Grimoire: Part Three in the Magical Tools series
From the ladies of Charmed to Morgan le Fay and “the blackest spells in all the Wizard World,” everyone knows that a magician needs a magical book. Throughout history magicians have used “grimoires” to detail rituals, magic spells, and communiques with the spirit realm. For example, the Sefer Raziel HaMalakh – a Kabbalistic book – features an elaborate angelology, protective spells, and methods of creating amulets, among other things. Other historical grimoires include the Galdrabok [an Icelandic tome] and the Book of Abramelin the Mage.
Modern witches too use their own personal grimoires – sometimes called books of shadows.
Grimoire or Book of Shadows?
Is it called a grimoire or a book of shadows? If you ask me, it really doesn’t matter. But opinions differ on this issue. At Garden of the Queen, makes the point that historically, these two words describe two different things:
- A grimoire technically is a book of spells and has nothing really to do with a specific spiritual path. It functions as a manual of magic — a “how to” guide.
- A book of shadows refers to the book that is typically kept by Wiccans, a tradition perhaps started by Gerald Gardner. A BoS contains many things and is sometimes used as a journal or to record dreams.
The magic book — whatever you call it — grows and changes with the practitioner. Sometimes the book may be something more like what is kept by Wiccans, but over time may evolve into something else entirely. For that reason, I feel like the difference between the two terms is slight; I use them interchangeably.
A unique spellbook
Does it have to be a book?
Some people keep their notes in specially-made leather-bound books that look like movie props. Others prefer a three-ring binder with laminate pages. Still others opt for a digital grimoire; some witches keep theirs on Pinterest.
Books and files are common grimoires in the magical community. But stretch your creativity to create something that appeals to your sense of magic:
- An altered book: a fun way to reuse a dusty old book
- A scrapbook
- A video: magicians on Youtube create instructional videos that could perhaps be called pages in a grimoire.
- A personal wiki: could easily be shared among magicians
- A blanket: this could potentially be very interesting. Imagine a blanket-grimoire with pockets to hold small treasures. Something like this could convey the tradition of the “prayer blanket.”
You might choose to write in a “secret” script – just remember that such things may make ritual harder!
I wonder if the sublime and ethereal cave art of our ancestors may in fact be magical notation from an ancient wizard’s grimoire….
What do magicians keep in their magical books?
Whatever medium you choose, over time you will find that your grimoire has built up a lot of power and energy; it becomes a totem of sorts, like all other magical tools, a friend and ally on the path. Because of this, I bless amulets on top of mine.
Anything you personally find magical, spiritual, or inspiring can be kept inside. If your book becomes stuffed feel free to use more than one. I have two: a three-ring binder and a file on my computer.
- Prayers: if you find or write an especially moving prayer, keep it in the pages of your magic book. You might also include a prayer list and a gratitude list.
- Results: if you practice divination, including a summary of how each session went can help with your accuracy. Results could be compiled from rituals too.
- Dream symbolism: some say that “an uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter.” Try keeping Jungian archetypes, common dream symbols, and your own interpretations in your book of shadows. This makes it easier to practice various types of dream magic – as well as increasing your lucidity.
- Rituals: your favorite rituals, ones that you are likely to perform again, can be included. Sabbats, moon rituals, and morning devotions are examples of oft-repeated rites.
- Pictures: images of your patron/matron deities, altars, ancestors, or the Earth are at home in a grimoire.
- Green magic: those who are drawn to herbal lore might like the idea of including dried flora in the pages of their book.
- Correspondences: if there are magical correspondences that you keep searching “The Magician’s Encyclopedia” for, add them to your grimoire. Examples of correspondences I keep in my grimoire include moon phases, tarot, runes, and days of the week.
- A creed: do you have a magical code of ethics? Even if it’s just “The Wiccan Rede,” you might choose to put it in your grimoire.
Not everyone performs magic – not even all Pagans. I love the idea of keeping my spiritual journey chronicled in the pages of a book. You don’t have to be a magician to benefit from keeping what the author of “The Way We Pray” calls a personal sacred text. It’s essentially a grimoire that’s filled with prayers, healing lore, spiritual musings, crystal wisdom, or anything else really.
Many practitioners include a book blessing and dedication at the front.
At this point, you may choose to name your grimoire. Famous grimoires have names, after all, and every totem needs a name!
A note on correspondences:
Never fall into dogmatism with your magic. Just because someone says that Earth is a feminine Element doesn’t mean you will experience it that way. [The Ancient Egyptians saw Earth as masculine.] It’s YOUR magic – and it should be pragmatic too. So when you are compiling lists to go in your grimoire, test out each belief and don’t be afraid to step away from tradition.
Care and Feeding of Your Grimoire
In my experience, it is best if no one else’s eyes peer within. I keep it on my altar, away from negative energies. Take the following story as a warning:
I have an aunt who claims the mantle of a spiritually “enlightened” individual. After I became disenchanted with Christianity, I looked up to her because she seemed open-minded and had interesting ideas. But one day, she saw my grimoire lying on the bookcase, flung it open without invitation, and began criticizing the contents.
Don’t let that happen to your sacred text. Keep it in a secure location if busybodies are afoot. The reason for “secrecy” is simple: people tend to drain energy. You’ve probably experienced this when you told someone about a goal, only to have them shoot it down – and suddenly you don’t feel so good about it anymore. Even if they didn’t vocalize their criticism, they can sap your energy. “To Keep Silent” is one of the components of the witch’s pyramid because of this phenomenon.
It’s actually best to prevent others from handling any of your magical tools – unless you consent to their energies mixing with yours. This may be the case if you are in a coven or doing a divination reading for someone else.
Like all magical tools, your book of shadows will benefit from a periodic re-consecration and recharging. A great time to do this is during the full moon. Allow the healing rays to alight on your book. Or you may decide to use smoke cleansing or a drop of frankincense on the front.
However you use or design it, let your grimoire grow as you do, and it will become a companion on your magical journey.