Simply put, a grimoire is a book of magic. A grimoire often includes spells, instructions on how to create charms and summon spirits as well as tips on how to use herbs, crystals, candles, and other magical tools.
I first became familiar (and enamored) with grimoires while playing Castlevania and after perusing a friend’s Dungeons & Dragons collection. Looking back, I realize those were mostly bestiaries, but they still piqued my interest.
Not quite sure what a grimoire is? The word grimoire likely comes from the French “grammaire,” (which means a work written in Latin). But, I realize that doesn’t help much.
If you’ve ever seen a witch consult a magic spell book onscreen, that’s a grimoire. For instance, when the Sanderson Sisters decide to turn a dude into a cat in Hocus Pocus, they consult their Book of Spells. (If you really liked the film, here’s a replica of it.)
How Long Have Grimoires Existed?
These magical encyclopedias have been around a lot longer than Hollywood witches and Dungeons & Dragons.
They’ve existed almost as long as writing has. According to professor Owen Davies in Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, archeologists have discovered magical incantations inscribed clay tablets that date back Ancient Mesopotamia (read: the 4th or 5th century). They were a way for people to share the magical knowledge they’d passed down through oral traditions and capture it in a more permanent way.
Davies explains, “Magic squares consisting of a grid of numbers of astrological, metaphysical, or mystical significance are thought to have spread westwards from China in the last first millennium thanks to Persian and Arab traders.”
The mystical information eventually made its way to the printing press, and some of them are still in existence. These include The Magus, The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, The Grand Grimoire (also known as Le Dragon Rouge), The Sworn Book of Honorius, The Key of Solomon, and of course, the relatively new Book of Shadows by Wicca’s Gerald Gardner.
There are also lesser known grimoires available. For instance, I recently added Native Apothecary’s Hedge Witch Grimoire to my collection in no small part because of the stunning illustrations by the Poison Apple Printshop contained therein.
Can I Make My Own Grimoire?
You can absolutely make your own grimoire.
When creating your own, lean into your own style. Whether you use an ancient-looking book or prefer to keep a digital version… well that’s up to you. A grimoire is your tool for your practice, so it should be useful to you. And, if possible, reflect your personality.
One way to create one is to pen a diary of your magical experiences.
For example, as you learn and test different spells or incantations, write down what you did, what your intentions were, and what resulted. If you’re learning about herbs, make a sketch of the herb or flower and note its properties.
If you’re exploring divination using tarot cards, tea leaves, or other methods, write down what your question was, what the cards or leaves revealed, and then go back and write down what happened after enough time has passed for an event to have likely occurred.
If you’re looking to learn more about the Wiccan Sabbats, you can create a page for the Wheel of the Year and a page for each festival. Or, if you’re into astrology, write down the date and the prediction in your grimoire, and return later to make notes on whether or not the prediction came true.
As you begin to explore your own experiences and seek out more information and guidance, you’ll deepen your knowledge and begin to learn what works for you and what doesn’t.
Do you have a grimoire? What does it look like? What sort of information do you capture within it?