Several months ago I started a Grimoire, writing down relevant things in a scrapbook album I’d prettied up for the purpose. I had avoided making my own book of magical and folkloric knowledge for a long, long time, both because it seemed like an intimidating endeavor, and because I wasn’t really sure what was “supposed” to go into it in the first place. What was correct? Where to begin?
Well, I have been helped of late in this project (among others) by getting over my hampering worries of what is “proper” or “correct,” and instead focusing on what actually works and what I actually do.
Please understand that I’m not talking about an ‘Anything goes! Eclecticism for its own sake – Its all an expression of your higher self so do whatever you want!’ perspective. Instead, I think (and hope) that I’ve become familiar enough with the basic underlying principles of some common folk magical and witchly ideas that I’m starting to see the underlying threads, as it were. Of course, this greater understanding is just the stepping stone to a hundred realizations about how There’s So Much More To Understand, but – that’s why we call this a Path instead of a Clearing.
For those of you curious about or intending to create your own magical book, I’ll share a little bit about what I’ve put in mine. As I’m not a member of any specific Tradition or Lineaged line of Witchcraft, it is a bit eclectic in the sense that it’s mostly made up of bits gathered from here and there, as well as my own suppositions and gnosis and continuing researches.
I intended my Grimoire to be a book of Praxis – that is, a written record of what I actually do. I asked myself: how do I celebrate the Neo-Pagan High Days, or the festival days of certain Powers? What kinds of signposts do I look for with regards to the turning of the seasons or the shifting of tides of power with the time of year? What spells, charms, or magical folklore do I weave into my daily life, or have I actually employed? What do I know about local spirits, places of power, and useful flora? What do I know about those Deities I honor, and what words do I use to praise them? What ritual formats or specific rituals do I engage in?
So, the answers to all that (and more yet) will be the contents of the Big Black Book.
There’s more poetry than I expected, and more to come. There are a number of planned full page illustrations, and plenty of signs and runes. I’m going to include a section on herbs and their uses, but want to deviate from the common ‘dictionary listing’ format (you know: lavender – purification and protection. Cedar – purification and protection) and instead do an essay on each of the herbs I know and use. Beyond that there’s more, but I must focus on manageable sized bits!
One of the stylistic traps I’ve had to consciously keep myself from is the tendency to write my book as if I am writing for an audience of readers. I reigned in the urge to fill my book with suggestions or ideas about what one might do (like would be found in a how-to manual as are many “101 level” Pagan or witchcraft books on the market today), and instead made sure that the things I included were those that I had done, or at the very least intended to put to use in the regular course of my practice.
This also means that I don’t have to be overly explain-y in my writing. I realized I didn’t have to go into what I was talking about when (for instance) I referenced the Hounds, or what a Dream-Node is, or why certain features in a map are marked with coiled snakes.
I also realized this was the exact reason that available published grimoire-ish or folk magical material is frustrating sometimes – either you’re looking at a book that wasn’t written for an audience and so half of things aren’t explained adequately, or it’s deliberately obscured in the telling so to keep Knowledge from the Eyes of those who haven’t Earned It. Which is annoying, but, I think, ultimately fine. After all, I’m writing my book the exact same way, and so can only complain so much! Maybe someday someone else will pore over the text and winnow out their own little grains of meaning from all the mystery and half-shadows that to me, the Writer, were daylight clear.