In magic, you'll quickly discover that tools and symbols are nearly inseparable from one another, which is why I've included them together as a section for your Book of Shadows. As you read this section, it's important to remember that a symbol is no less potent than what it represents in the sacred space. For example, since a cup has basically a circular shape, it can "become" the goddess, the element of water, or the moon in the sacred space (the womb of creation)! Anything bearing a lozenge or oval shape can be used similarly. This means that symbols, tools, and their respective meanings give us a lot of material to work with in designing a truly personalized, visionary religious system.
Magical Symbols Truthfully, nearly any shape or design can become a magical symbol simply by intending it to be so, then using it accordingly. However, having something to start with helps! Throughout human history people have used basic geometric shapes to represent what they perceived as important archetypes in the universe. Exactly what each shape meant in each setting varied, of course, since symbolism is highly subjective. Be that as it may, symbols are very important to all magical work. We use them in visualization, we use them in spells, we even use them in the way we move in the sacred circle.
So, how does one choose which symbols to include in a Book of Shadows?
That's not an easy question, but any symbols that strike a strong immediate response deep within you are worth consideration. Also symbols that you connect quickly with a specific meaning are good choices for inclusion.
For example, if you asked most people what a red cross represents, they'd likely say something like "health" or "blood" without too much thought. These are the kinds of symbols you're looking for - those that you instinctively know an d associate with a one- or two-word theme.
For the purpose of this study, I've confined the following list to common, easily drawn emblems.
Ankh While more useful to those practicing an Egyptian form of magic, the symbol of the ankh has been adopted by popular culture and is a wonderful representation of life's vital energy and fertility. Hint: For those who follow either Osiris or Isis as deities, the ankh is a suitable holy symbol for you to use in honoring these powers. Transfer this information into the gods/goddess section of your spellbook.
Cauldron The cauldron has some associations with the triangle because of its three legs, yet its shape makes it a symbol of the goddess, especially in her generative aspect. In many religious myths, when someone drinks from the goddess's well, they receive inspiration, visions, magical knowledge, healing, or become immortal. In Wicca, a cauldron is often part of ritual work, and some people like to keep one on their altar to represent the feminine force of creation. Special note for your god and goddess section:
T he cauldron can represent Indra (India), Odin (Norse), Cerridwen (Celtic), the Lady of the Lake (Arthurian), the Fates (Greco-Roman), and Wyrd (Saxon)
just to name a few!
Circle One of the most important symbols for Wicca, the circle represents oneness and the ever-moving wheel of time and life. Wiccans meet in circles, a protected sacred space, to show that each member is an important part of the whole, and a part of the magic ultimately created.
Historically speaking, circles have been used as a base symbol to help represent many other things. For example, a circle with a dot in the middle equates to the sun, three interlocking circles represent the trinities of body-mind-spirit, son-father-grandfather, and maiden-mother-crone.
Cross Many cultures used a cross to represent the meeting point around which the four seasons, directions, elements, etc. revolved. Crossroads, in numerous settings, similarly symbolize a meeting ground between this world and the next. Among the Celts, crosses were always equidistant to visually depict balance between the mental and spiritual, masculine and feminine, sounds and silences.
Interestingly, crosses are symbols of more than just the Christian savior.
Wotan had a cross, as did Frey, Asshur (Assyrian), Anu (Assyrian), Indra (India), and Hecate (Greek), just to name a few. Hint: Copy this last paragraph into your section on gods and goddesses or cross-reference it for future use.
Dot or Point The dot or point symbolizes the self and a place of beginnings. It represents creativity, making something out of nothing, and focus on and attention to detail. It denotes an end and a new start or emphasis, as in a period at the end of a sentence. Hint: Use a dot as a focal point for meditation to fix your attention, then slowly let your vision blur. Make notes of this technique and its success or failure in your meditation section of the spellbook.
Hexagram In Judaic tradition, this is the Star of David and Seal of Solomon, both of which have protective, fortune-bringing power. If you think of the hexagram as two interconnected triangles (one pointing up, and the other pointing down) you can see why this association exists. These two triangles bring balance and unity between male and female, the elements, and humankind and divinity. Hexagrams appear frequently in old grimoires as part of spirit-calling rituals, or potent spells where extra precaution was prudent.
Knot Knots represent the sometimes tangled course of destiny, and they're also a very potent symbol of binding or releasing energy. For example, in many marriage rituals the woman's knots (hair or clothing) would be untied to encourage fertility. In some modern magical traditions, the number of knots in one's belt represents a specific level of magical achievement.
In Russian and Hebrew mystical traditions magic was so strongly tied with this symbol that the word for Witch or Wizard translates as "knot tier."
In several other settings the word knot is synonymous with amulet! This makes the knot an excellent symbol to use for containing or liberating any energy we create. Hint: You may want to copy this last information into your spell section, or cross-reference it there.
Line A line marks one's boundaries or territory. It carves out a path, or creates a division over which you will not pass. It denotes finding direction. A line moving upward has more spiritual connotations, while one moving left to right deals with Earthly matters. An angled line to the right might represent keeping one foot on the ground, while one angled slightly to the left might symbolize striving for spiritual "uprightness."
Pentagram Basically the Witch's cross, the pentagram represents all the elements working together with the self and spirit to create magic. In many ancient settings the pentagram depicted authority, protection, and truthfulness.
Modern Wiccans often correlate each point with something specific, the top being Spirit or Ether. Moving clockwise from this point, the right top point is the element of Air and the seat of human intellect, the right bottom point is the Earth and material concerns, the left bottom point is Fire and passion, and the left top point is Water and the seat of our emotions.
(Mind you, this varies depending on who you talk to.)
Spiral Ancient people in many cultures used the spiral as a symbol of growth or diminishing (depending on its direction), natural and human cycles, and the ebb and flow of time itself. When moving inward, the spiral can symbolize self-focus, the will, or deep meditative states. A spiral moving outward manifests that will and whatever was learned from Spirit in moments of quiet reflection. Finally, twin, or double, spirals represent opposites - the yin/yang - melding into a harmonious oneness as in DNA. Hint: Visualize an inward moving spiral around the area of your navel when you need to center and ground yourself. Copy this technique into the visualization section of your spellbook, along with the results achieved.
Square The square represents the four corners of creation, the elements (Earth-Air-Fire-Water), the four seasons, the four-part day (sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight), equinoxes and solstices (as well as cross-quarter days), stability, truthfulness, and safety. The square provides foundations to our dreams. It is the "real" world within which we make concrete efforts to help manifest our magic.
Think about it: A square is very important to creating sacred space because we use the four points (Earth/north, Air/east, Fire/south, Water/west) as the "dots" around which the sphere of protection is cast. This provides safety and foundations for your magic!
Star In humankind's ancient past the stars were alive and, as any spirit, participated in human affairs. Some gods and goddesses resided in the stars, while other goddesses had stars as sacred symbols or as part of their name including Astarte, Venus, and Diana. In modern times, stars are most strongly connected to wish magic, goal-oriented spells, and to the prophetic art of astrology.
Thor's Hammer Similar in construction to a Tao cross (which looks like a T), Thor's hammer is most suited to those called to a Norse tradition, but has been popularized in recent years through jewelry. What most people don't know is that this symbol has been a favorite protective amulet for thousands of years! And, Thor is not the only one to bear a potent hammer either - Ananke, a Greek goddess of fortune, used a hammer to create human destinies and literally linked our souls forever with the ancient powers!
Triangle A triangle represents both the triune nature (see circles) and a kind of stability between the energies that war within us. The mind wants us to think, the body wants us to feel, and the spirit wants us to be. Since the perfect triangle has equal sides, this is also what we strive for:
The triangle is the base symbol for the pyramids, one of the greatest representations of human spirit seeking after the divine. A downward pointing triangle is a feminine symbol; the upward pointing triangle is considered masculine.
Wheel In Wicca, all things are part of a great wheel, which implies continual motion and progress. The sun rises, sets, and returns again. People are born, live, and are then reborn to a new existence. This is one reason why the annual cycle of Wicca is represented by an eight-pointed wheel - the center of which is the individual. Also, there is an excellent example of wheel symbolism and interpretive value in all Tarot decks: The Wheel of Fortune. Wheels are another popular emblem for various deities including Arianrhod (Celtic), Kali (India), Vortumna (Etruscan), and Fortuna (Rome).
Here is a list of some other symbols that you may wish to research for inclusion in your Book of Shadows: signs of the zodiac; labyrinth-maze; body parts-positions; planetary symbols; horseshoe; scale; mirror; web; arrow; trident; thread; key.
Once you've compiled such a list, the next obvious question becomes, what do you do with it? You can do a lot of things. Say, for example, you're trying to come up with a good spell or charm to help safeguard a relationship that's on the rocks. Reading over your list of symbols, you notice a heart for love, and the circle for protection. From here putting together a spell or charm becomes much simpler. For example, take the image of a heart and draw a circle around it in salt on your altar. Leave this in place until the negativity passes.
In much the same manner symbols can be added into visualization, path working, and ritual. The only real rule is that all the symbols used must represent the goal at hand, and must also work harmoniously together.