Saturday, March 14, 2020

Book of Shadows- Elixir of Knowledge

Book of Shadows

Bricket Wood Coven

The Book of Shadows, had initially been presented by Gerald Gardner in 1950s, to those whom he had introduced into the craft through his Bricket Wood coven. According to him it was a private recipe book of enchantments which was useful to the owner. They could copy from his own book, and add or delete the contents according to their choice.

He was of the opinion that the preparation of witches maintaining this book was ancient, which was practiced by them in ancient times. Gardner claims that after the death of the person, the book would be burnt down. This was carried out to ensure that no one would know that the person was a witch. However no mention has been made by Gerald Garner of anything as a `Book of Shadows’, in his 1949 novel with regards to mediaeval witchcraft – High Magic’s Aid.

According to Doreen Valiente, High Priestess, this was because Gardner had not been aware of the idea at that point of time and had invented it only after he had written the novel. Doreen Valiente was of the opinion that the term `Book of Shadows’, was found by Gardner from a 1949 edition – Volume 1, Number 3 of a magazine which was called The Occult Observer. She claimed that in this edition, it had been an advertisement for his novel, High Magic’s Aid. This was opposite an article known as `The Book of Shadows’, written by palmist Mir Bashir.

Book of shadows- Ancient Sanskrit Prediction

The said article related to an apparently ancient Sanskrit prediction manual, which elaborated on how to prophesy instances based on the length of the shadow of a person. Valiente speculated that Gardner had adopted this term for his magic spell textbook.

She appreciated the name of the book, from whichever source Gardner may have found it. Later on, a leather bound manuscript which had been handwritten by Gardner, titled `Ye Bok of Ye Art Magical’, had been located from his papers after his death in the Museum.

 This was found by Aidan Kelly which was later on acquired by Richard and Tamarra James of the Wiccan Church of Canada. This seemed to be the first draft of the Book of Shadows of Gardner featuring sections related to the ceremonials of the Ordo temple Orientis.

This was formulated by the occultist Aleister Crowley. Access to these ceremonials was gained by Gardner in 1946 when he had acquired a contract from Cowley providing him approval to execute the OTO ceremonials.

Book of shadows Considered as Evidence

It had been considered as evidence by some of the folks, that Gardner had invented this notion of a textbook of spells probably between 1946 and 1949, when he had completed his High Magic’s Aid novel. Later he had named it Ye Bok of Ye Art Magical. Towards 1949, he had again renamed it to the Book of Shadows and started utilising it with his Bricket Wood Coven. Doreen Valiente merged with Gardner’s Bricket Wood Coven in 1953 and soon became its High Priestess.

She investigated how much of the material of his Book of Shadows had been taken from prehistoric sources as claimed by Gardner originally. However it was not taken from prehistoric sources but from the occultist Aleister Crowley from Aradia or the books of the Witches, from the Key of Solomon as well as from the ceremonials of Freemasonry.

She challenged Gardner regarding this who had acknowledged that the text he had obtained had been incomplete from the New Forest coven. He admitted that he had to fill in much by utilising numerous sources. He stated to Valiente saying that if she could do better, then she should go ahead.

Book of shadows- Accepted Challenge

Valiente on her part found that she was capable of doing it and stated that ‘I accepted the challenge and set out to rewrite the Book of Shadows, cutting out the Crowleyanity as much as I could and trying to bring it back to what I felt was, if not so elaborate as Crowley’s phraseology, at least our own and in our own words’.



Valiente rephrased most of it, cutting out numerous sections which had come from Crowley, (since she feared his negative reputation). However she maintained the parts which had been initiated from Aradia or the books of the Witches, since she sensed they were normal witchcraft practice. She rewrote radically sections like the Charge of the Goddess as well as various poems like The Witches Rune. Moreover she also assisted in creating poem comprising of the Wiccan Rede in it.

Valiente also observed in one ceremonials that a chant was based on a poem, ‘A Tree Song’, from Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling. This she had enjoyed as a child. The said chant stated that, ‘This version of the ritual, written by both Gardner and Valiente, but containing sections adopted from various sources, such as Aleister Crowley, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches and even Rudyard Kipling, went on to become the traditional text for Gardnerian Wicca’.

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