Though there are a plethora of magickal books that my students accumulate, I recommend two to begin: the dream journal and the study journal.
Those of us who keep a dream journal know that when we begin tapping into our subconscious, we activate our dream-states. I see recording our dreams as a validation of our subconscious. If our subconscious is *trying* to communicate with our conscious mind, this is a great way of saying, “I’m listening.”
In those first few minutes when we return to consciousness, it’s important to jot down as much as we can remember. Often in the recording, more memories and details come to the surface.
But that’s such a drag first thing in the morning.
I am not a morning witch, I like a little coffee before I acknowledge the sun – or my husband. I have premature arthritis, so this means that trying to hold a pen first thing in the morning is torture. Not to mention, trying to read the resulting penmanship is added torment.
Technology is lovely here. I keep my phone next to my bed as an alarm – many people do. As many phones also have voice recorders, it is handy to grab the phone and fumble with the recorder and make a voice record of my dreams. Then, once a month, I dedicate a day to writing up my dream records. This way, I force myself to revisit the dreams, find connections between them, and find connections between my waking life and my dreaming life.
Secondly, the working journal. A lot of people call these grimories or books of shadows. I don’t. And I don’t encourage newbies to think of this journal the same way they will come to think of those books later. A grimore is an instruction book – this is where, later in studies, scholars will write out the construction of rituals (moon phase, planetary confluences and times, and the ritual itself). For me, a book of shadows is a work of art – a collection of spells that have proven effective and rituals that have been completed are recorded and saved for posterity.
This note if for those students early in their studies:
Right now, you are just “keeping notes.” What you are recording now are not the finished products that you will want to record in a Book of Shadows. And they are not the kind of magickal workings you will want to record in a grimore. Think of it as “class notes.” I recommend a plain, blank book that appeals to you. A spiral notebook, a legal pad, whatever. I think it’s important not to use something that looks too special. Somehow when we write in a “fancy” book, we feel the need for our thoughts and words to be “worthy” of it’s fanciness. This is tantamount to self-sabotage. Often our gut feelings are not fancy, but they are our best source of information. We should write them down, no matter how plain they seem. So, a plain book is better.
I use a moleskin journal – only because I am gifted these so often by both magickal and secular students. It’s funny. I received my first one from a secular graduate student. I used it. My secular undergraduate students saw me write in it and at the end of that semester, I was gifted three more. Now, I have one for each of my secular courses, one for my secular research, one for Pagan teaching, and one for Occult studies. Inevitably, at the end of a particularly good semester, students (secular and religious alike) who are particularly moved by course content will give me a new moleskin journal, because they see I like them. I seems right to me – to record the information to be disseminated to my next batch of students in a book given me by their predecessors.
Also (and I steal this piece of advice, unabashedly, from a fellow Pagan teacher), do not erase from your journal. You may single-line cross-out but do not blacken-out your thoughts. You may need to go back and read that thing which you felt the need to censor.
One of my “rules,” if you will, is not to erase the ink from a learning journal, as in doing so one erases the learning that comes from investigation. Rather, we all work to accept our past, however scarred or haunted, in order to move forward. Denial doesn’t work for me. It smacks of self-hatred and stagnation. . . . We cannot erase these moments. We must give them the nod. After all, they brought us here.
My “day job” requires my students to expect three hours of homework for each hour in the classroom. How many of us would pursue occult studies if our first mentor required so much as six hours a week? Certainly, I spend that much time and more now – but I never would have then.
In the beginning, I ask that students spend a “regular” amount of time with their journals. As long as it’s part of a routine, getting in the habit of a few minutes a day beats waiting until you have a block of time, in my opinion. As we busy people know, those blocks never come. If all a beginner can afford is 15-30 minutes, as long as those few minutes occur at a regular interval, the time can be beneficial. Eventually, students want to increase that block of time. It’s easier to increase 20 minutes to 40 minutes than it is to come up with 40 minutes, right?
I also recommend a particular time for ritual. Whether it’s the simple observance of sabbats (holidays) and esbats (moon phases), or whether you set aside a particular time of each solar week (Monday seems best for angelic work). Ritual can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how organized you are and how elaborate you want to get. A pragmatic earth-work can take as little as 20 minutes whereas the Armageddon inducing Abremelin takes six months!
Blessings, Quarks, and 93!
 Just a note, ritual is not necessarily “casting.” Sure you are raising energy, but I see ritual as more “articulation” where I see casting as “working” with that energy to manifest change rather than just acknowledging and appreciating it (as in ritual). I instruct that my students do not cast until they have a little more information under their belts.