Bright Blessings, Witches! It’s time for another post in our Magickal Tool Care Series! This week’s topic is all about Book of Shadows and Grimoires. In this post we’ll go over definitions and the differences between the two, upkeep, and how to build them from the ground up. Let’s go!
I’d like to take a minute here and say a few things. It has been argued that because the term Book of Shadows comes from Wiccan tradition it can only be used by Wiccans. While that may have been true at one point, current day witches walking different paths make and use their own Book of Shadows. The same applies to you and your craft, if you wish.
Also, this post is not to stimulate argument but rather instigate discussion. I make it a point to remain as neutral as possible when writing all of my posts, with this being no different. Personally, I use the term ‘grimoire’ and ‘Book of Shadows’ interchangeably. If you do not, that’s cool, too.
Where does the word ‘grimoire’ come from?
magician’s manual for invoking demons, 1849, from French grimoire, altered from grammaire “incantation; grammar” (see grammar). Also compare gramary, glamour.
Where does the phrase ‘Book of Shadows’ come from?
A man known as the “Father of Wicca”, Gerald Gardner, invented the term. We first see Book of Shadows being used in the 1950s when he introduced the concept to initiates of his Bricket Wood coven. According to Gardner, a Book of Shadows is a personal tome that contains a collection of a practitioner’s magick spells.
There are several discrepancies surrounding Gardner and his claims of the term’s origin. Apparently, he said that witches have kept their own Book of Shadows since ancient times. He also claimed that a practitioner’s Book of Shadows was burned after their death to so that no one would know they were a witch. The coven’s High Priestess, Doreen Valiente, disputes these statements saying that Gardner stumbled upon the term in a magazine from 1949.
Regardless of the phrase’s origin, it has evolved from a Wiccan-only practice to be included in a myriad of paths followed by a multitude of people.
WHAT IS A GRIMOIRE?
A grimoire, also known as a spell book or book of spells, is basically a compendium on how to perform magick. Topics typically include:
- how to make magickal items, like amulets and talismans
- how to invoke deities, spirits, demons, angels, etc.
- how to perform magick spells, rituals, and cast charms
- how to perform divination
- lists of ingredients and their magickal correspondences
It is also believed that the books themselves are imbued with magickal powers.
WHAT IS A BOOK OF SHADOWS?
As aforementioned, the Book of Shadows originated within the Neo-Pagan religion of Wicca. Traditionally, it was the ultimate book that contained instructions on how to perform magickal rituals and the religious tenets of Wicca. It used to be that covens only had one Book of Shadows kept by either the High Priest or High Priestess. This proved to be impractical and soon the rule became obsolete.
Historically, a grimoire can be thought of a personal journal documenting the practitioner’s magickal journey versus a Book of Shadows which was used communally by a Wiccan coven to contain its tenets and practices. In current day, however, the terms are often used interchangeably by practitioners of all walks of the craft.
Again, I cannot place enough emphasis on using your grimoire OR Book of Shadows in whatever way you wish. Call it what you want. Put what you want into it. Let others see it or hide it away. At the end of the day, it is YOUR practice and YOUR magickal book.
WHAT DOES A GRIMOIRE OR BOOK OF SHADOWS LOOK LIKE?
As much as a personal diary looks different according to its author, the same goes for Book of Shadows and grimoires. It can be like the media portrays, an oversized leather-bound tome filled with sepia-colored sheets of parchment containing handwritten spells and enchantments. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, it can be digital, utilizing an app to compile rituals, correspondences, and the like.
How you choose to document your magickal experience is ultimately up to you. Try out different forms to see what you vibe with. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!
Personally, I created my own line of printable Book of Shadows pages that I added to a three ring binder in plastic page protectors. This has proven handy when casting as the pages don’t get wet or smudged by errant ingredients. In the video below (this TikTok account belongs to our sister-site Candle Cross Coven) you can see the first set. You can check out our Etsy shop here.
WHAT DO YOU PUT INTO A GRIMOIRE OR BOOK OF SHADOWS?
As you are the creatrix within your craft, the same goes for your tools. The Book of Shadows or grimoire is especially intimate to a practitioner. It’s the ultimate record of successes and failures, references, correspondences, instruction, ideas, etc.
Here is a list of ideas for what you can add to your magickal book:
- A Dedication Page
- Gratitude Journal
- Personal Astrology
- Tarot Card Spreads
- Moon Phases
- Book Reading List
- Magickal Tools
- Spells Tried
- Spells to Try
- Journal Prompts
- The Wheel of the Year
- Altar Ideas
- Dream Journal
- Color Magick
- How to Cast a Circle
- Shadow Work
- Ancestor Work
- Kitchen Magick
- Energy Work
- Candle Magick
- Sex Magick
- The Fae
This list barely scratches the surface! As your path progresses, you will come to discover new topics that catch your interest. In six months you could find yourself completely immersed in a topic which you had no idea even existed. Thus the power of magick, my friends.
PROTECTING YOUR GRIMOIRE OR BOOK OF SHADOWS
While other tools in your practice need to be cleansed and charged, your grimoire or Book of Shadows should be approached differently. Because your book holds your personal energy and intimate works related to your craft, it is naturally imbued with your personal auric footprint. Instead of cleansing and charging, you should concern yourself with protecting it.
TWO WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR PHYSICAL MAGICK BOOK
A simple way to magickally protect your physical grimoire or Book of Shadows is to use Dogwood Oil. Anoint your index and middle finger of your dominant hand and trace the perimeter of the front AND back cover. This seals in your magick while keeping the contents for intended eyes only.
Another layer of protection for your physical magick book is to charm a cloth wrap you’ll keep your grimoire or Book of Shadows in. Velvet and silk are excellent choices. Cleanse your fabric using your preferred method (smoke, vocalization, sound, etc.) and charge during a Waning Moon (great for protection magick and warding off evil). In the morning after your cloth has soaked up the moon’s rays, hold it in your hands and tell it its purpose: “You are my grimoire’s/Book of Shadows’ protector.”
Wrap your book in its protective cloth whenever not in use. Be sure to maintain its magick, using your intuition as a signal for when it is time for a recharge. If you don’t feel confident in your intuitive abilities yet, a good rule of thumb is to recharge once a month.
To keep your digital magickal book from prying eyes use a very strong password – one with lots of special characters and numbers – that cannot be easily guessed. Change your password often and visualize its contents safe and protected from leaks and intrusion.
HOW TO STORE YOUR BOOK OF SHADOWS OR GRIMOIRE
The makeup of your personal book determines how you should store it. If it is physical and is kept wrapped when not in use, simply keep it on your altar or other hallowed space. If you choose to skip the wrap you can also keep it where you deem appropriate, but run a cloth over it from time to time to keep any dust at bay.
Digital magick books are obviously kept in whatever device you use. Again, make sure your change the password often as your attention is a marked action of respect for the contents of your grimoire or Book of Shadows.
While a grimoire or Book of Shadows is different from other magickal tools, they still need upkeep and respect. Do you have a magickal tome? What do you call it? Let me know in the comments! And as always, Bright Blessings and Happy Crafting!