Your Magical Library
by Elizabeth Barrette
Excerpted from the class “The White Wizard’s Library” in the Grey
School of Wizardry,
Elizabeth Barrette, ©2006
Think of a Witch’s room, and one of the first things you see
is a wall of books. Witches rely on esoteric knowledge to
accomplish their goals. A magical library provides detailed
correspondences, diagrams, ritual schematics and so forth. Magic also lends itself well to focusing the
energy of a library to help empower spells, and to protecting books from loss
or damage. Of course, a single article can’t cover all
the different kinds of books that belong in a magical library, but these books
will give you a good place to start.
Books for Spell Design
in this section form the foundation of your library, the raw materials of
concepts that you will shape into spells and rituals. They include titles on magical
correspondences, alphabets, and other information. Magical encyclopedias and dictionaries and
other such reference books fall into this category. So do books on high theory of magic,
spellcraft and design, grimoires and other collections of spells.
books in the early to middle planning stages. Once you have a theme in mind, pull out an
armload of books and sit down with a piece of scratch paper. Write the
theme at the top of the paper. Underneath, jot down everything you can find
that relates to your topic – elemental correspondences, sigils, names of
Witches or deities or legendary heroes, etc. If you find a spell that does exactly what
you want, great. But chances are you won’t; you’ll need to
customize a spell; and for that, you can pick apart spells from a grimoire and
use individual parts of them that you happen to like.
reference books need to be clear, reliable, and relevant. Check the author’s name and publisher’s name
– do they have a good reputation for accuracy, or do they tend to put out
fluff? Look at the titles in the
bibliography – are they books you respect, or do you see a lot of New Age
garbage? Examine the table of contents
and the index. One or the other of those should tell you
where everything is in the book. If you can’t look up what you need, the book
isn’t much use for reference. Skim through the interior of the book to see
how well it lives up to its title. Does it actually talk about the kind of magic
you work, concepts you can use to build your spells? Does it make sense to you?
Books that can pass these tests are worth keeping in your library.
Here are a
few books you might want to take a look at…
of Spells by Elen Hawke. Llewellyn Publications,St. Paul,MN, 2003.
of Spells is exactly that, a sort of magical dictionary with brief workings
from “Abundance” to “Zest for Life.” This book also has some helpful supporting
material. The introduction explains basic theory and
practice of magic. The afterword includes a brief overview of
circle casting. An index lists all the topics/spells by page. It’s aimed
at beginners but contains enough insightful tidbits to merit a look from
intermediate and advanced practitioners as well – it makes an excellent
quick-reference manual or travel spellbook.
Magician's Reflection: A Complete Guide to Creating Personal Magical Symbols
& Systems by Bill Whitcomb. Llewellyn Publications, 1999.
This book offers
an extensive, detailed guide to constructing personal sets of concepts for
magical use. Opening material includes an introduction
plus discussions of magical symbols, magical systems, and the reasons for
constructing them. Part One: Magical Symbolism and Exercises
covers archetypes, ritual processes, colors, numbers, shape and form, natural
phenomena, places, metals, stones, substances, living things, mythological
creatures, the human body, objects and tools, plants and herbs, and trees. Part Two: Putting
It All Together covers personal symbols, symbol systems, magical alphabets, and
energizing the system. Part Three: What to Do with a Magical Symbol
System covers the magic circle, rising on the planes, pathworking, the magical
name, magical tools, naming a magical being, telesmatic images, spirit
talismans, evocation, and invocation. The back matter includes the NAR Alphabet of
the Primordial Elements, the Alphabet of Dreams, a nice glossary, a terrific
bibliography divided by topic, and a comprehensive index. Throughout the book there are lists, tables,
diagrams, charts, and other helpful tidbits to support the text.
Books for Ritual Design
in this section build up your library. They provide the structure for your
ceremonies. This category includes books on ritual
planning and pacing, and ceremonialism in general. There are collections of rituals for specific
purposes, such as handfastings and marriages; and collections on broad sets of
rituals, such as sabbat rituals or rites of passage. Other books discuss the setting, timing or
other background circumstances for ceremonies.
guidebooks during the middle to late stages of planning a ritual. After you
have your theme and a bunch of notes on such things as correspondences and
components, you can begin organizing your material. Group together similar ideas. (Circle
them on the page if that helps.) See if a logical progression through time, or
a spatial arrangement, suggests itself based on those groupings. For a group
ritual, jot down the names of any people who seem like a good match for
specific tasks, tools, or other things in your notes. Look for numerical patterns – do you see
several sets of three, or four, etc.
in your notes?
Based on these things, decide a framework for your ritual
and organize everything accordingly. You might base a ritual on the Four Elements,
with everything in sets of four and displaying an elemental affiliation, going
around the circle from Air in the East to Earth in the North. Or you
might base a ritual on the legend of King Arthur, with a test to represent the
Sword in the Stone, followed by acclaim and coronation.
Look at sample rituals and analyze how they work. What
patterns can you see in ritual flow?
What activities or motifs appear the most often? You can take portions of a ritual from a
book, but it’s a better idea for you to identify the structure of a ritual you
like, and create something original using that same structure but different
phrasing and details.
with the Sun: Celebrating the Seasons of Life by Yasmine Galenorn. Llewellyn
begins with some handy guides: a list of recipes, a list of spells and rituals,
the preface and acknowledgements, and a discussion of ritual and the Wheel of
the Year. Parts 1-4 cover the four seasons and the
eight Sabbats. Part 5 introduces rites of birth and Part 6
handles rites of death. Part 7 offers some rites of love. Part 8
covers celebrations and traditions. A great resource section explains about holy
waters, pentacles, and correspondences; and tells how to find supplies,
periodicals, and organizations. At the end you’ll find a fine glossary, a
brief bibliography, and a terrific index.
Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens by Julie Tallard Johnson. Bindu
touches on lots of different life challenges. Chapter 1 “The Way of the Spiritual Warrior”
introduces the values of assertiveness and self-respect. Chapter 2 “The Wisdom of the Crows and the Power
of Story” talks about oral tradition and written stories alike. Chapter 3
“Thunder Power: Bringing Forth Your Creative Spirit” discusses creativity and
obstacles to expression. Chapter 4 “Nature as Your Oracle” explains
how the world can speak to people through signs. Chapter 5 “The Ceremonial Circle: Rituals and
Rites of Passage” meets a deep-seated need for recognition. Chapter 6
“Meditations for the Mindful Warrior” presents benefits and techniques of
meditation. Chapter 7 “Dream Weaving by Dr. Laurel Ann Reinhardt” offers suggestions on dream
recall and interpretation. Chapter 8 “Natural Highs andAltered States: Shiatsu to Drum Making to
Reaching the Zone” explores some safe methods of experiencing the world in a
whole new way. Chapter 9 “The Thunderers: Acts of Outrageous
Compassion” delves into social consciousness and ethical codes. Chapter 10
“Wisdom Seeking” looks ahead to the continuing journey with notes on
self-guided study and finding a mentor. The book concludes with a message from the
Dalai Lama. A bibliography of quoted wisdomkeepers and a
handy index make it easier for the reader to find specific items. The
Thundering Years holds great appeal for young Witches. Parents, event organizers, and other adults
who work with magical teens may want to pick up a copy for themselves to use as
Books for a Witch’s Workshop
workshop is an extraordinary place. It always seems to be full of books. This is
partly because, unless you are very lucky and live in an enormous house, your
workshop and your library will probably be the same room. And even if you are very lucky and live in an
enormous house, where you can have a separate room for working magic, you will
find that your books demand a larger and larger share of your house over time,
until they have crept into every room of the place anyhow.
stage is important in magic. Therefore, you need some books that discuss
various aspects of arranging your space. There are books on energy flow systems, like
Feng Shui, and on home decorating with magical themes (mostly aimed at children
but star stencils are star stencils). Then there are floor designs, magic circles,
mosaics, sand paintings, and other surface embellishments. (If you can’t permanently modify your floor
or walls, consider tapestry sheets with magical designs.) You’ll definitely want something about
arranging altars and shrines.
Handmade Hideaways to Refresh the Spirit by G.
Lawson Drinkard III, with photographs by Jon Golden. Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 1997.
explains how to create personal sanctuaries. Beautiful full-color photographs illustrate
the amazing diversity and ingenuity of shelters that people have built. It covers
the purposes and potential uses of a retreat; different options in building
methods and materials; portable vs.
permanent structures; custom vs.
modified structures, and other decisions. One chapter showcases thirteen retreats and
their builders; several have pronounced magical overtones. Finally, a handy resource section in the back
lists books, magazines, suppliers, organizations, and other opportunities for
Circles: A Modern Builder’s Guide to the Megalithic Revival by Rob Roy. Chelsea
Green Publishing Company, 1999.
ever wished that you could ownStonehenge? While the original may remain out of reach,
this book offers a selection of enticing alternatives. How about a ring of thirteen knee-high stones
in your back yard? Or a desktop moss
garden with a miniature dolmen, arranged in a clay saucer? This book describes ancient sites and the
neolithic love affair that inspires new ones; the fascinating folks who
establish modern sites and their fabulous creations; the nitty-gritty details
of designing a stone circle; and a guide to modern stone circles (and other
monuments) along with a thoughtful look “backward and onward.” Finally, a
lavish resource section features a handy source guide, a fine glossary, a
splendid annotated bibliography broken down by topic, and an extensive index.
Books for Specific Tools & Techniques
magic requires knowledge of the many objects and activities that make up a
ritual. One way of generating power is by setting the
stage. All of those gorgeous ornaments and arcane
diagrams aren’t idle decoration – each one connects to the others in a great
web of power that gathers energy and funnels it to the Witch. Books can
help you learn the arrangement of magical items, the preparation of self for
ritual, and the handling of energies raised.
of your library features books with an extremely tight focus, on esoteric
topics or on prosaic topics that can be put to esoteric use. There are
books on a single type of magical tool – candles, wands, incense, and so forth. There are
books on an individual skill or talent – meditation, energy manipulation,
chanting, and the like. These give you a comprehensive knowledge of
the material that allows you to make subtle choices in selection and use to
enhance the power of your spells and rituals.
on Everything Under the Sun: The Dance of Imagination, Intuition, and
Mindfulness by Margo Adair. New Society Publishers, 2001.
takes you on a tour of meditation, and there’s a lot more to it than what
“everybody knows.” Explore the anatomy of consciousness,
signposts for inner travel, ethics and connection, receptivity, and other
practical points. Learn how to adapt the meditations for
specific needs, single or repetitive use, classes and groups, and so forth. There are
complete meditations plus motifs that you can mix and match as needed. Then there’s
the appendix, another hefty section with lots of details. Contents include the principles of applied
meditation, your beliefs, negative thought-traps, and positive affirmations. Then there
are pages of notes to accompany the chapters. A guide to the meditations by ID number and
page, along with a meditation use index, helps you find what you need easily. Meditation is a basic skill that all magical and
spiritual practitioners should learn, and Meditations on Everything Under the
Sun has something for everyone.
Smoke: The Ancient Art of Smudging for Modern Times by Harvest McCampbell. Native
Voices / Book Publishing Company, 2002.
Smoke is a concise yet detailed guide to one particular aspect of ritual, the
burning of plants for purification or prayer. “Smudging” appears in most Native American
traditions, has quite a following in contemporary Pagan circles, and relates to
similar customs like the burning of incense in Catholic churches. McCampbell
provides a thoughtful introduction to the basic theory and techniques of
smudging, gathering of plants, preparation of smudge materials, related
rituals, and some safety precautions. The main body of the book presents some of
her favorite smudging herbs with the plant’s scientific name, one or more
common names, a description, its uses in smudging and other applications,
growing tips, and gathering tips. The back matter is a whole extra resource
including an insightful discussion of the pros and cons of purchasing smudge
materials, a discussion about using herb books and Websites, a wonderful
annotated book list, and a list of Websites sorted by plant type. A handy
index makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
Sacred Smoke covers both the magical and spiritual uses of smudging and incense.
Books in Reference Sets
we explored the kind of books you need for when you want a lot of information
about one specific thing. Here we’re going to explore the kind of books
you need for when you want a little bit
of information about a whole lot of
different things – but more than you’d get in a single “survey” book about
various topics. Reference sets are groups of books based on a
particular format but exploring many different things. Each volume of the set investigates one
individual topic related to the set’s overall theme.
find it valuable to acquire a reference set dealing with Pagan, magical,
metaphysical, and other alternative traditions. There are many such sets in print, including
the Thorsons First Directions Series (Thorsons), Piatkus Guides (Piatkus), and
Simple Wisdom Books (Conari Press). Alternatively, you may wish to collect a
mundane reference set for herbs, animals, natural science, or other topics –
and augment it with an extra volume or two on magical nature. Golden
Guides (Golden Books) and Peterson Field
Guides (Houghton-Mifflin) are especially good for this.
There is a certain aura of authority to a row of matched
reference books, that nothing else quite equals. It is one of the things that distinguishes
the private library of a Witch or other
scholar from the personal collection of books that an ordinary person might
have. This adds to the overall energy pool of your
library, which you can use to support your magic.
Guide to Irish Fairies by Bob Curran, illustrated by Andrew Whitson. Chronicle
Books, 1998. Looking for
something a little more whimsical than the Audubon guides? Try this. An introduction explains about the basic
nature of fairies and their relations with humankind. Then come individual chapters for nine of the
most common fairies: the Grogoch, the Grey Man, the Sheerie, Changelings, the
Pooka, Merrows, the Banshee, the Leprechaun, and the Dullahan. Each entry
gives the fairy’s alternative names, region of origin, known powers, habits,
and other useful information. Finally a separate section covers
lesser-known fairies: the Butter Spirit, Skeaghshee, Far Darrig, and Watershee.
First Directions Series: Druidry by Emma Restall Orr, Feng Shui by Simon Brown,
Reiki by Kajsa Krishni Borang, Tai Chi by Paul Brecher, Tarot by Evelyne Herbin
& Terry Donaldson, and Wicca by Vivianne Crowley. Thorsons,London,England,
an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, offers a handy series for people
interested in alternative traditions. Druidry introduces a Celtic tradition of
magic and religion; the book explains its history, modern diversity, the sacred
circle, the magical cycle, celebration, and the gods. Feng Shui explores a traditional Oriental
system of organizing your home or office for beneficial energy, with attention
to history, finding a consultant, what to expect, the elements of feng shui,
applications and solutions, a checklist for buying a home, and guidelines for
practice. Tarot takes a look at this ancient divinatory
system including the cards themselves, the minor and major arcana, how to use
them, and several sample spreads. Wicca examines a contemporary
magical/spiritual tradition through its origins, why you might want to practice
it, the elements, nature, spellcraft, the gods, and ritual.
The Magic of Bookmass
bookstores, studies, and the like are intensely magical places. They are so
magical that even ordinary people get a sense of that subtle tingling energy. This energy
is partly generated by the books themselves, and partly gathered by them from
the global consciousness. Whenever someone reads a book, they take that
book and its thoughtforms inside their aura, so that 1) the reader feels the
book’s energy, which is a thrill, and 2) the reader contributes to the pool of
energy attached to that book and its ideas, by paying attention. (The thrill
of experiencing the story is what you buy with the attention that you pay.) That energy follows all the books around; each
individual book is a link to all the energy associated with that book. When you
pack a lot of books together – call it bookmass – they invariably build up a
substantial amount of power. It’s like listening to cars idle their
engines: those books are ready and eager to take you somewhere. You can tap
into that power for spells and rituals.
enhance the energy of bookmass by adding extra-powerful books to your collection. Heavy old
leatherbound tomes, such as antique dictionaries, are marvelous for this. Magical
texts and grimoires have an extra charge too, as does your personal Book of
Shadows. Autographs from the author, artist, or other
people associated with a book add to its power. Handmade items usually have more energy than
mass-produced items, so handmade journals or handwritten books add a lot. Rare
objects have power because of their scarcity, and so rare books are valuable
magically. You begin to see how a Witch’s library grows
so vigorously! For as the bookmass
grows, not only does the Witch always want more books, but the books themselves
want more books as well. Power at your fingertips.
authors have written about this concept, or similar concepts. Among the
most famous of these is Terry Pratchett, who has written about it in Guards!
Guards! and it also appears in the Discworld Companion. This excerpt is from the latter book:
collections of ordinary books distort space and time, as can readily be proved
by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned second-hand bookshop, one
of those that has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves that end in little doors that are surely too
small for a full sized human to enter.
relevant equation is Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass; a good
bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read. Mass
distorts space into polyfractal L-space, in which Everywhere is also Everywhere
libraries are connected in L-space by the bookwormholes created by the strong
space-time distortions found in any large collection of books.
most Witches, you combine your magical workroom and your library, one advantage
of that is you don’t have to do much to put bookmass energy into your
ceremonies. It’s already inside the same magical
container, your wards. Just pay a little extra attention to
gathering what energy is pouring off the books, as well as what you draw from
the Elements or other sources.
If you are
working outside of your library/workroom, the easiest method is to move a
magical focus from your library to your altar. You might keep a stone sphere or obelisk for
this purpose (which also makes a handy paperweight). Alternatively, you could take one of your old
books off the shelf and put it on your altar. Then all you have to do is visualize the item
as the narrow end of a funnel, with the wide end being your library.
you know about Witchcraft in particular, and magic and spirituality in general,
the more effective your spells and rituals will be. A good library collects both knowledge and
energy, providing a valuable resource for you to draw on at need. With the
right attention, it will grow with you throughout your explorations of
* * *
Elizabeth Barrette writes nonfiction, fiction, and poetry in
the fields of alternative spirituality, speculative fiction, and gender studies. She serves
as Managing Editor of PanGaia magazine (
http://www.pangaia.com ) and Dean of Studies for the Grey School of
( http://www.greyschool.com ).
Her favorite activities include gardening for
wildlife and public speaking at Pagan events and science fiction conventions. She is
currently working on a nonfiction book, Composing Magic: How to Write Rituals,
Spells, and Magical Poetry.