Gerald Gardner: Book of Shadows

(ca. 1953)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

The Wiccan phrase “book of shadows” can be ambiguous. Some traditional Wiccans keep two “books of shadows,” one containing core Wiccan practices and rituals and that is shared with initiates and the second a book for a coven that differs from coven to coven. This second “book of shadows” may contain all manner of material, including herbal lore, astrological predictions, and the like. Sometimes covens trade these books. Additionally, some Wiccans keep a personal book in the form of a journal that is also often referred to as a “book of shadows.” Meanwhile, Gardner’s Book of Shadows has evolved continually over the years. Certain core elements remain, however, and the following excerpts, which represent some of the ideology and practices of Wicca, are from one of the earliest forms of the book.

To Help the Sick

“To Help the Sick” is an excerpt from the Book of Shadows that gives instructions on how to live as a witch and how to engage in...

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The goddess Diana (Yale University Art Gallery)

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