A “grimoire” sounds like what it is—a book of spells and magic! Think your grandmother’s recipe book, but…witchy. The first known ones were created in Europe (the term “grimoire” originates from the Old French “grammaire,” meaning a book in Latin), even though the earliest known written incantations came from Ancient Mesopotamia. These books were full of everything from herbal remedies to astrology to divination, ranging from the totally benign to the “dark.”
Even after the invention of the printing press, handwritten grimoires remained popular. So popular that they contributed to the prosecution of tens of thousands of people (mostly women) in the witch trials.
After the nineteenth century, they became more of a curious relic, though people continued to make them. You may have heard of the Book of Shadows in movies and television (remember the show Charmed?) and may be surprised to learn that it only dates back to the 1940s. Wiccans have been making their own books of shadows ever since. These are usually more personal and include journal entries, quotes, dreams, etc.
Even if you didn’t know the exact name for these books, they have always been in our consciousness. It’s hard to imagine a witch or healer without a magic book in their possession. As Owen Davies, professor of social history at the University of Hertfordshire wrote, “[the grimoire’s] history is entwined with that of the religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the development of science, the cultural influence of print, and the social impact of European colonialism.”
With Halloween coming up, doesn’t this make you a little curious to try your hand at one?
If you are—first and foremost, make a list of your interests. What do you want to learn more about? What do you have a knack for? A grimoire is a great place to record interesting facts, recipes and remedies, tarot readings, prayers, and so many other things.
Setting it up is very similar to setting up a bullet journal, and just as personal, so feel free to take your time and figure out how to best customize and organize it. Would you include an index, table of contents, or a legend with symbols only you could understand? Would you simply fill the book chronologically?
Then there is the question of format. Handwritten grimoires carry more weight (literally and figuratively) than online ones, so consider this when you’re thinking about where you want it to live. If you’re shopping for paper or a notebook: is portability an important factor for you? Size? Ease of writing? Binding?
I’m sorry to mention the Goalbook in practically every post, but let that be a testament to its versatility. It lends itself perfectly to a grimoire or book of shadows, as it includes a table of contents, numbered pages, and a dotted grid for hand-drawn illustrations. If you’re looking for a hardcover, the Rhodiarama collection has lined and blank page options in a wide variety of cover colors. Both notebooks feature premium, pen and marker-friendly 90g Clairefontaine paper and are bound in a way that helps them lay flat, so they’re quite easy to write on.