The term ‘Book of Shadows’ (often abbreviated to BOS) is a very evocative one, but what does it mean and where does it come from? The Book of Shadows is the core document of the Wiccan tradition. It contains the key liturgy of the tradition including the ceremonies of initiation and that of the seasonal festivals, as well as information on other significant practices. Each initiate copies their initiator’s Book of Shadows by hand and is oathbound not to share it outside the tradition.
In this way the core rituals and techniques are preserved and perpetuated down the initiatory line. Additionally, each initiate may add and evolve the material within their Book of Shadows as they progress in knowledge, experience and understanding. The result of this is that different initiatory lines may possess slightly different Books of Shadows with an identical core and unique variations. This principle is elucidated by the author and witch Frederic Lamond in his book Fifty Years of Wicca, when he recounts being told by Gerald Gardner that:
“The Book of Shadows is not a Bible or Quran. It is a personal cookbook of spells that have worked for the owner.”
<1> The Religion of Babylonia & Assyria, Jastrow, 1893, also quoted in The Book of Witches, Hueffer, 1908
<2> An Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft: With Observations Upon Matters of Fact, Hutchinson, 1718
Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ https://amzn.to/3Ay4HJr. Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.