Book of Shadows
The ‘‘bible’’ of the modern witch coven. It contains basic beliefs,
rituals, charms, spells, and incantations. There is no authentic
definitive edition, since the form and scope of the book
differs from coven to coven. Normal procedure is for a witch
to copy the work in her own handwriting and destroy the original,
but in many covens, copies are made without destroying
the original. However, no copy is intended to be kept by a witch
who leaves the coven, and this rule is enforced by various
threats and curses.
Although the act of copying the book in manuscript suggests
a centuries-old secret tradition, there is little doubt that the material
contained in most modern versions of the Book of Shadows
derives from sources such as Aradia; or The Gospel of the
Witches (1899) by Charles Godfrey Leland, a compilation of
witchcraft folklore reportedly collected by Leland from a Florentine
fortune-teller and hereditary. It was the first Englishlanguage
publication of its kind. The average modern Book of
Shadows derives from the one constructed in stages by Gerald
B. Gardner for use in his revived Witchcraft group in Great
Britain during the 1940s and 1950s. He borrowed heavily from
the writings of Aleister Crowley, especially for the third degree.
During the 1960s and 1970s various Witches mixed the
Gardnerian Book of Shadows with material from modern occult
and folklore texts.
The Gardnerian Book of Shadows was actually released in
1964 by a hostile ex-member, and over the years additional
variations on the text have been published, as have new Books
of Shadows inspired by it. Wide circulation was given to Lady
Sheba’s Book of Shadows, released in 1973.
The Book of Shadows and Substance. Owlexandrian MultimediaHermetic
Educational Institute, n.d.
Budapest, Zsuzsanna Emese. The Feminist Book of Lights and
Shadows. Venice, Calif. Luna Publications, 1976.
Rex Nemorensis [Charles Cardell]. Witch. London Privately
published, 1964.
Sheba, Lady. The Book of Shadows. St. Paul, Minn. Llewellyn
Publications, 1973.
Tarostar. A Book of Shadows. New Brunswick, N.J. Inner
Light Publications,1987.