Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Magician’s Handbook - A Grimoire To Have On-Hand

When practicing magic, an extremely practical tool that one can have is what I have come to call a handbook, or ritual book. This would be a small book where the magician or sorcerer would store all the working notes and spoken parts that would be needed during any given ritual or other working. There may be short descriptions of actions to take, basic magical exercises to refer to, and symbols and seals of spiritual forces commonly worked with.

This thing is nothing new, though. I remember when I was first learning Wicca back in 1997, the literature at the time recommended keeping one’s own Book of Shadows. At the time it was framed just like what I described above, though over time more and more Llewellyn authors framed it as a personal, timeline-style journal...which I never quite agreed with.

Polyphanes over at The Digital Ambler recently finished filling up the moleskine notebook he kept as his personal, on-hand echiridion, and so it came time to condense the material and transfer it to a new notebook. This reminded me of a similar endeavor I had in June where I took my little ritual book and re-did it with better organization and formatting than what the previous version had.

What’s interesting and amusing here is that he reached that point with his handbook soon after I had finished the new version of mine. Though the purpose of our handbooks are the same, our methods differed vastly. To explain, I’ll give a short history of mine:

Back in 2013 I decided to make a new version of my handbook, as I was not satisfied with the previous version. The information was so disjointed and disorganized that I wanted something a bit more condensed. So I grabbed a blank, lined journal about 5.5” x 8 in size and transcribed most of the practical information of my magical practices by hand. It took me a month of writing in it for at least two hours every night. On the weekends, I spent most of the day on it. My wrist and hand absolutely hated me during that time.

Flash forward to late May or early June of this year, and that one had reached a similar point too. The memory of all the intense effort spent on it was somehow still fresh in my memory, and after I had completed it I had endeavored to find a faster way to put it all together.

For me, this left a few possible options:

  1. Grab a small blank scrapbook and print pages to put in it. Pros: With sturdy clips and bindings, I likely wouldn’t get the punch-hole tear that plagued me back when I first started my Book of Shadows in a three-ring binder back in 1997. Cons: I would need to be able to lay it flat, but also I couldn’t find any blank scrapbooks small enough.
  2. Writing my handbook out in a word processor and paying to have a company print, bind, and ship it to me as a paperback. Pros: Very little effort on my part. Cons: It would probably cost more than I was willing to pay, when I could do it myself. Thus...
  3. Writing my handbook in a word processor, getting it printed myself, and binding it by hand. Pros: Complete control of the finished product, and less cost. Cons: More time spent learning related skills, possibly failing to result in a good product.

Given my still-existing artistic and design inclinations, if you guessed that I went with option #3, you’d be right!

So I took to a word processor on my computer (in this case, WPS Writer) and got all the information together. The upshot of this is that I had most of it already: I keep a much larger, fuller Grimoire on my Google Drive. Most of the book was a simple copy & paste operation followed by formatting...lots of formatting.

Then, I learned more about how to print and bind one’s own book. After doing that, I took PDF files of the whole project to a local FedEx office, printed it, took the print-outs home and bound the whole thing. In total, it probably cost me about $30.

Except for the cover I’d found at a vendor booth at a convention. That cost me $65...but that was more for artistic flair than anything else.

I'm very satisfied with the new organization, which runs something like this:

  1. A few starting quotes and rhetoric lists.
  2. A list of the basic forces I work with in magic (elemental, planetary) and the seals of spirits related to them.
  3. Foundations of my practice of sorcery (meditation, offerings, purifications, subtle keys, gestures, poses)
  4. Zone rites
  5. Liturgy - Invocations, prayers, orphic hymns, etc.
  6. General magical methods, such as consecrations, and ritual preparation.
  7. Rituals and spells...a combination of theurgical and thaumaturgical workings.
  8. A section of blank, lined pages for further additions to be handwritten in.

One thing I would like to point out about this, though, is that something like this should always be grounded in the practical. I paid for the leather cover because I liked it, not because I felt I needed it, per se. The book itself is bound with a simple black cardstock cover, which cost me…$0.50, I think? Overall the book was cheap to make and took way less time than its previous handwritten iterations. Don’t break your bank doing something like this. :-)

In my next two posts I will outline how I did this, and also provide my own response to Polyphanes’ post regarding the role of a handbook like this.

But in closing for now, here are some pictures of mine after I finished it!


  1. I keep my notes in an old trapper keeper that I used in high school. Back then they promised those things would last a lifetime and apparently they weren't lying... It's all about what makes you happy

  2. I love this idea! Back when I started practicing ages ago (as a wiccan), I never really got on with making a book of shadows. Since its becoming irritating to have to reference several books, should I need to check anything, I think it's time I kept a notebook.