What is a Grimoire?

The term “grimoire” is a general name given to a selection of texts that set out the names of demons and instructions on how to raise them. Effectively a grimoire is a book of black magic, a book on which a wizard relied for all the necessary advice and instruction on raising spirits and casting spells. To be effective, the wizard should be initiated in the art of reciting the formula and following the rituals that are associated with the spells. Some superstitions claim that Grimoires must be in manuscript and in red ink, bound in black or in human skin, and that they must be given to the user as part of a witch’s legacy. If money is involved, all powers are cancelled out.

Grimoires were very popular from 1600 AD through 1900 AD. The Black Dragon, Red Dragon and the Black Screech Owl are all examples of grimoires or magical texts. The term grimoire is a derivative of “grammar.” Grammar describes a fixed set of symbols and the means of their incorporation to properly produce well-formed, meaningful sentences and texts. Similarly, a grimoire describes a set of magical symbols and how best to properly combine them in order to produce the desired effects. True grimoires contain elaborate rituals, many of which are echoed in modern witchcraft rites. Sources for the information in the various grimoires include Greek and Egyptian magical texts from 100-400 A.D. and Hebrew & Latin sources. Grimoires were used much more by sorcerers, wizards, and early church officials than by witches.

shutterstock_215951707In witchcraft, each practitioner, witch or coven creates their own grimoire, which tells of their journey down their personal spiritual path. It holds knowledge, feelings, thoughts, rituals, lore, magick and experiences. Some call this a “Book of Shadows,” but that is really a title left over from a time when all practitioners of pagan religion were being forced into hiding through fear of persecution.

One of the most famous of these collected texts is the Voynich Manuscript, widely considered to be one of the most mysteriously interesting manuscripts in the history of grimoires. This book contains a ciphered unknown alphabet written on vellum and depicts bizarre plants, original astronomical charts, and odd interconnected bathtubs with tiny naked people.

Cryptographers, mathematicians and linguists have all been unable to decipher this book. Despite its arcane nature, scholars maintain it was written during the medieval years of 1404 and 1438. Its name comes from antique book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who bought the book second-hand in Italy in 1912.

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