A grimoire, which is French for “book of shadows,” is very similar to a type of journal kept by a witch or someone who practices the Craft. It is as personal as a diary and as sacred as any other holy text. For most on the path of the witch there is no specific type of holy text like a Bible, Torah, or Quran. We draw from multiple ancient texts, perhaps even those previously listed as well as our own experiences. I know that personally, I teach a class called, “Ancient Oils of the Bible” and I have found much of the information on herbs, oils, and stones as well as other magical or energetic practices quite useful from the Bible as well as the Torah. I have not investigated as much into the Quran or in additional Judaic teachings such as Kabala that is often studied by many on their spiritual journey following one of the many roads within Paganism. A Book of Shadows is a witch’s go to of his or her personal experiences, passed down knowledge, learned knowledge, or other bits of information gathered while along their spiritual practice in the Craft. In many covens, there is a central coven Book of Shadows in additional to each member’s personal one. At various times, initiates or seasoned members may be allowed to copy information from the book or even add their own contribution to the text.
What happens to a Book of Shadow when a witch dies? For many as they age, just as they make provisions for their personal and financial property, they make provisions for their magical property. Often witches will take on students along the way or in their Crone phase, and pass on their tools as well as knowledge as they see fit or as Spirit directs them. Many paths hold the belief that spiritual items must be handed down or gifted rather than purchased new. While for many solitary witches this poses a problem and end up purchasing their own items; there are those that adhere to some of the old ways of doing things without exception. I remember that I asked my coven mother what would happen to her Book of Shadows when she passed. She replied that there were instructions in her will to have it burned. While on one hand I felt a loss of all of that knowledge, I could understand the process of life, death, and rebirth in life as well as with her Grimoire.
What does a Book of Shadows look like? Your book looks like whatever you want it to look like. You can make your own by creating a front and back cover and stitching the pages in, you can buy a blank or lined journal and redecorate the cover, you can use a binder and add, take out, or rearrange the pages as you want. I even know modern witches who keep their book of shadows entirely on the computer. The point is, as with everything in the Craft, it’s unique to you, do it anyway you want.
Personally, I like blank page journals. My first book was given to me by a friend and I held onto it not knowing what to do with it for many years. The cover was made of black silk with a hand beaded design on the front and all of the pages were hand made paper. It was a beautiful journal gifted as a going away present and it was so glorious to me I didn’t want to ruin it by putting just any old thing in it. When I formally set on my path as a witch, I immediately knew that this would be my first Grimoire! I out grew it quickly, filling the pages; since then I have used blank journals bought at Walgreens of all places, but with cover designs I liked, and I have used fancy leather bound ones with exquisite locks and stitching from fancy metaphysical shops, really it is all a matter of taste and convenience for you. So do what you like. There is no wrong way or right way; it is YOURS.
How do you start a Book of Shadows? Once you have decided on a book to use, then I cleanse it spiritually so that the only energies on it are my own. Think about all of the people who have interacted with that book in the creation, shipping, and shopping process! Goddess only knows what wonkiness is there, so it’s important to purify or cleanse it. You can smudge it with strong intention, ask for spiritual assistance, rest it on a plate of salt for 24 hours each side if you think that can handle it, use Reiki symbols, or other sigils on it, ask for help from someone else who knows, bang a drum loudly over it, ring a bell loudly over it on both sides, there are many ways of doing it. What is important is that you do it!
Ok, so now it is cleansed, great, you are dealing with a clean slate, the idea is that you want to dedicate it or consecrate it as your sacred book. You can create your own ritual, light a candle, ask Spirit to bless it, affirm your intention for its use, you can dress the binding with some sacred oils or burn some herbs over some coals and smudge with these herbs while you bless and dedicate it, let it sit on your altar for a few days with daily dedication. You can write your consecration and dedication on your first page or write a protection spell for it on your first page. Again, any of these ways are wonderful and will work; the idea is to make a clear intention and surround your book with the energy and promise if you will, that this is a sacred text now. Every path is different, just as every witch is different. You will feel called and drawn to different styles and that is ok. Go with the flow of what feels right.
One note on this, if you are using a computer as a Book of Shadows all of the above things make it really hard to do, but there are still things that you can do. You can design a front cover for it, you can make a dedication and consecration intention page for the first page and ask Spirit to bless and protect your electronic book, you can include an image of smudging, or a candle lighting as your intentions for it. However you do it is fine, but remember, it is always about intention, so be strong and clear on your intention for what the book is for and stick with it. Don’t put your new girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s number in it or nana’s new address unless you are using those things for spell work or other Craft purposes. Be creative and clear. If you desecrate your book by putting non-sacred things in it, whether it is on the computer or in an actual book, it will lose its energy and will no longer hold the same magic it once did.
So what kinds of things do you put into your Book of Shadow? Alright, now you have your book, and you’ve cleansed and consecrated it, now what do you put in it, how do you begin? This is a personal matter as well. You can begin any where you like, in any way you like. You can put a protection spell in your first pages or some sigils, you can put a welcoming spell or your spiritual name, draw a lovely picture that has spiritual significance for you, make it your own and what feels right. I know that I keep saying that; I find a lot of new witches are insecure about doing it, “right.” There is no right, there is only you at this point. There are so many traditions and paths in working with energy and magic; if you are guided to do something a certain way, trust that and make it so. You are a powerful, magical being made of energy and light, believe in yourself and follow through. Trust your gut, it will not steer you wrong.
Other things that you can put into your Book of Shadows include spell work, recipes for oil, herb or other blends, how to’s, (explanations of how to do something like sew a cloak or make a mojo bag,) information about guides or animals, different types of magic, (for instance, elemental magic or animal magic,) how things work, dreams and your interpretations, journaling entries about how you feel and what happened to you during a specific experience, information about tools, or natural objects, documentation about how a cleansing or ritual went, information about salts or stones, or any thing else you can think of that is related to the Craft. I am sure that I have missed tons of stuff on this list, but really, there is so much you can include. The idea is that it is your magic book and you are keeping a record and reference of all of this information for yourself.
I had an experience recently where I came across a situation involving some unusual creatures. There was a lot of talk about it and I had some vague recollection that I knew more about it that I could recall. That night I went through all of my Grimoires, I knew the information was there, but I couldn’t remember which one it was in. I found what I was looking for in the middle of my very first Book of Shadows, an entire page on the subject matter. At the time I wrote it, it didn’t seem like anything that I would be dealing with as a young witch, but here I was years and years later, decades later and suddenly I needed the information and I had an entire page full of it! I have had dreams in which I was spiritually given tools that I had forgotten about until I came across the entry in one of my books, forgotten recipes or old spells that were very effective. I cannot recount how many times, re-reading and revisiting the old entries has helped me now. Spirit teaches us what we need to know well before we need it; they help us to build a strong foundation for our skills and if we neglect to record them, we are more than likely not where we could be in a situation had we been diligent. So my advice is put it all in your books, journal it if you will. Include what is working in spells and what isn’t working in spells, what protection methods worked best for you or how you handled a situation so that you can learn from your successes as well as your mistakes.
Who can I share my Book of Shadows with? I was taught that you don’t share your book of shadows with anyone. If you are in a coven, you can discuss things with your coven mother or mentor, but not show them your private information. As I have said over and over again, everyone’s path is different and their relationship with Spirit is special and unique to them. It is not uncommon even within a coven for Spirit to give different information to different people. There are general ways of doing things and handling energy, but very often you are being guided for your highest good and your specific life path, no one else’s. If someone demands to see your Book of Shadows, this a power play, unsafe for you and you should get away from that person. A witch working in an ethical and moral way for your benefit would NEVER do this. It is an honor to be allowed to see or contribute to a coven’s group Grimoire. This is why many witches burn or destroy their books just before their passing. There are some that hand theirs down to trusted family members or other dearly beloved people in their lives, if this happens to you, consider it a great honor. If someone reads your Book of Shadows, they basically have a spiritual text book all about you! They will know what you know, what works for you and what doesn’t. I hate to say it but, “witch wars” are real and people get angry and throw energy around like snowball fights, the last thing you want is to hand over your personal information to a witch with a grudge or possible future grudge. You need to guard this like you guard your social security number.
Talking about security, a number of witches choose to write their Book of Shadows in another language, be that runes, or various other glyphs, or their own secret language as an added measure of protection. The famous artist Leonardo Da Vinci was infamous for writing in mirror script to protect his works. You can do this if you are drawn to it, however, for me personally I find it unnecessary and a block for myself when I need to get to something fast or record a dream before it slips away. It is your style, so do what you like.
Now you have a solid working knowledge of a Book of Shadows, what it is, its purpose and how to create, protect, and destroy one. This is a good overall rundown of what you need for your first Grimoire. What ever path you chose to take, remember to create it your own way, what is comfortable for you and what works on your spiritual journey. It’s an exciting thing to start a new book, enjoy it and make it fun!
2016 Copyright Katie Pifer http://www.witchpetals.wordpress.com