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“Black Book” vs “Grimoire”

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

I’m still working on A History of Magic by Richard Cavendish, but I’m also now reading The Black Book of Isobel Gowdie by Ash William Mills. I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in historical folk magic and witchcraft, especially if you’re into Scottish history.

A bit from Mills’ book prompted me to make this post.

“Although there are a lot of crossovers when it comes to Black Books and Grimoires, we should not confuse them as being one in the same. All Grimoires are magic books but not all magic books are Grimoires! A Grimoire were [sic] often printed manuals for a certain system of ceremonial magic. Black Books, on the other hand, were practical handbooks of local folk magic and medicine for addressing everyday concerns.”

Personally, when I was first starting out, I didn’t know the term ”black book.” I had only heard “grimoire.” It made researching witchcraft pretty difficult for me. A lot of modern witches use the terms “grimoire” or “book of shadows,” but very few seem to use the term “black book.” (Maybe because their personal books usually aren’t black.)

Imagine how annoyed I was, trying to find historical spells but only finding complex systems for summoning angels! It’s fine if that’s what you’re into, but it’s not what I wanted. I first came across the term “black book” a few years ago on tumblr, on a blog called ofwoodandbone, which was a fantastic resource. Sadly, the blog was deleted and the name has been taken by someone else, but some of the original blog’s posts can be found if you search.

I spent so much time and energy on grimoires when what I really wanted were black books, so I made this post in the hopes that I can prevent some other poor soul from suffering the same fate.

Stay safe!

- me

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