CRASH COURSE | Building an e-Grimoire in Obsidian

With organization comes empowerment.

Lynda Peterson

Hello Darlings,

It’s Dahlia, and I hope your month has been going well so far! I apologize for the unexpected break in posting, but we needed a week or so to plan a few things. More info coming as we can.

But we’re back and, as promised in our first Crash Course post about grimoires – which you can read HERE if you haven’t or just need a refresher – today, I’ll be walking you through how we set up our current ‘Book of Mirrors’ in the note-taking app, Obsidian.

First though, some groundwork…

Obsidian

Obsidian is a note-taking and productivity app. Part of what makes it so powerful is its simple markdown language, but I’d say most of its punch arguably lies in its templates and its ability to chain notes together into a useable, self-reinforcing web of knowledge.

Obsidian pairs excellently with the Zettelkasten note-taking system, and honestly, we really do recommend it to witches, students, and absolutely anyone who writes. You can find out more about Obsidian and download it for yourself HERE.

Now, on to our own devices…

The Set-Up

image showing the Obsidian 'create or open vault' dialog

(a note: we were transitioning to a new set-up with this vault; that’s why our test ‘Book of Methods’ is visible on the sidebar of the inner window)

When you open Obsidian for the first time, you’ll be prompted to open or create a vault.

Vaults in Obsidian are essentially your workspaces. We currently have three active vaults open at once – our Book of Mirrors, a vault for school, and a vault for ‘the brand’ (or, ya know, keeping track of blog posts and what-have-you).

You may have to play around with things a bit to get to a set up that works well for your own workflow, but for now, you can start simple with just one vault, which you’ll build into your grimoire.

similar image with the vault name 'Book of Mirrors' filled out

Choose a name for the vault and a location you want the local files stored in.

Once that’s done, you’ll be placed in your new vault and able to access the settings that affect that vault – theme, plug-ins, etc. Click on the ‘Settings’ gear on the lower part of the left-hand panel to bring up the options.

In the standard editor, we usually set our vault to be able to ‘fold’ or ‘collapse’ headings and lists, just for organization’s sake. You can play around with these options pretty freely until you find the best combination for you and your workflow.

(I believe we also clicked over to the ‘Appearance’ tab and installed the ‘Cyber Glow’ theme, which you’ll see throughout because it’s our current favorite.)

the settings for the Obsidian vault

Next, you’ll want to click over to ‘Core Plug-ins’. This is where Obsidian stores all the built-in plug-ins you can use. For our purposes, I’d suggest switching on ‘Starred Pages’, ‘Templates’ and ‘Daily Notes’.

‘Starred Pages’ allows you to effectively have shortcuts within your vault, popping you over to specific pages with just a click. This is really useful for pages you update or refer to often, such as the Table of Contents we’ll set up later.

‘Templates’ allows you to do just that – create template files you can then use to populate other files. For our purposes, this is most powerful when used alongside ‘Daily Notes’.

‘Daily Notes’ auto-generates a new note each calendar day. Just click the calendar icon in the left-hand panel to bring it up. We’ll set up these plug-ins to work together next.

an Obsidian window with 'core plug-ins' selected

First, you’ll want to create a new Folder.

To do that, find the three icons below the folder, magnifying glass, and star. The center one, the folder icon, will create a new top-level folder you can store your notes in.

an Obsidian window. No file is open in the main panel, but the mouse is hovering over the 'New Folder' icon

To start off with, I’d suggest creating three folders: ‘daily notes’, ‘templates’, and ‘uploads’ (you can start them with an underscore to force them to the top of the folder list).

‘daily notes’ can hold anything you keep track of daily – a daily Tarot or oracle draw, the moon phase, meditation or journal notes, a dream journal, etc.

‘templates’ holds all of the base files you use to quickly build out profiles for crystals and herbs, correspondence lists, etc.

and finally ‘uploads’ will store all of the images you place on your pages so they don’t clutter up your other notes. (Yes, you can upload images. And embed files. ‘Tis awesome.)

a similar Obsidian window with three folders in the left-hand side panel, labeled daily notes, templates, and uploads.

Now, you’ll want to set the path the plug-ins can use (don’t worry, it’s super-easy).

Open your vault settings with the gear icon and scroll down to ‘plug-in options.’ Clicking on ‘Daily Notes’ will let you set the folder to store generated notes in, as well as a template file to use when generating the note (more on that in a minute).

Click into the ‘Templates’ options and set the folder to the ‘templates’ folder you’ve created. Now you’ll have easy access to any template you create by clicking the ‘two sheets of paper’ icon in the left-hand sidebar!

Obsidian settings for the 'daily notes' plugin

Now’s where we start getting to the fun part – actual notes!

Go back to the lower top-bar and choose the left-most icon – the one that looks like a sheet of paper. This is the icon you’ll click whenever you need a new note.

Obsidian window with the mouse hovering over the 'New note' icon.

First, let’s create a template we can use each day in our daily notes.

Since we’re a multiple system, the same person isn’t always running the meatsuit, so I start with a ‘NAME’ field. Under that is our daily draw, the current moon phase (which will be linked to a static note explaining what that phase means energetically), and any relevant tags that come up that day.

Below that is a ‘JOURNAL’ heading and space to talk about the day.

This is just a super-simple framework, of course – feel free to customize as you see fit!

(To place the template file in the proper folder, just click and drag. Then, pop back into settings and set the file path in the drop-down.)

an Obsidian window. The daily notes template is open in the main panel.

Now, the way you choose to organize your own book is of course up to you and how you best process information you take in, but in our case, we’ve opted for a foldable ‘table of contents’ approach.

I created another folder called ‘a map’ (starting with an underscore to force it to the top of the list), and created two more notes: a general tags list, and an overall Table of Contents, which links specifically to other notes.

Headings and lists keep the whole thing organized, and a nice intro quote adds a little flair ^w^

(I also added a general ‘notes’ folder to store any created notes, since I don’t feel like organizing them all by hand into folders on the sidebar like we tried to do initially.)

an Obsidian window with the 'Table of Contents' note open in the main panel. There's a quote from the movie 'Doctor Strange' at the top, above a list of Headings for Divination, Runes, Tarot, The Suit of Wands, and the Moon Phases.

Part of the power of Obsidian isn’t just note-taking, but note-linking.

Enclosing something in [[double square brackets]] creates a link to another note, titled whatever is between the brackets. This feature really shines when building correspondence lists or linking journal entries together.

For example, you might create a separate profile for each crystal associated with, say, the heart chakra, and link to them from the main heart chakra note. You could do the same for herbalism knowledge – create one note for the condition, and link it to the profiles of herbs that work against that condition.

In this way, all of the information you have about something, and honestly even information you have about seemingly unrelated topics, can all be woven together into a usable web of knowledge that you can enter into from any point you need to.

You can actually see this web visually at any time by clicking the icon that looks vaguely like a molecule in the left-hand side panel.

The graph view in Obsidian. Each note appears as a filled-in circle with lines connecting it to other filled-in circles, other notes.

And that’s… about it for set-up, really. From here, you can build out your vault, your web of knowledge, any way you see fit.

The markdown for formatting in Obsidian is mostly really simple, too – single asterisks for italics, double asterisks for bold, double square brackets for links within the vault, and a whole bunch of others you can explore HERE.

There’s a lot to check out with Obsidian, honestly, but you really don’t need more than the base game to get an impressively powerful organization and knowledge-management system.

Obsidian is completely free for personal use, no account or sign-up required, so if this looks like something you think might help you on your path, I’d really suggest giving it a try for a few weeks and seeing how it changes your work and learning flow.

Over to You

So now it’s your turn – How will you build your e-grimoire? Would you like to draft a blessing note to keep at the ‘front’? Maybe MoCs (Maps of Content) are more your style over a strict Table of Contents. Whatever your workflow looks like, we’re here for it ^w^

If you’d like, you can pop into the comments here and tell us how you’re doing (just in general, or with Obsidian specifically). And if anything wasn’t clear or you have additional questions, you can absolutely ask us! We’re by no means experts, but we’ve been keeping up with things in Obsidian for over a month now, so we’ve worked out most of the bugs.

With all that said, I really hope this has been helpful (or at least interesting in some way), and we’ll see you all again very soon.

Love, as always,

Dahlia (he/they/faun/she)


One More Thing

… before you go.

Thanks so much for reading! If you like what we do here and think others would to, you’re more than welcome to share this post around to your witchy friends. And if you’d like to help us out financially (not required, of course, but deeply appreciated), you can always buy us a coffee! ^w^

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