Grimoire vs Book of Shadows: Discover Their Fascinating Origins

When it comes to Grimoire vs Book of Shadows, the differences can sometimes get a bit confusing, but today we’ll discover their fascinating origins and history!

Now before we continue with this post, I want to be VERY CLEAR! You can use your Grimoire or Book of Shadows HOWEVER you choose! You can call it whatever you want, you can select and add any information you deem worthy, and you can certainly tell anyone who wants to see it to shove off if you’re not up to sharing.

I cannot emphasize enough how unique (and maybe peculiar) your journal is to you! Take some time to meditate on what you feel drawn to! Pinterest is also a great resource to get grimoire vs Book of Shadows ideas!

What is a Grimoire?

The definition and meaning of grimoires begin with humans recording knowledge they believe is worth saving, magical or mundane. Some of the earliest writings are thousands of years old (found in the ancient middle east; Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran) and included illustrations and pictographs.

Written content developed over the years (especially after the first printing press was formed in 1440 by German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg) and became more widely available. Books, including some on the subject of magic, were now being created and distributed to a broader audience.

The Roman Catholic Inquisition became very involved because they didn’t want ideas being spread that didn’t align with their beliefs. They started disciplining and even executing people who owned these types of books. However, the books continued to be printed, and those who owned them took care to hide them carefully.

Owen Davies writes comprehensively about the history of magic, witchcraft, and popular medicine. He’s a professor of Social History at the University of Hertfordshire and wrote a book called “Grimoires: A History of Magic Books.” I found his explanation of the origination of the word Grimoire very helpful:

It more likely derives from the French word ‘grammaire’, which originally referred to work written in Latin. By the eighteenth century, it was being widely used in France to refer to magic books, perhaps because many of them continued to circulate in Latin manuscripts at that time when most other publications were in French. It was used as a figure of speech to denote something that was difficult to read or impossible to understand, such as, “it is like a grimoire to me’. It was only in the nineteenth century, with the educated resurgence of the interest in the occult, that it began to enter general English usage.

Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies

At this point, I also think it’s worth mentioning Francis Barrett, who in 1801 published The Magus. This consisted of 3 books contained in a single volume. His goal was to modernize information from ancient and obscure texts and make them more accessible. This helped to assist in the resurgence of magical theories and beliefs. His concept of updating ancient traditions and folklore is most likely where the idea of customizing your Grimoire originated from.

Around the late 1800s and early 1900s, English occultists and magical groups began to assemble, like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Ordo Templi Orientis. Aleister Crowley is one of the most famous and influential members of the latter. They gathered and researched historical magical practices and then incorporated them into their own rituals and ceremonies. Much of their concepts and ideas found their way into modern Wiccan beliefs, which I will discuss shortly.

At this point, a Grimoire became known as a compilation of magical ideas and occult topics such as herb uses, ritual practices, invocations, magic elements, and other esoteric subjects.

If you’d like more inspiration on what you can include in your grimoire check out this post with over 100 ideas!

How To Make A Grimoire or Wiccan Book of Shadows choosing your format and paper - the peculiar brunette

What is a Book of Shadows?

The origins of the Book of Shadows begin with Gerald Gardner, the creator of Wicca. During the 1940s, Gardner became acquainted with Aleister Crowley and requested membership into Crowley’s order, the Ordo Templi Orientis. However, by this point in time, membership had dwindled, so his involvement was minimal, and he was only given transcripts of rituals, traditions, and magical ceremonies.

In 1951 England repealed their Witchcraft laws, and in 1954 Gerald Gardener published Witchcraft Today, and with the help of High Priestess, Doreen Valiente created Wicca.

Gardner had his own Grimoire, where he kept his information regarding rituals and beliefs. He wanted to compile all this knowledge that he had created himself instead of any information from other sources.

After his death, some early work called Ye Bok of Ye Art Magical was found but wasn’t finished.

According to High Priestess Doreen Valiente, Gardener was thinking of calling it “The Book of Shadows” based on an article he’d seen in an occult magazine. The members of his original coven used his Book of Shadows and tried to keep it secret and hidden from those not initiated. However, a quick Google search will now provide it to you.

There are still some covens that prefer to adhere closely to Gardner’s original traditions and have only one copy of the book held by the High Priestess and kept guarded, secret and safe. Some allow initiated members to keep their own Book of Shadows that includes information on rituals and spells for continuity and consistency.

In more modern times, there are many more solo practitioners who don’t consult with a High Priestess on how their Book of Shadows needs to be created. They are free to include whatever they like and make it look like whatever they want. Some choose not to do any spell-work and refrain from having it in their Book of Shadows. The choice is entirely up to you!

I hope you found the post on the grimoire vs Book of Shadows helpful, lots of love to you and remember as always….

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