The Many, Many Notebooks of a Writer and Witch


I’m a writer and a witch (also, an Animist, a Druidry student, a polytheist, and a general, eclectic Pagan). I also like to be organized and keep things in the places they belong.

All of that, plus the fact that I’m running a little shy on notebooks right now — nor can I afford to replace them at the moment — has got me thinking about all the different notebooks I use in general, and for Paganism specifically. I’ve seen lists that other Pagans have written and I liked them, but obviously being different people on different paths, our lists vary. So, for the curious, here  is my list of notebooks.

Book of Shadows — I really dislike that name for it, partially because people get the show Charmed stuck in their heads and can’t figure out what mine is really like. I usually just call it “my book” and if people aren’t familar enough with me to know what I’m talking about, I say “Grimoire”.

I’m working on my fourth or fifth (I think) BoS right now. Yeah, I’ve been doing this a long time. In each new notebook I copy down the things that I need to have in it, even if they’re in the others. Yes, I know, an abysmal waste of paper, but also a ritual and sanity saver. This one is kinda huge, so I probably have a ways to go before it’s full.

I was initially going to take and post pictures of each of the notebooks I disscussed for this post, but I’m not sure I will. Either way, some things just wouldn’t translate well. For instance, my favorite thing about my BoS is the smell. It has the accumulated scents of some years worth of incense, dirt, sand, grass, sage, lavendar, and scented candles absorbed into it’s pages. Smelling it always makes me feel safe, loved, and at peace.

I’ve had all kinds of BoS — ruled, cheap, blank, pricey, big, little — and I’ve gotta say, this one is one of my favorites. It closes with a leather thong, which I love, it has a pretty but meaningless design on the front, and I got it for free (though I tried to pay for it) from a place where I was volunteering. It doesn’t seem like an overly expensive piece of work, but it holds together well. It’s farily large and has big, blank pages. So far, my personal preferences for BoS notebooks are a) those that close b) bigger ones and c) those with blank pages.

I have spells, rituals, and prayers written in it.  Most of the stuff in it is Pagan, but not all of it. There are things from Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions and beliefs in there. I also keep magical item descriptions, descriptions of Deities, sigils and signs, folk wisdom, meditations, chakra information, and correspondences in it, among so many other things. In the front of the book is a blessing, and in the back I keep pertinent information from my natal chart. Right now, in mine, most of the spells and rituals are other people’s, with the sources written down, but some of them are mine. If you have a BoS or are thinking of starting one, it may look like mine or it may be completely different. There isn’t really a right way or a wrong way to do it.

Dream Journal — I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately. I kept a dream journal or two without terrible success when I was a teenager. I have no idea whatever happened to them, which is unusual because I still have most of the journals from most of my life, and I try, in a house with two chaos beasties and four cats to keep them organized. Then a bunch of years went by when I either wrote down dreams occassionally in my regular journal or just didn’t write them down at all. Finally, a few years ago, I decided to start keeping a dream journal again. I got one that was about the size I wanted, though the color didn’t appeal to me. Hey, my budget was limited and it was cheap! I kept that one for several years. I didn’t usually remember to write in it frequently and the damn thing kept getting lost. Also, boy was I ever wrong about the size! It was way too tiny and kept getting lost. Writing in it became more and more of a chore. It already feels like a chore sometimes, because, while I am lucky enough to both remember many of my dreams and I’m usually good at interpreting them, I don’t always feel like writing down and rehashing something that it feels like I just lived. Some of dreams are also so complex that writing them down and then penning my interpretations seems fairly overwhelming. The same applies if I remember multiple dreams from one night. Finally, with my chronic illness I have a regimen of medicine, followed by food, followed by supplements first thing in the morning, as well as throughout the day, which complicates matters.

For my second dream journal, I sent one of my partners to the pharmacy with loose instructions as to the size and type of journal I wanted. He got a great one. A cheap, ruled notebook, bigger than the last, but still on the small side (6 by 4 inches). It was fine, really. I’d prefer slightly bigger pages, but that size worked. The only two problems were that it didn’t seem as durable as my last one, and there weren’t enough pages — only sixty. That worked in my favor, because, while my first dream journal from my adult years (as opposed to teenagerhood) spanned years. This one only lasted from February of this year until today, which was a great boost to my self-esteem over the whole bussiness. It also gave me a huge sense of accomplishment, like filling a notebook usually does for me. BUT, in that amount of time, it got lost for two months. Additionally, while I wrote in it far more frequently than in my last one, it still wasn’t anywhere near as religiously as I’d hoped it would be. So what would happen with the next one if it didn’t get lost or if I wrote in it *gasp* every day?

For the third one I was able to get to the pharmacy myself. I contemplated getting the exact same kind as the second one because it had worked so well. But I really can’t afford to shell out money for a new dream journal every month or two and our house is short on storage space, so I don’t really want a whole stack of dream journals for just one year.

This one is a pharmacy brand, ruled notebook like the second one. But this is one is college ruled, a little bigger (7 by 5 inches), it has more pages (100, as opposed to sixty. I seem to recall the first one having 90 pages, by they were so small I don’t even think it counts), and it seems a whole lot sturdier. The thought that it might take me years to fill it worries me, but other than that, I’m very pleased.

In some of my journals, I keep quotes. Sometimes it’s just a random quote or a list of them that I like. But in my regular journals and my dream journals I usually have a specific quote, usually carefully chosen, on the first page(s), and sometimes more than one. It works as a focus point, a reminder, and almost a dedication of sorts.

For my first adult dream journal, the quote was Yeats: “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

The second was Langston Hughes. A few weeks before my first dream journal ended my Mom sent me a text paraphrasing one of his poems. I used the complete poem in the front of that dream journal. The poem was “Dreams”, which can be read in it’s entirety here:
http://m.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/dreams

For the third quote I chose Edgar Allan Poe: “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”.

I didn’t consciously choose poets for all three quotes, in fact, I only realized that while writing this. But in retrospect, it’s pretty cool. It also makes sense that poets would have some good quotes about dreams. I like all three quotes, but I also think the ones I chose reflect an evolution in my thinking over the years, which I like the thought of.

Druidry Journal — this is the most recent addition to my Pagan notebooks. I only started it in the early months of last year, or possibly in the winter or autumn preceading it (it’s not in front of me right now and I don’t have the energy to check). I initially began it to document my Candidate year in the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA). Now I’m also using it to document my Dedicant Year in Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF). The thought has occured to me to get a seprate notebook for ADF, and I may, but many of the requirements for both groups can be fulfilled by overlapping each other. Another solution is to get two new notebooks — one for ADF and one for both groups. That appeals to my sense of order,  but it also sounds like a recipe for crazy-making. Right now, the sole notebook I’m using for Druidry is a very nice, green leather, with “journal” embossed on the front, a bookmark, and gold-edged, blank pages. I was using a purple pen it to begin with, to more clearly delineate that it was something special and out of the ordinary, and because I have always liked the way purple and green look together. But I can rarely find the damn pen and can’t usually afford to buy new ones. So now I just use whatever, which usually means my favorite pens by Pilot Pens*. They bleed and smudge like crazy, but I love how smoothly they write and how long they last. Plus, they’re relatively cheap and I love the fact that they’re a company that doesn’t test on animals.

Divination and results journal — This journal is wholly theoretical at this point (I wonder if I put it in a box if it would exist or not). Right now, I keep track of divination results in either the back of my BoS or the “notes” pages of whatever book comes with my Oracle Card sets, and I have an app that saves Tarot card readings on my phone and tablet. But I don’t want to use up all the pages in my BoS with divination results, and I’d like to be able to keep all of my readings in one place.

So the plan is to get a notebook where I can keep all of my Divination card and Ogham readings, keep track of signs and synchronicities, including the meanings of things that recurringly seem to be trying to get my attention in nature, and the results of spells and rituals (that don’t belong in my Druidry notebook), and my notes and thoughts on them. I want it to have blank pages, so I can write things like Ogham in it easily. I also want it to be reasonably big for ease of writing and because I want to be able to draw visual depictions of the card spreads I use or any altar arrangements I set up. And I ideally want it to have a bookmark to keep track of my page and some way of staying closed, whether a tie, a clasp, or an elastic band. I’d also like it to be realatively cheap and very sturdy. Sounds like a tall order. But it might not be — my current BoS was free, would have been cheap if I’d paid for it, and fulfills all of those requirements except for the bookmark. And while my Druidry Journal was probably the most I spent on a notebook in my life, it was well worth the cost for something durable that I’ll probably use for years.

My Binder — this is just a regular three-ring binder. It has some papers in the front and back pockets and a bunch hole-punched and on the rings themselves. This is kind of a catch-all like my BoS, but even more so. It has stuff from all over the place. Mostly it’s spells, rituals, articles, and blog posts pertaining to Paganism that are either too long for me to copy into my BoS, or that I just haven’t gotten around to transcribing yet. Mostly this is the work of other people (though like my BoS, it’s for my own personal use, and I include the source on all papers in it), though occassionally, my own stuff winds up in there too.

My Regular Journal — This isn’t strictly speaking, a spiritual or religious journal, but for me, writing, and especially journaling is a spiritual practice. I get more easily stressed and overwhelmed when I don’t write frequently. I get out of sorts, and eventually become downright cranky. If it gets bad enough, I can’t sleep at night, which I already have problems with (thanks, steroids!) because I’m rolling over and over all the stuff I want to write and digest in my head. Then, sometimes it seems hugely overwhelming and I have trouble getting started again.

For my regular journal I’ve used hardbound notebooks by a company called Black ‘n’ Red for the past seven to nine years or so. They’re tied for the number one spot in my favorite kind of journals, except for two other kinds I used in my teens that aren’t made anymore.

I’ve written for my entire life, but in my early adulthood I had a dry spell of about two or three years. I first started keeping a journal again for the first time since I was a teen at the suggestion of my favorite aunt. I told her about my dry spell and she proposed trying to write every day. That was the journal I chose to use and I loved it so much I’ve stuck with it all these years.

My aunt’s suggestion didn’t work at first, but it was immeasurably helpful, just the same. My first BnR notebook spanned five years. The second lasted two. The third took place over nine months. The fourth took seven or eight months to fill. And my current one was only started last month and has a decent hunk of pages filled already.

Over the years, it has gotten easier to write in them regularly. This is partially due to my family and I becoming more organized over the years. My first BnR journal was lost more often than I knew where it was. The second was also frequently misplaced. But with all the later ones, they got lost less frequently and some not at all. In a similar vein, I now keep my journal either in my backpack (which I almost always have with me) when I’m not using it, or right next to my bed, or right next to me, which helps both with it not getting lost and with remembering to write in it/not being overwhelmed with fishing it out.

I’ve also made progress by making a conscious descision and true effort to write in it more frequently. Lately, I’ve been making a conscious effort to write in it, at least once a day, every day, or as close to that as I can manage. So far, I’ve been really successful. From August 29th, when I really got into the swing of it, until now, I’ve only missed two days, and there were some days I wrote twice.

Since the BnRs are all identical, except for the contents, it gives me a good idea of how much and how frequently I write in them. There are other variables: my handwriting size and number of typos changes depending on my mood and energy levels and I fill some pages at the back with random stuff — doctor’s appointments, to-do lists, monthly budgeting notes, etc. But mostly they’re a good gauge. They have a place in the front to write about the books contents, where I write where I lived, big markers that stuck in my memory from that peroid of time if they apply, and who I lived with. That last part may sound extreme but, while my husband and I have been together for years, we’ve had three people move in with us, two of them move out, and several temporary house guests — and we moved very frequently, though hopefully that is all behind us now.

My Freeform journal — Again, not specifically spiritual, but it applies. I mentioned BnRs are tied as my favorite notebooks. Moleskine are tied with them. I started using Moleskine because I wanted sturdy notebooks to write novels in and because, at the time, I was dissatisfied with my regular journals. See, when I write in my regular journal, I tend to be straightforward, sometimes even clinical, “This happened, then this, and then that.” Or I write, “I feel this way about this and that way about that (usually something I or someone else did, not about ideas in general”. Or I write stuff I want to do or things we need to buy. There are exceptions, I can rant about stuff with the best of them when I’m upset, I do often write about my emotions less technically, etc.

Since then, I’ve seen the value in this approach and I wouldn’t change my regular journal for the world, but at the time, I was dissatisfied. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t doing a lot of creative writing at that time and I didn’t feel that my regular journal helped with that (in retrospect, I think I was wrong, especially when I gave myself space to be creative in other notebooks, as well). But partially, I also felt constrained by my writing style, by the notebooks themselves, by not wanting to muck up my journal with other forms of writing.

My regular journals have ruled pages. And as I said, I wouldn’t change using them for the world. But my favorite journal I ever kept had blank, high quality pages. It was a mixture of journal entries, poetry, prose, quotes, song lyrics, pen sketches (most of which weren’t great), and whatever else. I wanted to recapture the feel, if not the contents of that notebook. So I bought a Moleskine and went to it. The blank pages helped liberate me and free my creativity. I use it far, far, less than my BnRs. It also goes walkabout far more often than they do. And it looks just like another Moleskine I have that has a very different purpose and I get them confused sometimes. Also, so much has changed since I started keeping it, I’m almost a different person. But nonetheless, I’m pleased with the results. It hasn’t become like my old freeform journal — yet. But I’m holding out hope. And I wouldn’t change that for the world either.

I have many, many other notebooks than just those. None of the rest are explicity spiritual as of right now, though in my opinion, some are more spiritual than others. But I also feel to some degree that they are all spiritual, since writing is a big part of my spiritual practice and also, I feel it’s a huge part of why I incarnated here this time around.

But in the interests of completion and for the curious, I’ll give a brief rundown of most of the rest of them, or at least their categories, without going into too much detail:

*short story notebooks
*essay notebooks
*poetry notebooks
*novel notebooks
*a to-do list notebook
*a medical log notebook
*a beautiful planner
*a notebook each for writing letters to my partners
*old notebooks from when I was younger

Well, I think that’s it! I didn’t intend for this post to be so long. If you made it all the way to the bottom of this, thanks for reading along. Hopefully this post will either help those new to Paganism see what some of their options are, or satisfy the curiousity of those who aren’t new to it, but wonder about the Paganism information keeping systems of others.

*Throughout this post, I occassionally referenced name brands of different notebooks and pens. I know that getting paid to blog ads about different products is a thing, but I wanted to let you know that isn’t what’s going on here. I genuinely like all the products I mentioned and would reccomend them to others, but I’m not getting paid to write about them. If I ever do do ads on my blogs, for one thing, at the moment, I don’t see myself putting them in the actual content. Or if I stand to gain something from posting something (like I did for my post about the bitten by books contest, and like I might do again for other contests by them or possibly from other things, I’ll say so). And aside from the ads that I don’t endorse, which wordpress  puts on free blogs sometimes, if I do put ads on my blogs, a) I’ll only ever put up ads for things I wholeheartedly believe in, and b) I’ll pipe up about it.

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