Magical Books Then and Now
A significant part of Witchraft is the creation of Magical Books. These tomes can be filled with spells, rituals, poetry, journaled experiences, family trees and correspondences. The Magical book can be filled with recipes, myths, dreams, meditations and more... A good magical book is the expression of its author.Types of Books include:
Books of Shadows
Kitchen Witch's Cookbook
Cyber/Online Magical Texts (websites, blogs, video diaries)
The first known magical texts were not written in books. The formulas and spells were written down in cuniform on clay tablets in Uruk, Mesopotamia from the 4th century BC. What is wonderful is that there is undeniable evidence of magical thought at least as old as the written word. While there is a lot of support behind the idea that the stone age people used magic, without being able to "ask them" it all remains speculation, however these cuneiform tablets are very clearly magical in nature! Certainly magic probably predated these tablets!
In Greece, Hermes Trismegustis wrote (or at least taught) his theories on philosophy and magic, his works including the Asclepius and Corpus Hermeticum... His influence is all encompassing in the modern Kybalion
as well. A long tradition of magic followed and added to all of this early occult Wisdom...FAMOUS GRIMIORES:
1. The Sixth and Seventh book of Moses
2. The Hermetica
3. The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy
4. The Black Pullet
5. Three Books of Occult Philosophy
6. The Key of Solomon
7. The Petit Albert
8. The Grand Grimiore
9. THe Book of Honorius
10. Dragon Rouge
Obviously there are many many other books historicall that could be considered "Grimiores", like the Egyptian Book of the Dead
. What makes the old grimiores distinct from modern spellbooks is that they were generally Impersonal. The books did not site a lot of personal opinions and experiences like we would include today. They often list formulas for certain acts, be it rituals, spells, or alchemical "experiments", but do not speak much about the ethics or morality of them. Also, most historical grimiores will contrain little or no "folk magic" because the books were written, and read by the upper class and intellectuals, and were generall not meant to be accessed by the peasantry. We know that a lot of magic was practiced by the commoners, however, it is likely that most of them were illiterate and if they had books, they would use them as "tools" of the craft, but not to read or document.
The modern magical book is far more personal, and generally contains some musings or statements concerning ethics and morality. They come in all shapes and sizes, and even are online! Some books are VERY secretive, locked away in chests, written in magical scripts, and guarded with protection and secrecy spells. Others are wide open, posted for all to see and examine, add to, copy and alter.
For those of you who are new to the craft it is valuable to have some sort of magical book. I suggest that you start with a 3 ring binder and a spiral notebook. The notebook may act as a magical journal and rough-draft spellbook... the binder can contain handwritten or typed spells and rituals, correspondences, etc. Why I suggest a 3-ring binder is that it is easily organized, added to and subtracted from...
For Example: You may find in a year or two that you don't NEED a diagram of the directions and the elements... or perhaps you do, but you want to add one that is far more complex and has more correspondences or commentary.
Also, over time your patrons may change. If your book is filled with rituals including references and symbols sacred to one deity, you may wish to replace them, or add ones to a new patron in the future.
A lot of people wonder what sections to add... here is a short list of things you may want to include in a magical book:
Ethics; such as a copy of the wiccan rede
OR the nine noble virtues
Ritual Guidelines; how to cast and open a circle, "scripts" for rituals
Theology and Philosophy
Altar Tools and Arrangements
Sabbat Rituals and Celebrations
Special Rituals: Wiccanings, Handfastings, Funerals
Recipes, Potions, Elixers
Charms, Amulets and Talismans
Myths and Legends
Poetry, Chants, Incantations, Prayers
Dreams and Dream Symbolism
Lineage, Degrees, Oaths and Contracts
Photos, drawings, art
You may add more, or less. As you can see, if you added everything your may need a pretty big book or binder! I know several people who have multiple books at a time... like a "Book of Shadows" that holds only Rituals, Theology, and Ethics, plus a "Spellbook" that only contains spells, chants, potions, charms and correspondances, a Recipe book with magical food, crafts, and info on herbalism and folk medicine, and a Journal that has dreams, ideas, musings, poetry and more...
Whether it is four books or one, the information you choose to include should be information you have read and understand, and ideally information which you yourself have written. Organization is key in Creating a Magical Book, so that what you need is easy to find when you need it (especially if you are working in dim, flickering candlelight)
I advise the most important information goes at the front, and less important stuff goes in the back Some people focus too much on adding loads of spells and specialized rituals to their book that they lose the religion in it all. Being able to attract a lover or win the lottery is all secondary to spiritual growth and attunement. Focus on adding only those things that help you live a happier, more FULFILLED life. If most of what you do is "kitchen witchery" then naturally, focus more on those things you will use most, like recipes, potions, and folk medicine... If you are more of an "occultist" you may include more "high magic," alchemy, and arts like numerology. The book should reflect what you practice.
MY Book of Shadows only contains tried and true information in it. It is a bound book, so I have limited space. I did this purposefully because I plan to pass it down to my daughter (if she chooses to follow my path) and in the past my books have gotten a little out of hand with TOO much information (I had over 1000 pages in one of them). Your book should be well worn from use if it is full of valuable information. If it is full of stuff for stuff's sake you wont get near as much use out of it.
I DO have a binder of extra miscellaneous information. This includes text from online courses I have taken, essays and article I have written, blogs, and more. It is useful to keep this stuff arpound for reference, but it may be impractical in your main magical book.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...
Before you go to far in creating a book there are many important things to think about and decide... First off:
FORMAT: Will it be in a binder, a scrapbook, a journal, a handmade book, a notebook, or even a computer file or online? If you have sight or reading issues, perhaps you will record your BOS into audio tracks on a CD! You could even make a DVD of video recordings... Whatever your format, make it something that is easy to use and access and works for YOU!
SECRECY: Will your book be kept private and secret? You may wish to add a lock to the book or put it in a locked box. You may wish to incript the book by writing it in a secret or magical alphabet. My first Book was written in the "Symbol" script from my computer. If you are typing your book you could use many of the magical downloadable fonts over the internet... I like many of the fonts available from Font Freak.
Also you could download a font to use as a "Key" and hand-write the book using the same symbols. Of course one could use another magical script like Theban Script
. Last, You COULD create your own script or font to encrypt your book. Of course many people simply write their book in plain English or their native language. If you do choose to use a magical or secret alphabet, be sure to print yourself a key and practice reading and writing it until it becomes natural, or else you could have a book full of things you cannot read! If you are doing a computerized book, you may wish to password protect the file or keep it on a rewritable disc or flashdrive, to help keep it secret. I advise you DONT put your BOS on the internet (even if it is password protected) if you want it 100% secret... or if it contains any oathbound material. The internet is very hard to safely and securely store information on! If it is not something you are worried about keeping secret, then do whatever you wish!
PERSONAL TOUCH: Some people choose to add personalism and personal energy by handwriting thier BOS. This is the most common way to add a personal touch (however it is OK to type it as well). Other things to add personal touch are artwork, poetry, photos, pressed herbs or flowers, embroidery, or bodily elements (blood, hair, baby teeth, etc... usually sewn in or added to the page) My book even has a coffee stain on it... which I "transformed" into a moon. By adding some of yourself to your book you "bind it to you". I feel this bond helps immensely in spell and ritual crafting. Before you use a book you may want to cleanse it in case it has energy "rubbed off" on it already... I feel a self written book dedication helps formalize this bond.
CONTENT: As I said before, what will you include? What will you NOT include. If your book is just for you, you may choose to skip over things that are redundant. If you know the wheel of the year like the back of your hand, you may not need to include a diagram or writing about it... That said, if you plan on passing down the book, to children or students, you may include pieces that you know byu heart for THEIR sake. Also, some people may choose to have a family or coven book AND personal books... the latter only including personalized info, and the former being more all encompassing. Also, if you are an avid reader you could include a reference list to look back on, like if Scott Cunningham had an awesome chapter on circle casting, and Ann Moura had a wonderful sevenfold blessing you could list these references like this:
"Sevenfold Blessing" Grimiore for the Green Witch, Moura...........................................................pg XX
"Creating the Sacred Space" Cunningham's Book of Shadows, Cunningham.............................. pg 29
"Precious and Semi-Precious Stones" The Complete Book of Amulets and Talismans, Wippler....pg 121
Tools like this can help you source back your information so your book can be just as useful without being filled with copied or redundant information. Another Idea is to include a reference list at the end of each section, with several citation of books that have info that you found useful or inspiring. If you DO copy information that you didn't write, be sure to site the author or source, whenever possible.
If you do several spells and rituals, it is wise to include space for notes, to say what works, what you may change, or whether the spell or ritual was successful or not. My book has ONLY successes (because my failures are kept elsewhere and reworked, or discarded). Even so, I often make notes on when to expect a result, or how long you can store an oil or potion etc...
The Book as a Magical Tool
Text has power. It turns words into lasting physical entities. The act of writing allows us to give physicality to our thoughts and ideas, and then gives us the opportunity to analyze, focus and share what we have to say. We can use text to make symbols and anagrams and to write down chants and incantations.
A magical book is part reflection, part self-help, part recipe book, part sacred text, and part documentation. You write the book as your journey progresses to record that journey, and what you have learned, and also to save information for later. A good magical book is used often... it contains hard to remember formulas, spells, symbols and concepts within it for the benefit if the user. If your book is never opened except to ADD more, you should reflect on whether the right type of information is being stored in it.
That said, don't make your book TOO complex... if everything but the kitchen sink is in your book it will become too hard to sort through. For example, my first book had information about runes, tarot, ogham, and much much more. I hardly, if ever, practice tarot or ogham and although they are useful to add if you use them, if i happen to be working with them, i am more likely to go to a general reference book on the topic than to my BOS... Therefore, in my newest book they are omitted (but i could add them later if i wanted to)
You can use your book as an actual enchanted item! There is no reason you cannot charge your magical book or cast spells on it! Common spells are for secrecy or privacy, but you can also charge a Book as a home protection charm, or an inspiration charm, or even for general good luck! doing this will further enhance your magical bond to your book!
Also, you can use sacred symbols in your book, not just as reference, but as actual charged amulets.These can be truly beautiful and magical if carefully drawn and magically charged!
The Evolving Book
A good magical book is not created in days or weeks, but can take YEARS to complete. In fact, if you are careful and thoughtful, you can have a book that covers most of a lifetime of study and contemplation... a real treasure. It is ok if you go through several books. I usually have a book process that goes like this:
After several "cycles" of this process I reach a point where I must "purge" some of my old material that is no longer necessary or I have changed my mind on... If there is a lot to be purged, or I have had a drastic change, I start a new one... copying the GOOD old information, discarding the stuff that is no longer needed, and adding new stuff. those who use a binder method can do this more easily... However, I KEEP my old BOS for reference and as a record of what I used to do, think and believe. It is funny to look back on my first Book, from middle school, full of misspelling and interesting theories... It would be fun to show it to my daughter when she reaches that age! I love to look at it to remind myself of how far I have journeyed.
I won't be surprised if i have 10 or 15 books by the end... However, I try to make each one a pure expression of myself and my practice. None of them are full of random, useless information... they are all me. Your book should represent you, and if applicable, your coven, family or tradition.
A magical book should never be static or complete. There is always more to learn, or add, or delete. This is why, if you are new to the craft, I advise you do not rush to "fill up" your book. Be thoughtful about what you add, and remember- your words (what you add or do not add) represent you. It makes no sense to add things to your book which you oppose. Try to add only THE TRUTH, as you see it.
If you DO fill up your book, you can always add a "book two" For example... you could add an additional book of spells and rituals, "bound" to your original or main book that holds "overflow" Another good habit is to keep a general journal. Journaling can help you record dreams, ideas and experiences. You can review a journal to discover some of the "secret symbolism" in your life, which are hidden messages from your higher self or the divine. You may discover that you have an animal that keeps "showing up" at certain times in your life, or an ebb and flow you can take advantage of, or even foreshadowing to your life's events. Later you could add these symbols and messages to your magical book, once you can see them and understand their meaning!
The Heritage of Books
Although I say a book should be "all you" this doesn't mean it wont have other influences. Whether they are cultural, mythical, theological, or philosophical, it is common to add "informed" elements to your writing. It helps pass on the long tradition of teaching wisdom as keys to inner development. Your book can show the influences and spiritual wisdom that was passed on to you!
The wise sage teaches others... When you are near the end of your journey, one of the best ways to give back is through teaching. If you are comfortable, allow others to copy or read your magical book... If it is oath-bound or VERY personal, you may choose to make copies of information FOR them (omitting those secret elements) OR produce lessons in a new format. The best information will give a person the tools to come to their own realizations and form their own ideas and conclusions..."Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
You can open the door for a person, you do not have to lead them by the hand down the path. If they forge their own way, they will learn more and remember more than if everything is "given" to them.
Even so, at the end of this incarnation you may wish to will your book to a person, group, or library. For some of us it will be easier to decide that others. Whoever you leave your book to, it should be a person you trust and who cares for you and will take care of your book.
Another option is to give a person directions to destroy the book or bury it with you on your passing. All of these choices are personal, and can be decided later when the decision is eminent. However, it is something to think about and doesn't apply to JUST your book, but other magical and personal items as well.
If you are new to creating a magical text, go ahead and read some historic tomes and some of the public books of shadows available online or in print. Use these as jumping off points to direct what you will include, or how you will organize your book!
The course "Your Book of Shadows" here on WitchSchool is a good starting place... especially if followed by "Basic Spell Writing" "Ritual in Theory and Practice" and "Introduction to Magical Grimiores"...
There is also a LOT of information available online and in books. I have several helpful articles on MY BLOG
, and I will be adding more in the future. Remember that writing and filling your book is secondary to practicing and experiencing in real life. The more you DO, the more you will grow!
Good Luck and Blessed Be to you all!-MeganHomework
- reflect whether you feel that your book will or has improved your experience and practice of wicca or paganism, or if it has detracted from it. If it helps, what can you do to futher enhance it's effectiveness, and if it is a hindrance, what do you need to change? If you feel comfortable... post and discuss answers here!