Book Review: The Modern Witchcraft Grimoire: Your Complete Guide to Creating Your Own Book of Shadows by Skye Alexander
Adams Media, August 1, 2016. 288 pages. $10.93
Reviewed by Ember Winter Phoenix
“You have more than enough to do, be, create and have everything you desire! In order to have EVERYTHING you desire, you must shift your beliefs and begin to see yourself in a new and strong way. It’s about creating a powerful mindset shift…the first step is connecting with your Inner Goddess.” — Lisa Marie Rosati
Skye Alexander’s tome on creating your own Book of Shadows, or Grimoire, was one of those books I hungrily devoured in two days, underlining lots of passages. Alexander defines a grimoire thus:
“A grimoire is a witch’s personal journal of her or his magickal experiences. Here, you keep track of your spells, rituals, and other things related to your development as a magick worker. It’s like a cook’s collection of recipes. Some people refer to it as a “Book of Shadows.” Old grimoires served as collections of spells and rituals. A Book of Shadows today might also include its author’s musings and insights related to a spell, as well as her dreams, feelings, poems, lore, and other asides. Your grimoire is a record of your growth and of the changes you and others bring about in your life. Above all, it is a tool you can use in your search for and discovery of the path of the Goddess.”
Alexander delves into the history of grimoires, details famous ancient grimiores throughout history, and even dedicates a section to the grimoires of Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente (a definite must-read section for Wiccans!). She addresses the question of secrecy (whether or not to share your Book of Shadows / Grimoire with others), and then dives into what you should include in your grimoire.
She maintains that not all grimoires need resemble those of the past (strictly guarded, hand-written, and purely instructional), and even advocates for online grimoires, which I personally think are just as useful. She addresses binding your own BOS, choosing cover imagery, the popular “Binder of Shadows,” and other aesthetic considerations (she even includes a recipe to make your own paper!).
One of the best takeaways from Alexander’s book is that it’s important to allow for additions and updates:
As you progress along your spiritual path, you’ll continue refining your practice, your techniques, and your objectives. Coven members or other people you work with will influence you. Things you read about the Craft and various magickal traditions will influence you. The outcomes of your spells will influence you. And the world you live in–as well as the nonphysical worlds that interface with our material one–will influence you. Therefore, you can expect to continually update your grimoire as you journey along the course you’ve chosen.
She suggests a binder or an online BOS as a prerequisite for a handwritten version in a gorgeous bound book.
Another great point Alexander makes is that there are endless ways to organize your BOS. You can do it seasonally, lunarly, by spell type, by topic, by spell components, etc. Think of the ways in which you will use your grimoire, and organize it that way.
“I think the highest purpose of ritual or magickal work is to seek our gods, to commune with the cosmic ‘mirror’ and the spirits of nature in order to learn more of the divinity within ourselves and reach evermore toward personal growth in its highest expression.” —Maria Kay Simms, A TIME FOR MAGICK
Alexander includes some suggestions for front matter, such as The Wiccan Rede (should you follow the Wiccan path), a blessing, and a dedication. She also suggests, aside from writing in your grimoire on a daily basis as well as upon spell occasions, to keep track of celestial influences, track your health cycles, note everyday situations, pay attention to your dreams, record your tarot readings, and include other meaningful content such as lyrics, poems, and inspiring book passages. She encourages sketching in the grimoire, making and pasting in vision boards and / or collages, and experimenting with textures (such as pressing seasonal leaves and flowers between the pages, an idea I first ran across from Ann Moura).
Alexander is a proponent of creating and using sacred space to write in your grimoire, consecrating the grimoire, and even writing in code (such as the Witch’s Alphabet, or Theban script) should you be moved to guard your secrets.
Aside from merely instructing the witch on how to construct her most personal tool, Alexander proffers spells, correspondences, Sabbat observances, solar spells, astrological information, lunar spells, esbat spells, moon spells, eclipse spells, and spells by intention. She highlights verbal and visual spells, chants, affirmations, incantations, elemental lore, tarot spells, runic spells, sigils and how to create them, active spells, circle casting, mudras, dancing, labyrinths, potions, lotions, balms, salves, oils, baths, scrubs, talismans, amulets, fetishes, and tool consecrations. She deep dives spell materials such as candles, botanicals, gemstones, symbolism, and geometric shapes, as well as numbers and dates with respect to spellcasting.
Overall, I think Skye Alexander’s book is a gem in a sea of rocks. She offers creative and intelligent suggestions for crafting your own grimoire without being overly instructive, as some writers are. She acknowledges the deeply personal task that creating a BOS is, and respects the witch’s own intuition when bringing it all together. I rate this book a solid 5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for both novice and adept witches, to cast a new angle on a much overlooked aspect of the Craft. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, and it brings a new perspective to one of the most important tools of witchcraft.