What is a Grimoire?

A Grimoire is a traditional witch’s Book – an equal to a Wiccan’s Book of Shadows to a degree – where the journey is recorded, spells and rituals are written. It holds the story of the path of the Witch but what makes a Grimoire so unique is that it is so completely individual. Wiccan BoS tend to have similar information insofar as it relates to their religion (Rede, Law of Three, Charges etc) whereas a traditional witch’s grimoire will have whatever is relevant to her path individually with no required particulars in it. Every one will be different; there is not a witch who practices the same as another, there are those who may practice similarly but there will be subtle hints as to how their paths diverge from one another’s.

Grimoire is the name given to some of the most ancient and legendary of magical texts. A little research will net you PDF copies of some fantastic writings. One site I have found to be especially helpful is the Hermetic Resource Site. Some tomes have survived thousands of years, texts such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead gives us insight into the religious and ritual practice of the ancients, their spells, how they worded them, how they performed them, what ingredients they used. The grimoires of old are the foundations of where today’s Pagan writers structured their material; it was the “blueprint” so to speak.

The Grimoires of old were believed to hold spells, rituals, divinations, and instructions on how to make talismans, amulets and perform invocations and rituals to call forth Angels, Spirits and Demons. Some of the more famous ancient texts are the several Greater Key and Lesser Key of Solomon texts, these texts date back to the late middle ages and Italian renaissance and are believed to be the works of King Solomon. It is believed they were influenced by the Kabalistic Texts and Arab Alchemical works. These books are reputed to include rituals on summoning spirits and demons, binding them to the will of the magician. It also hold rituals and spells for becoming invisible, finding stolen objects, love, money, gaining favour and so on.

There are several other tomes and texts that delve into spirit and demon summoning; there is also the Grand Grimoire, a complete works on the Devil believed to have been written in the 13th century. Another famous Grimoire is the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. This book was translated into English in 1897 by British occultist Samuel L MacGregor Mathers. The magic described in this text was influential in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This order is perhaps best known for its most infamous member Aleister Crowley, who at one time, started preparations for seeking out the angel described in the text. However he abandoned this plan to work with Mathers in the order.

These earlier Tomes and Grimoires are the ancestors of the modern Grimoire and Book of Shadows, a Witches most sacred tool. Although the modern versions now are very different, there is much to be learned from the older texts. Occultists and Magicians through the ages have been fascinated with these texts and the knowledge they hold, the spells and rituals, the summoning, bindings and use of higher beings for personal and magical gain is a fascinating insight into the medieval and renaissance magical practices. It shows that after the darkness of the middle ages that enlightenment and spirituality began to make a comeback, that people were open to searching beyond the confines of patriarchal religions and find another way, another path. Some of the texts still deal with “God” as he is presented in Christianity, but there are others like the Gospel of the Witches that shows a marked movement toward something else all together, and so from this point modern alternative religious paths were birthed, books were written and old tomes were re-written or translated, bringing this ancient knowledge back into the light.

I’m not saying as a practitioner any of these works will be of interest or important to your path, but they provide an interesting and fascinating history into the written magical works of our forbearers. As a Trad witch this doesn’t much apply to my path because I work with more natural earth based energies, the idea of Angels, Demons etc really don’t interest me at all. I would recommend reading some of these tomes, even just for curiosity’s sake, I would hazard that most witches would not use anything presented in these works within their own path but I’m a firm believer that learning new things, relevant or not as they may turn out to be, is a good thing.

On the left hand side of the Hermetics page is a long list of different Occult areas and the books that are associated with them. Go nuts and have fun. There are many great texts available on the internet, some old, some newer but all fantastic. Another great site is Dark Books, the day I discovered this site I spent a good portion of it downloading. There are some real old school texts in there; I challenge you to resist the urge to begin a download spree!!