a lot more convenient and helpful to just see if one already exists and buy it.
Things you could include:
- Use your book not only as a tool of information, but also as a tool of inspiration. Draw or paint images or symbols that inspire you. Write quotes or passages that instantly take you to that witchy headspace. Try including some of your favorite witchy tasks or actions that always make you feel great.
- The steps to take in case of certain emergencies – such as attack from another witch, danger from spirits, different mundane disasters, and so on. During times of panic or stress it can be difficult to remember exactly what can be done to relieve the situation.
- Lists of the magical items you have on hand. I create enchanted items like a hen lays eggs and it is difficult for me to remember what I already have. Consider how useful (and satisfying) it would be to have a list of all the enchanted items you have on hand – it would also be easier to think of new things to make or experiment with.
- Your current protections, how they were made and what powers them, etc. It is not good to create protections and forget about them. It is also easier to create safe spaces and protect those you love when you can easily see what has already been done.
- Self-love magic, or steps to take in case of mental upset. When I am depressed or anxious it can be difficult for me to remember the helpful magical actions I can take to manage my emotions. A page in my book called “Read me if you’re depressed” is infinitely helpful to get back on track.
- Mixtures and recipes you are likely to use but unlikely to remember, especially helpful magical baths, cleansers, incenses, teas, or charm bags.
- A quick list of the medical dangers of the magical ingredients you own, so you can run through and double-check before you start any magical action. For example, noting that you shouldn’t throw angelite in water and then drink it, or that Valerian root may negatively interact with depression medication, or not to rub cinnamon oil on your skin.
- The steps to anything you are trying to learn – such as the steps to enter trance or complete a certain ritual.
- Magical actions that will probably be useful to have around or that you would like to try later, such as breathing or gazing exercises, energy work techniques, and alternate forms of things you already do (such as a new way to ground or shield).
- Meditations or mental rituals that you can do anywhere, and your experiences with them.
- The names and preferences of spirits you have encountered so you can help foster relations with them in the future.
- Spells you really enjoy that you are likely to use over and over again in the future, or spells that were really cool that you don’t want to forget.
- Writings about your beliefs and paradigms, what you believe magic is all about, and what you believe your place in it is.
- Sources. Where did this information come from?
- Your opinions. Don’t just include information – include what you think about it. Write about why you like it or don’t like it. Question the information itself. Ask how it fits in to your paradigm and how it could be improved.
Ways to organize your book:
- Use an existing method of journaling such as the bullet journal method as inspiration to create and organize your book.
- Use a binder so you can rearrange pages to your liking
- Don’t use sections at all. If your book has five sections (Plants, Spells, Rituals, Correspondences, Crystals) then I will bet you $10 that you are going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out where to put anything that doesn’t fit neatly in to a predetermined category – and that it will happen a lot. Even worse you may be tempted to disregard or throw away information that doesn’t fit neatly in to your book, simply because adding another section would ruin the ‘aesthetic’.
- Try writing in chronological order. In a few months it will be exciting to look back on your progress and see the changes as you flip through the days. If you use an index, you are also not likely to ‘lose’ any information. And there is no need to ever reorganize or worry about where to put what.
- Create a clear system of labeling so that when you go to each page you immediately understand what is on it. Sigil is an obvious header. Essayor Musings may be a good way to start off blocks of writing. Numbering each page and adding dates may be very helpful to you as well.
- Don’t worry about skipping pages or not having enough room. It is easy enough to write (cont. page 47) and carry on a few pages later. If you have pages left blank, fill them with artwork, pressed flowers, quotes you like… whatever suits your fancy.
- No page needs to be totally filled. It is okay to waste space. It is okay to start a page and add to it for weeks, and it is okay to start a page that never gets finished because you don’t need it any more.
- It is okay to cross things out, have scribbles, etc. Perfection is not necessary.
- No book has to be decorated. That’s up to you.
- Do what makes you happy. Your pages do not have to be perfectly matched like a team of horses. Some of my pages are written in pencil, others in ink. Others have fancy calligraphy, others are painted. I use cursive or block letters to write depending on how I am feeling.
- Write when you feel like writing, and decorate when you feel like decorating. I am usually in one mood or the other. I have pages and pages of undecorated content that I add when I am feeling studious, and when I am feeling creative I go back and add drawings or color.
Use whatever works for you, but it is good to plan ahead:
- Do you want to carry your book around with you? If so, use something that will fit in your bag or purse. A two inch binder is mighty useful but not mighty portable.
- If you will be using ink, do some testing to make sure that the pens you have will not bleed or smear on your paper.
- If you plan to decorate your pages with paint or watercolor, get an artist’s book or papers that can handle it.
- If you plan to be very artsy with your book, decide if lined paper will drive you crazy or not. If you want your pages to be highly organized, grid paper may be the best for you.
- My book often acts as a coaster or sits with the art supplies. There isn’t much room in my room for sacred objects. I bought a $3 journal for my book because I didn’t want to deal with the fuss of taking care of a beautiful $50 leather bound Etsy journal. I also didn’t want to worry about ‘ruining’ such a beautiful object with my writing or art. Buy or prepare a book that suits your needs so you do not become a servant to it.