Or, how do cats herd themselves?
Given Pagans’ predilection for individuality and eschewing authority, we often talk about organizing ourselves as “herding cats.” But what do we do when there is no one “riding herd” on us as individuals? Whether or not you participate in a larger group, keeping your own knowledge organized can be an important part in making sure you are actually learning and growing over time, as well as creating a resource for yourself and others to rely on in the future.
Thus, with apologies to the Llewellyn authors of the popular series on the Witch’s Tools, I encourage you to use the magical tool known as the Witch’s Three-Ring Binder.
A three-ring binder is an extremely useful way of organizing your knowledge. No, it’s not nearly as romantic as writing all your studies in a venerable hand-bound book with artisanal paper made from the bark of your own favorite willow tree using a feather quill with ink made from burning rue. If you can manage all of that and also keep up your studies and practices and the rest of your life, more power to you. I can’t. Given the choice between waiting until that magical time accidentally drops in my lap and neglecting the romance in favor of actually learning and improving my work in the time and space available to me, I choose the latter. So a three-ring binder, often made at least in part or whole from material written on a computer and printed out, is a perfectly serviceable tool and one I encourage you to explore.
Creating my notebooks about different areas of study (herbs, minerals, Tarot) gives me a chance to review and revise all the information I can think of on a particular topic. Once the notebook is created, it is a place to collect new notes and ideas, and revising it every few years or so becomes a way to solidify my learning and highlight avenues for new study and practice. Most of this I could keep on a computer just as well – but I am old-fashioned enough to think a little better with a pen and paper on some things, and I find it easier to turn to a shelf to locate an alphabetical page or an index entry when I need to look something up rather than a list of text files. I look forward to the magical creations of wikis and apps and so much more that future generations will dazzle us with, but for now, this hybrid paper-and-computer method works best for me.
It’s solid enough to make it easy to use for reference during ritual, while cooking, or doing readings, but not so permanent that I can’t revise it at need. And honestly, after a while, even a basic binder starts to acquire some romance of its own, when I think of all the things I’ve used it for.
That’s why one of the rewards I offer to my supporters on Patreon – for just three dollars a month – is a page from one of my three-ring notebooks, giving an entry on magical materials such as herbs, trees, minerals, oils, teas, incenses, and more. This month’s example covers the herb chamomile, with its names, cautionary warnings, correspondences, and suggestions for uses in magic. If you’re interested, go check it out. I’ll also be asking for feedback on which topics you want to see the most of, so shout out if there’s an entry you want to see first.