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Books of Shadows

To: (Occult Elist)
From: (lorax666)
Subject: (O) Books of Shadows
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 05:42:39 -0700 (PDT)

980917 IIIom

from a correspondent (bcc'd):
# I was just reading your page that is on the web...the excerps 
# from your BoS.  I've been reading on Wicca for a few months 
# now, and I'd like to perhaps follow this path, but first I 
# want to make sure I have the basic understandings of  Wicca.

note: my BoS was inspired by studying with CA Line Gardnerians.
it can be found at:

# 1) How and what did you construct your BoS of? 

I had compiled a notebook or two in reflection of what I was
learning with some California Line Gardnerians.  the originals
were cannibalized to create the online version.  the study did
not include formal initiation into the lineage.  we were told
that we may be exposed to traditional liturgy or instructions
but that this would not be identified as such.  my intent was
to absorb what I could within this context and integrate what
I wanted into my already established ritual practice (set up
along different association schema and much less ceremonial in
character, integrating psychoactives, sex, and taboo-breaking).
I was to consider whether I wanted to be part of the cult and
later decided against it based on oath-binding inherent to it.

in making the online version of the BoS I sought to construct
a veritable ritual of its own poetic form while communicating
some of the flavor of the material about which I was learning
(ostensibly northern European shamanism of a modern bent).

# Is there any one way it's supposed to be done?

my understanding is that the Magical Record or Book of Shadows
(the first is from Hermetic tradition, the latter specifically
from Gardnerian Wicca and its offshoots/reflections) varies
considerably as to content.  

the Magical Record typically is a 'scientific' record of one's 
ceremonial experiments and some reflection on their results.  
it may also contain material that inspired the workings or 
reflects in some way the magical activities described.  if one
is under tutelage then it may include specific recommendations
or inspirational suggestions from one's instructor.

the Book of Shadows seems to have undergone an expansion of
meaning as Wicca diversified and expanded from Gardnerian roots.
at first it seems primarily to have been a substitute for the
Holy Scripture with which Gardner was familiar, integrating
mystical utterances of one's forebears, instructions or mythos
to inform one's ceremonial activities, and general reflections
on the religion of which one was a part that could be 
instructional to the aspirant.  

Gardner's earliest Book of Shadows appears to have been 
cobbled text from text he had at his disposal, such as 
grimoires, works by Crowley and other occultists, and 
religious of which he was fond.  

it was intended that the BoS be a secret document transmitted 
only to those who were a part of one's cultus, initiated and 
restrained to secrecy for the purposes of cult-protection.  
Gardner or whoever it was that originated this idea (some say 
his instructor, Clutterbuck) seems to have wanted to convey 
the impression that these texts were anciente (sic), evidence
of long-term survival of witch-cults, and containing powerful
data that needed protection (and would conveniently attract 

as with most cults, the texts typically (even today) contain 
little or nothing of the sort (as has been explicated to some 
degree by Aidan Kelly and others) and that they are evidence
of witchcraft's survival is a silly suggestion in any case 
given the predominant condition of illiteracy prevalent in 
Inquisitory Europe.

# And what about the book you put in a bk.
# blessing in your own way?

I have never seen a traditional Gardnerian Book of Shadows.
I merely imagined what *I* would want in such a document
that I might construct.  I don't remember anything about
book blessings, but traditionally spellbooks contain more
*curses* in the initial pages (against those who acquire the
text by nefarious means and may intend harm against the
mage or witch who constructed it) than blessings.  why one
would need to bless a book within its own pages (aside,
perhaps, from constructing a writ-ual similar to my own),
I have no idea.

# and 2) I was hoping that you could explain what exactly 
# those excerps mean?  I'm having trouble following them.
# Perhaps, because of the fact that they're not the whole 
# BoS.But, in any event, I would be most appreciative if 
# you would explain them for me.

there is too much text there to explicate its meaning on
the whole, even in excerpt.  treat it as reflections of
a student of the mysteries and you'll get the flavor of
their meaning.  as a body I'm not sure that it can be said
to contain a single or contiguous meaning.  this was not
the intent of the work (as compared, say, to a novel whose
meaning is the story or its underlying messages or a book
of nonfiction whose meaning is to convey a set of data).
blessed beast!
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