Grimoire or Book of Shadows: The Beginner's Guide to Starting Your Magical Journal

The Witch’s Grimoire: A Beginner’s Guide of Magical Record Keeping

Every witch and magician loves a dusty tome filled with magic. But the thing that most forget is this – those dusty tomes aren’t just filled with magic. They are magic. To the wise witch, her Book of Shadows or grimoire is a living, breathing being. Have you ever seen Hocus Pocus? Think of how Winifred Sanderson’s “Book” has a name and comes alive throughout the movie. Knowing that your own personal grimoire could also be a living entity, boldly go forward with creating your magical book.

If you’re brand new to witchcraft and magic, it’s time to start your own grimoire or Book of Shadows. But how? And what should be included? Here we provide the beginner with grimoire and Book of Shadows basics and teach you how to start your own grimoire!

What is a Grimoire? What is a Book of Shadows?

Technically speaking, a grimoire and a Book of Shadows are two different things. Yet in modern times, people tend to use these words interchangeably. The difference between the two comes down to a few things:

  1. A grimoire is an older term used to define a book of spells, invocations, etc. as opposed to the Book of Shadows which is a term popularized by the Wiccan movement in the twentieth century. The grimoire may arise from any religion or culture. There are even grimoires written by Saints and Popes from past centuries! But the Book of Shadows is typically reserved for Wiccans and Witches alone.
  2. Some people say a grimoire is the term non-Wiccans should use and reserve Book of Shadows for Wiccans.
  3. Grimoires, to some folks, are books of spells and rituals written in ancient or cryptic alphabets to keep magic a secret. While the Book of Shadows may be protected by magic symbols but isn’t necessarily written in ancient alphabet code.

To put it simply, it’s up to you if you want to use the term grimoire or Book of Shadows to define your magical book. For me, I use grimoire, but I don’t just include spells in my grimoire. I record my dreams, spiritual and emotional experiences, recipes, study notes and much more. A Grimoire is much more than just ink and paper. It’s a living tool, imbued with your energy, that you can use not only to record spells and experiences, but also to manifest your intentions. For me, sometimes it’s as simple as writing my intentions in my grimoire to see it manifest.

The HIS-tory of the Magical Grimoire

As I research and dive deep into the history of the Grimoire and/or Spellbook, I’ve come to some large realizations:

  1. The surviving grimoires we have today were written by “men”. (I do believe at least a handful of them were influenced by women)
  2. Quite a few of the surviving grimoires we have today were written by priests, bishops, and a few popes (yes, the Church was writing down magical remedies, ways to summon spirits, etc.)
  3. The literate people of the more recent centuries were men, the elite, and of course, church officials only (this was to control the narrative).
  4. Women and minorities were not only discouraged from learning to read and write but in many cases prohibited until the nineteenth – twentieth centuries.
  5. We’ve lost many of our spellbooks, familial recipe books, and grimoires over time due to lack of preservation AND due to mass book burnings (book burnings actually date back to Biblical times, for instance an event at Ephesus when newly converted individuals went into the streets of the city and burned their pagan books and magic grimoires en masse) and again by folks who wanted to control the narrative.
  6. Women have clung to literacy for centuries (despite being discouraged and outlawed) and in the early modern era were indeed recording their own cooking and medicinal recipes in “family recipe books”, we have evidence of this from the 1600’s.
  7. In ancient times, women in many cultures were literate including women of the elite and religious priestesshood of ancient Egypt (for instance, Cleopatra herself) and this would continue until the rise of the church.

Reading and researching the written word from a woman’s perspective is honestly infuriating in more ways than one. And I feel it’s a travesty that we’ve lost so much of our history over time due to lack of preservation and religious/patriarchal control of the narrative. This sets a fire under my @ss to write as much as possible and encourage EVERYONE to write their stories, recipes, perspective, etc. down on paper, inscribe it into metal/stone, write it on the internet. Just WRITE. And I feel we have to find better ways of preserving our stories to withstand the test of time. I don’t know what that would entail but it’s just something to think about. And we have to STOP BURNING BOOKS, FOLKS.

Listen to our episode on the Witch’s Grimoire here:

The Do’s and Dont’s of Grimoire-Keeping

You might be wondering, do I have to record everything in an ancient cryptic alphabet? The answer is NO. Of course not! Unless you feel particularly drawn to do so. For me? I don’t have that kind of time, nor do I have anything I need to hide from others at this point. But if you have someone who tends to snoop in your belongings or someone who wouldn’t approve of your craft, you can absolutely use old alphabets or symbols to record in your grimoire. So what are the do’s and don’t’s of grimoire-keeping? DO write down everything you find of value, DON’T limit yourself. That’s it!

What Kind of Journal or Book Should I Use?

Though there are dozens of pretty, leather grimoires online to purchase, if you can’t afford fifty+ dollars for a grimoire, don’t spend it! A plain composition book or spiral notebook works just as well as a fancy leather one. And if you choose a notebook or composition book, simple post-it tabs help to organize and section off your grimoire. Unfortunately, in the large leather grimoire I own, I can’t add tabs because of the closure. If I add tabs, they’ll be smashed and the grimoire itself won’t close. So, that said, pretty doesn’t = functional! Diaries, journals, and even recipe books function well as grimoires too. Binders with loose-leaf paper and sheet protectors are great for organizational purposes.

Something most witches don’t typically think of – grimoires made in a junk journal style! If you don’t know what a junk journal is, a quick google search will show you. But, essentially, a junk journal is a journal that’s made from various papers and materials just “lying around” your home. There are some junk journal YouTubers that make their junk journals from ONLY found paper and materials. Which, IMO, is an awesome way to reuse, reduce, and recycle. You can literally put together a grimoire using nothing but the cover of an old book, old sketchbook and lined paper, random cardstock, and even used BOXES from your cupboard. The options here are endless and super fun. I recently crafted a fairy spellbook from a Duncan Hines cake box and scrap papers!

In addition, there are many witches who keep a grimoire on their computers and phones. Did you know you could even use your Notes app or Pinterest to store your notes, musings, spells, and useful witchcraft info? We live in the digital age, so why not put it to use? Don’t forget the power of a Word document or Adobe Photoshop for those who are artistically inclined.

Grimoires can be as simple as a spiral notebook or as elaborate as a leather journal.
A few of my grimoires over the years.

Subjects for Your Grimoire or Book of Shadows

Truly any subject matter you want to add to your grimoire is perfectly fine. It’s up to you what to include. A few magical subjects I’ve added to mine include:

  • Altar and tools: how to set up an altar, tools you like to include, seasonal changes and how to charge/bless altars, etc.
  • Amulets and Talismans: charms and how to enchant or charge an amulet and talisman
  • Ancestor Work: info on your ancestors, recent and ancient, DNA test results, ancestral rituals, healing, etc.
  • Astrology: great to have in your grimoire including your sun, rising, ascending signs and a copy of your birth natal chart. In addition, a breakdown of the planets in astrology, retrogrades, and other pertinent info
  • Cleansing Rituals: smudging, sprays, ritual baths, sound, etc.
  • Color magic: each color’s magical properties
  • Crystals and their magical and medicinal properties
  • Days of the week: magic according to the days of the week
  • Divination: different forms including runes, tarot cards, oracle, scrying sessions, nature signs and omens, throwing ‘dem bones, and palmistry (the sky’s the limit!)
  • Dreams: a record of my dreams plus dream interpretations and symbols
  • Elements: the basics on the four elements, their properties, elemental magic, how the elements affect our daily lives, one page for each of the 4 elements
  • Experiences: include your spiritual experiences, thoughts, emotions
  • Familiars: animal guides, household spirits, magical allies, etc.
  • Garden: how I set up my magical garden, what to grow, timing of plantings/harvesting
  • Goddesses you work with or find interesting
  • Healing: rituals, Reiki, meditations, chakra alignment, healing candle spells, etc.
  • Herbs: each herb gets its own page with magical correspondences, any culinary or topical purposes, mundane use, medicinal etc.
  • History: the history of witchcraft, Witch Trials, shamanism, multicultural magical traditions, ancient paganism, folklore, etc.
  • Home and Hearth: magical recipes, anecdotes, charms for protection, cleansing and protection rituals, magical cleaning routines, kitchen utensils that serve as magical tools, tea spells, etc.
  • Love Rituals: any herbs, charms, rituals, spells, affirmations to attract love or self-love, sex magic
  • Lost Civilizations: info on Avalon, Atlantis, Lemuria
  • Moon Magic: lunar phases and their magical properties, lunar goddesses, moon rituals, drawing down the moon, how to make moon water, charging things in the moonlight
  • Protection: laying wards, sealing one’s house, travel protection charms, shielding rituals, banishing, binding, reversals, etc.
  • Sacred places: portals, ley lines, YOUR power places (places in nature you felt most connected and magical), and info on liminal spaces like beaches, cemeteries, crossroads
  • Symbols: helpful if you draw or print out different sacred and magical symbols to include in your grimoire. Witches runes, Elder futhark, moon glyphs, Enochian alphabet, Celtic and Norse symbols, etc.

How to Cleanse and Charge Your Grimoire

So you have a notebook and some ideas of what to write in your grimoire, but how do you dedicate it solely to your spiritual use? Cleansing and charging your grimoire is a good idea, similar to how you cleanse and charge your altar and tools.

My favorite way to cleanse a grimoire is with smoke. Run the grimoire over and through the smoke front and back, visualizing negative energy leaving the pages. Envision a “clean slate” to dedicate to your magical studies. Then, hold it in your hands and to your heart and say, “I bless this book in the name of _______ (your god/goddess/universe/ancestors/higher self) and dedicate it to my magical and spiritual studies. May my heart and soul be poured onto its pages for the highest good. So be it.” Then leave your grimoire to be charged in the full moon’s light or the sunlight. Make sure it won’t fade in sunlight if you choose to charge with solar power.

How you charge your grimoire with energy and power is up to you. I recommend doing what you feel drawn to do. If you want to spray your grimoire pages with a light mist made out of a magical herbal concoction, do it! Just remember to leave it out to dry and keep in mind anything wet will warp paper a bit. Add oils, bookmarks with symbols, and keepsakes like small feathers, etc. All of these items will charge your grimoire with powerful energies. I’ve even see witches burn candles in the middle of their grimoire bindings (PLEASE don’t try this at home…there’s an obvious fire hazard here!)

Protective Symbols and Words

In addition to cleansing and charging your grimoire, some folks inscribe protective symbols or words on the inside. This serves as a means to keep snooping people out of your magical business and may even help it to be returned if lost or misplaced. Choose symbols that mean protection and are sacred to you. Some examples are: elder futhark runes, witches’ runes, sigils, theban alphabet, moon glyphs, ogham, etc.

Ideas for Decorating Your Grimoire

The funnest part of creating a grimoire is decorating or embellishing it, IMO. You can find magical stickers online and at craft stores to include in your grimoire. Some stickers I’ve used include: trees, plants, flowers, dragonflies, butterflies, stars, moons, crystals and more. It just takes time to find the right ones. In addition, check out the scrapbooking section of your local craft store for cool papers you can use, borders, stencils, and stamps. I may not have good handwriting, but my stickers and stencils are ON POINT.

Rituals and Spells to Include In Your Grimoire:

Starting a Grimoire or Book of Shadows: A Beginner's Guide

24 thoughts on “The Witch’s Grimoire: A Beginner’s Guide of Magical Record Keeping

  1. I am a novice when it comes to grimoires, though I have gotten bigger and bolder with my second book. But I still struggle with what is appropriate content. One of my current studies is my astrology and astrology in general and before I started note-taking, I thought I would ask the question. (I am trying to constrain my need to follow how others “do”, wanting to feel confident in my own creativity.) You have generously answered my question in a very general sense of “what” not “how”. Thank you!

  2. Hey, I was just wondering, My grimore is basically a notebook, So what should I first write in it after a clease it? Im a bit confused.

    1. My first set of information was a natal astrology chart for myself, then my favorite tarot cards, and some information about my favorite practices (hedge Witchery). 🙂

  3. I am a baby witch that is in a broom closet, and as a beginner, This has been very helpful. Thank you for whoever who made this.

  4. hi, i am a bit confused on where to start as a baby witch. my parents are Christians and i was forced to avoid all other types of spiritual connections. i have been really drawn to this community but i don’t know where or how to start so if someone could help me out that would be great. and the information you put on this site helped too, i just don’t know where to begin

    1. Hi. The best way is by reading. But, not all at the same time. I could suggest Scott Cunningham’s “The Solitary Practitioner’s Guide” book. It is an ideal book to start. Find it, read it, study it and of course, put what it says into practice. Avoid reading everything, as the excess of information will confuse you.

      1. I just wanted to say my thank you to you, I am a baby witch also and wasn’t sure how to start my grimoire. This has helped me immensely. Blessed be!

    2. hello, im a bit of a baby witch too. my parents are also Christian so I had to begin small. I think you should start with the basics like, Mediation, crystals, healing work and protection spells 🙂 or if you want a bit more try learning about lunar magic and elemental magic

  5. This website is great love the idea! I am a baby witch in the broom closet as well. Anyway what i do for my altar is a salt lamp, a few candles, dried flowers/herbs, and a secret sigil under my alarm clock. My ancestor altar on my bookshelf (for my grandpa) consists of a few pics of him, things that he used to use a lot *example, a wallet i made him , a necklace he gave me, and amytheste and pine which attract ancestors and spirits. For things like smudge spray ,spell bottles, and my grimoire, i keep in a special altar box under my night stand. Hope this helps for other witches in the broom closet!!! Blessed be!

  6. Thank you for the insight and information. I have been gathering information for a while now. Started putting it in 3 ring binder and need a bigger one. Have wanted a leather one also seen a few using the decoupage material. Haven’t tried that yet. But I’m eager to. Blessings to all and fair travels. Thank you again.

  7. Great info! I’ve been a solitary kitchen witch for 30+ years. My BOS is a large 3 ring binder, covered in leather, with decoupage, engraving & metal symbols. Sites on book binding can offer instruction & inspiration. Using a 3 ring makes it easier to organize the many family remedies that have been passed down, along with stories about the people who used them. This is your book for your needs so do what works for you. This is also something that could be passed to future generations, providing them not only with knowledge, but a link to the past, successes, failures (sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic.) Being solitary for so long I’ve really enjoyed this site & interacting with other like. minded people. I’m disabled with a chronic disease, almost daily fevers, severe pain & exhaustion, very difficult to leave the house, so you’all might be seeing a lot more of me on here. Welcome to email me just to chat or swap trade secrets, lol. Blessed Be.

    1. Blessed be lady lucina of the ozarks, my name is kelly, I am sorry to hear your unwell. I feel your pain, its exhausting being in constant pain day after day,, without any breaks. I too suffer with an illness with constant and daily pain. I have fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, migraines plantar fasciitis, and tendinitis in both my feet. I also suffer with depression and anxiety so I don’t really leave the house only if I have to. I’m just starting my journey into this ethereal world, I’ve always had a notion that I was sensitive, I knew when my grandparents who’m have both crossed over to the other side, have been to pay me a visit.i have been taking notes on from this site and others on how and what I should set up and put on my altar, what I need to put in my grimoire, and how to read my tarot cards. It’s a bit of a strange thing with my tarot cards because I searched multiple shops, ebay and amazon and no cards called out to me, and then as I was doing a new search on eBay after a week of not looking, I found the mystical manga tarot cards and they absolutely screamed at me as soon as I laid my eyes on them and I couldn’t resist I had to have them. I haven’t opened them yet, they are still covered with the plastic wrap in the box, I want to cleanse, bless and protect them first before I use them. But I don’t know where to start wit them, they have got a book by Barbara Moore with them but I’m not sure how detailed its going to be? The description on the sellers advert also stated that they were based on the rider-waite system, is it worth me studying this system aswell or just rely on the book itself? If you have any advise that would help me with anything I would be soon grateful, I would do a happy dance in your name. Thankyou for reading goddess bless, blessed be.

  8. I am in Avalon……loving this floating along along in my favorite river. Through lovely mists, seeing nothing but peaceful beasties and colorful fairies. Your help is graciously accepted. Love returned to you three-fold.
    Lady Gryphon Owl-the Crone

  9. Thank you for creating this! As a baby witch/pagan who is in the broom closet, I want to get started on my BoS/Grimoire before I do my practice since a book is less suspicious than an altar.

    1. An altar doesn’t have to scream Witchcraft. A small table with drawers for supplies, simple altar cloth, candles, incense censer or holder, maybe some fresh flowers & you have a lovely meditation spot. And a nice little, inconspicuous altar! Aromatherapy is so “in” right now, I doubt it would draw much attention. Your welcome to email me, I’m far, far from an expert, but have mentored a few newbies, & enjoy helping others if I can. Blessed Be!

    2. Im a baby witch who is also in the broom closet, what I did for my alter was put three candles, a small bowl, that I drew some sigils on, to put coins in, some gems, some shells, a small sakura tree that was made from gems that I got from Washington DC about a year ago, and put my small colletction of herbs in the back with my book and I put all of them in a cubby of a storage unit that I got about a year ago, I also put one of the snowglobes from my colection in it because they mean alot to me. I put fairy lights around the top of it as well

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