Lesson 9: Grimoire 101
By: Teacher Faye
Live class date and time: 1/10/2017 @ 9:00pm
So today we’re going to be exploring the Witches’ magic books. Or in other words, their grimoire or book of shadows. So a quick rundown of what this lesson is going to look like: we’ll talk about what exactly a grimoire is and how it’s different from a book of shadows, well talk about the history of them, different forms, what does and doesn’t go in it, ideas for broomcloset grimoires, and some other kinds of journals you could keep as well. Then we’ll get to questions and homework!
So what exactly is a grimoire or a book of shadows?
This definitely depends on who you ask, so I’ll start with historical information and go from there. By definition, a grimoire is a book of magic spells and invocations. Historically, a grimoire has been used as a textbook of magick pretty much. It’s used to keep instructions on spells, how to create magic objects, summoning or invoking gods and spirit and so on. A grimoire was seen as less of a journal, and more as a instruction book. A book of shadows is a term coined by Gerald Gardner, the father of Wicca, in the 1950’s. Gardner used it as a sort of cook book of spells that have worked for the owner. According to Gardner, there was one book of shadows per coven and the initiation members could use it and add to is as they saw fit. He also believed that the book should be burned when the owner died. (this obviously isn’t very common anymore and a lot of witches like to pass down their books to family or friends, so I wouldn’t suggest burning it.)
Now a days, the difference between a grimoire and a bos is very small.
For a lot of people, a grimoire is a spell book, and a book of shadows is a witch’s journal where she keeps track of how spells go and such. So basically, the bos is a follow up of a grimoire. But still, most witches don’t go by these general uses at all. To most witches, their book contains any and all information they may want to remember with journal entries and they call it whatever they want. I personally call my book a Grimoire, but it has a lot of different things in it. If you want to use your book as a spell book and have a separate book for journaling, that’s great! A witch’s book is completely a personal preference.
As for format, again, a grimoire can be anything you want it to be. A lot of witches like to use big, leather bound books with homemade paper and fancy ink. But a lot of us can’t afford fancy books. Some good things to think about when you’re thinking about what to use as a grimoire is how you want it to look inside. If you want a very organized book with sections for each topic like herbs, journal, correspondences, and so on, then something adjustable would be a really good idea for you. Binders are really cheap and you can add, take away, and move around the information inside your book whenever you want. Binders are also a great way to personalize the cover of your book. It’s super easy to glue some fancy fabric or leather around that cheap cardboard cover and make it look old and witchy. To those who don’t really care much about organization, a simple journal will do. You can go all out and get pretty handmade ones off etsy or you can go as simple as a spiral notebook, it’s completely up to you and your preferences. If you do use a notebook instead of something adjustable, it may be a good idea to add in an index or tabs on the pages so you don’t have to flip through every page to find the spell or herb uses you are looking for. The same goes for if you do organize it. I use pretty scrapbook paper in between my sections so that I can easily spot it between my regular pages.
A question I see a lot online, is what does my grimoire need to look like. Again, as most of the answers to these kinds of questions are, it’s all up to you! This is your personal book and it should resonate with you. A lot of people will say your book needs to be handwritten and you need to draw your own pictures and such. To me, that’s silly. If you want to handwrite and hand draw your book, great! Do it! It’ll add that extra energy you give into the work. However if you’re anything like me, and you are not an artistic person, there are other methods. I have terrible handwriting for example, and I have no drawing ability really whatsoever. So what I do is I get on a website called Canva and put together the page I want to work on. I add in images from tumblr or pinterest, and a title. However to add on a personal touch to it, I usually leave the information section blank and then handwrite it in. I’ll post an example. (post example of page) Other people type out their entire grimoire and that’s totally okay too! Having an online grimoire can also be a great format to use. As most of us are tumblr users, we know that tumblr or any sort of blog format can be great for gathering and sharing information for your practice. Using a website like Evernote, where you can create different notebooks and pages in the site can also be great because you can access it from any smart device and edit on the go. This means you can just carry around your phone instead of a big book and if you need to know what a certain crystal does, just whip out your phone and the information is right there. Online grimoires can be a really great tool for witches in the broomcloset as well as they are much easier to hide.
Some tips for making it pretty or unique.
If you’re up for the task of making your own paper, I’ll post the recipe I have for that if you want, you can always add in little pieces of flowers or herbs into the paper while it’s drying. This can be really great if you have planned out what you want to put on that page and can make the herbs correspond with that topic. I like to decorate my pages with stamps. Stamps can get pretty expensive, but if you go to hobby lobby, they usually have some cool ones in the clearance section and Michaels has halloween stamps on sale during the season. Adding in pretty ribbons to your spine can both add some color and help organize at the same time. A lot of people add on little charms at the bottom of bookmark ribbons as well, though depending on how long your ribbons are, those may get tangled as your using it. If your crafty, you can use scrapbook paper and supplies to jazz up your pages. If you have pretty bad handwriting like me, I get calligraphy pens that are made to make your handwriting look fancy when you don’t know how to write calligraphy. They’re pretty cheap at craft stores and they can come in a lot of different colors. You could also go all out and use a quill, even make your own magical ink if you like.
Jumping back a little bit, let’s talk about what goes in a grimoire and what doesn’t.
The short answer is: anything and nothing. Really you can put whatever you want in a grimoire and there’s really nothing that shouldn’t go in there, but from experience, I will say there are something that may be better in their own books. This is mostly for people using bound books, because once you’re out of room, you have to start a new book, so usually I would keep important information like my gods and their associations, uses and meanings for herbs and crystals, spells and rituals, quick cheat sheets for tarot and rune meanings, and stuff like that. I know a lot of witches who like to do daily or weekly tarot readings and record them in their grimoires. For me, this wouldn’t work because it would fill up so quickly, so I’d suggest leaving readings and dream journaling to their own books as to not fill up your grimoire so fast. However this is dependent on how you want to use your book. If it’s meant to be a hand down, I want my kids to have this and their kids and their kids, then you don’t want to fill it up with random readings, maybe only important ones. But if you’re using it for keeping track of your practice through journaling and such, it may work for you to have one grimoire and once it’s filled you start a new one. Personally I keep all my important “textbook” information in my grimoire, with a section toward the back for prompt journaling, and then I have a separate journal for tarot readings.
Storing your grimoire will depend on how sacred you consider it and how you treat your other tools.
Historically, witches would keep their grimoires and sacred books wrapped in silk and hidden away in a dark place. The silk was meant to keep negative energies and prying eyes from getting into your book, and keeping it in a dark place was both for secrecy and to keep the book in a good condition as they usually used leather and skins. Where you keep it can also depend on how often you use your book or work in it. I work in my book pretty often, so I keep it on my desk in my office when I’m not using it during a spell or ritual. This way it’s close so I can work in it. But for those who don’t work in it that often, it could be a good idea to keep it on your altar, or maybe under it or wherever you keep your tools. Your grimoire or book of shadows is in essence a tool for you craft. You want to treat it as you would your tools, but it’s also your craft between covers. If you are a messy witch who likes tea, maybe it’s not a big deal that you accidentally left a tea ring on one of the pages. Maybe it’s okay that it’s just sitting out in the open with other books and papers stacked on top of it. If you are very organized and your book is incredibly sacred and special to you, keeping it in a safe and protected area would be best. For broomcloset witches, I would suggest keeping your book either in a bag somewhere or stacked with other books where it doesn’t look too out of place.
Does a grimoire need to be a secret or can I show it to others?
Most covens have a group grimoire that all of the members can add to or use, so I would say that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a secret. If you are using it as a spell book or a “textbook” then Letting others see it could be helpful to them, but you don’t have to. A lot of people who use their books for journaling their path will keep their books to themselves as it is a very personal tool for them. Keeping your book a secret or not is very dependent on your practice and how you plan on using the book. I don’t really care who looks at my book for the most part as long as they aren’t being negative or hateful towards it or me. I do however try and cleanse my book whenever someone else uses or looks at it just in case they leave left over energy behind that I don’t want.
So that’s about all I have on grimoires. Some other cool ideas for books to keep for your practice are tarot journals, dream journals, a reference book for herbs or crystals. I also have a grimoire to go. It’s a smaller grimoire with basic information and cheat sheets that i keep with me so if I’m out and about and need to know what a specific herb does, I can just look it up.
For your homework, I have a few things:
- For those of you who don’t yet have a book of shadows or grimoire, I encourage you to make one! Go out and buy a really cheap notebook to start with and draw out a cover page for it! Look on tumblr or pinterest or youtube for inspiration!
- For those of you with one already who use it as a journal, I want you to write out a journal entry about how you use your book and how it’s special to you and shows who you are and what your craft is.
- And for those of you who have a book and use it more as a textbook style, go research something completely new that you have been putting off or just haven’t gotten to yet and make a page for it. Find some cool pictures to put on the page or draw some.
Soo, that’s about it. :)
I’m going to open it up to questions now for those who have any!
Some Youtubers with awesome Grimoires!
Skye Alexanders’ Books
- The Modern Witchraft Grimoire
- The Modern Witchcraft Spellbook