In a nutshell…
This is a year-long planner/organiser – with a witchy twist! Not only does it highlight dates of significance to Pagans and witches, it also has (quite extensive) passages on things of a magical/Pagan nature, including spells, festivals (including those of other religions), rituals and symbols. It also includes moon phases and significant astrological events each day.
What did I particularly like about it?
As a newbie Pagan, I’ve found it really useful to have such an accessible and friendly planner to help me keep track of notable Pagan dates – especially the Sabbats and the Full Moons. Trying to memorise the Wheel of the Year and other significant dates can be tough for new Pagans and witches, so this book really did help.
I also like it simply as a way of reinforcing my identity as a Pagan. While I did take the step of covering my Datebook (I don’t actually want everyone I meet to know that I’m into Paganism/witchcraft), I feel a little bit of personal pride every time I open it up – it reminds me of the Path I’m on and how much I enjoy living the Pagan way every day. It’s actually a source of comfort – I feel good just knowing that this book, my little token of Paganism, is always in my bag. Perhaps it does have a magic of its own.
As I mentioned above, the Datebook includes a lot of additional text about spells, etc. which can be interesting to flick through if, say, you’re stuck on a train journey with nothing to read (although all this text does have its downside, which I’ll get to in a moment).
Finally, I actually really like the production of the book itself. It’s a paperback of non-gloss paper (easy to write on), cheaply spiral-bound. Although you could call it “cheap,” this is actually a lot more practical than the better-quality hard-back datebooks, diaries and planners out there – it’s much lighter, the spiral-bind means that the spine doesn’t break as it tends to do with square-bound books that are used heavily. I’m sure that this method of production helps to keep the cost down; everything Llewellyn tends to be expensive, but I’m sure that having cheaper materials has made this diary cheaper for the consumer than it would be if they had focussed more on quality. My datebook is still in very good condition even after daily use over nearly a year – not a single page has fallen out and it looks like it could last a good deal longer. In fact, its durability, combined with its lightness, is a really big selling point.
Was there anything I didn’t like about it?
The biggest downside, as with a lot of Llewellyn publications, is that it’s made for a US audience. This is a big problem for UK users – not only are none of the UK bank holidays and festivals are included, but some of the moon phases are slightly off due to the time zone difference between the US and the UK. All the dates therefore have to be double-checked.
Additionally, while the additional text is fairly interesting, I thought most of it was unnecessary and used up useful space – especially the text that occurs within the diary pages. It uses up a lot of space, which means the space for each day is rather cramped – I prefer having lots of space so I can write lots of things when planning my days. The illustrations throughout the text are pretty but, again, they use up space – I’d have preferred fewer. Additionally, there’s only a single page for notes at the back – I write a lot, so it would’ve been really useful if they’d cut down on the text, and given much more room for notes. Lots of witches write a lot because they’re constantly thinking about rituals and spells and other musings, so I think other people would feel this way too. I would’ve loved to have been able to use this datebook a bit like a Book of Shadows, with plenty of space to write my own material.
Finally, some of the little bits of text included in the date entries seemed very irrelevant to me. Every day is given a “colour,” but without any explanation as to why that colour has been assigned to that day – were they simply arbitrarily assigned by the editor to each day without any real meaning? Then there are occasional little factoids like, “The Hindu god Kurma relates to the virtue of perseverance,” but the date it’s on will have absolutely no relevance to Kurma or Hinduism or anything else. These factoids again take up space. I would have preferred facts that were more relevant to the date (more inclusions of important dates from other religions, for example), for no facts at all.
How has it helped my spiritual development?
As I mentioned, it’s really helped me as a newbie Pagan to keep tabs of significant dates, and I really liked just having something of a Pagan nature on me that I could use everyday. However, as I’ve now become more familiar with Paganism and as so many of the important dates for me are Shinto rather than Pagan, this book has become less useful to me. I suspect that for 2015, I will buy a more neutral datebook (that’s more UK-centric) and simply write in all the important Pagan and Shinto dates. But that’s certainly not to say that I didn’t like the Witches’ Datebook or didn’t find it very useful initially – it’s simply the case that I no longer feel it’s necessary as I am more familiar with the Pagan year now.
Would I recommend this book to others?
For beginners of Paganism / Witchcraft, perhaps – as I said, the fact that it’s US-centric is a big downside for UK users, who have to exercise some caution when relying on it to get their dates right. If Llewellyn (or any other company) were to produce a UK edition of a Pagan/Witch datebook, I’m pretty sure I’d snap it right up.