The book of shadows (I): Wiccan rituals and liturgy according to G. Gardner


The personal grimoire of a witch or wizard, or the collective grimoire used by a coven, is called a book of shadows. Although this name is very widespread, the "first" Book of Shadows called this is the compilation that Gerald Gardner, father of Wicca, made as a personal book but open to his coven, so that they could copy his rituals and add all those that they personal title would seem fine to them. In fact, for Gardner the Book of Shadows was a manual that the Coven should have, and not a personal book. That would come later, with the spread of Wiccan practices, the appearance of new covens and new ideas.

Doreen Valiente, high priestess of Gardner's Bricket Wood Coven, as well as an editor and poet who influenced the Gardnerian Wicca liturgy, once commented that the name Book of Shadows was chosen by Gardner after seeing that a work of the Book of Shadows was named that way. palmist and fortune teller Bashir, in an article that dealt with a work in Sanskrit that spoke of divination from the length of shadows. Considering it an appropriate name for his personal works, he adopted it and displayed it openly, becoming the standard name for many books on witchcraft and spells, and even appearing in works of fiction. Let us not forget that the name Wicca is also due to him, having been used since the Old English Wicce.

However, Gerald Gardner's Book of Shadows is not a grimoire like those generally understood in neo-paganism, and many people who decide to get it are greatly deceived, not finding spells organized by theme or a clear exposition of recipes. In contrast, Gardner's Book of Shadows can be called a quasi-liturgical book, as will be seen below. The book is made up of several sections, but as a whole it can be said that it is a general definition of the beliefs and liturgy of Gardnerian Wicca, which, on the other hand, would draw on multiple Asian traditions known to Gardner, as well as the OTO. . (Ordo Templis Orientis), including Crowley himself, and the teachings of the witch who initiated him into pagan witchcraft, Lady Dorothy Clutterback.

The current Gardnerian Book of Shadows is a compilation and modification of all its texts and many others, in order to obtain the best results as appropriate to the purpose of each coven or coven, just as there are infinite versions for personal and individual development. 

Opening Ritual

The Book of Shadows begins with the opening ritual, in which the duality of the God and the Goddess is openly exposed for the first time, who are called "horned" and she is called "young and old at the same time." ". The magic circle must be painted on the space that will be used as an altar with chalk and "go over" it with the athame or ritual sword. Then, he says to draw two larger circles around it. Although Gardner gave specific instructions about the measurements of each circle according to the purpose, the truth is that the measurements are currently made according to the need or the participants. He also recommended using the athame or wand and a rope as a compass to draw them. Likewise, the two pillars that symbolize the threshold (common only in some Wicca cults) are mentioned, and the four major sabbats and the four minor sabbats, which are developed later in the work. Here is the first "Wiccan law", which shares much with Crowley's law, but adds morality:

<<Do what you want, this is the challenge.
But harm no one
Here is the only law
That the Gods teach you.
The Wicca Creed in eight pious words:
If no one gets hurt, do what you want.>>

( In ancient english: )
<<Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An ye harm none, do what ye will.>>

The purification

A purification/blessing with water and salt follows. Some have wanted to see a ritual cleansing of the altar or sacred space, even of those present. Others believe it is an elimination of evil spirits. The important thing here is that the name of the God and Goddess is given: The God is Cernunnos, the name given to the horned god of Celtic mythology. The Goddess is called Aradia, most likely in relation to the Goddess of Vangelo delle Streghe (Gospel of the Witches), a compilation work of Italian folklore by Charles G. Leland, following his contact with the witch Maddalena.

Water and salt are blessed by pointing at them or inserting the athame into them while reciting the blessings of the God and Goddess. Then they are mixed and sprinkled. Although Gardner's Book of Shadows presents the use of whips or whips as purification numerous times (even going so far as to say that forty per session are necessary), there are few covens that take it at all. foot of the letter. What's more, there are many who have changed whips for brooms, a much more "witchcraft" symbol, to purify the space and those present in a much more symbolic and subtle way.

The candles are then lit, driving away the evil spirits. The magic circle is entered (or visualized) and circled three times, while three protective pentagrams are drawn.

Evocation of the elements

Now the evocation of the magic circle takes place. By evocation we refer to the call to the gods and the elemental spirits, associated with the cardinal points. In the ritual, one looks in these directions, in some cases making special gestures that vary depending on the author. The sentence that Gardner proposes is the following:

<< I conjure you, oh circle of power, to be a meeting place for love, joy and truth, a shield against all evils, a border between the world of men and the Powers, a border and a protection that will preserve and contain the power that I will accumulate in you. Thus I bless and consecrate you, by the names of Cernunnos and Aradia.
Listen, Lords of the Eastern Tower, Lords of the Air. I summon you, awaken and call you so that you observe my rites and keep the circle.
Listen Lords of the South Tower, Lords of Fire. I summon you, awaken and call you so that you observe my rites and keep the circle.
Listen Lords of the Western Tower, lords of Water, lords of death and initiation. I summon you, awaken and call you so that you observe my rites and keep the circle.
Listen Lords of the North Tower, lords of the Earth, guardians of the boreal portal.
Oh! mighty God, oh! Kind goddess, I summon you, awaken and call you to observe my rites and keep the circle. >>

The Drawing of the Moon and the Fivefold Kisses.

After the preparation, the Drawing of the Moon and the Five Kisses take place. In it, the High Priestess performs the gesture of the Goddess (arms closed according to some, arms open in a V according to others), and the High Priest or assistant of the priestess paints a pentagram on her body – according to Gardner, with a wand with an end phallus, although currently this is not taken into account and fingers, feathers, brushes or ritualized wands are used. They then kiss her feet, her knees, her belly, her chest and her lips, while they themselves or the rest of the participants, kneeling, recite the following:

(kissing feet) "Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways";
(kissing knees) "Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar";
(kissing womb) "Blessed be thy womb, without which we would not be";
(kissing breasts) "Blessed be thy breasts, formed in beauty and in strength";
(kissing lips) "Blessed be thy lips, that shall speak the sacred names."

This ritual is considered a worship of the divinity that the High Priestess symbolizes. Currently this rite is exchanged or performed in parallel with the High Priest, changing some key words (for example, Blessed be the womb without which we could not be, does not make sense in the body of a man. Instead it speaks of his phallus or of its vigor. Blessed are the breasts formed by beauty, it is exchanged for the chest, formed by strength).

The Charge of the Goddess.

It begins with an invocation to the Goddess and a blessing actually addressed to the adepts and the priestess of the Goddess. At initiations, weddings (joining of hands), and grade changes, this is the time when participants can enter and exit the circle. It continues with an exaltation of the God with his various names, and in his feminine and natural facets. This text is a mixture of the works of Gardner, Crowley, and the subsequent retouching of Doreen Valiente.

<<Listen to the words of the Great Mother called Artemis, Astarte, Melusina, Aphrodite, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Brid, and many other names. >>

<<I invoke you and call you, oh! Our powerful Mother, source of all that is fertile. By the seeds and the roots, by the bud and the stem, by the leaf, the flower and the fruit, by life and love, I call upon you to descend into the body of your servant and priestess.>>

He also associates it with the moon, and links the full moon to the propitious moment for covens, in which ritual nudity will become a symbol of freedom. These words are practically a carbon copy of the words of Aradia, goddess of witches and daughter of Diana and Lucifer, in the Italian Gospel of the Witches.

<< When you have a need, once a month and preferably on a full moon, meet in some secret place and worship my spirit, I who am the queen of witches and warlocks. There will gather those who wish to learn all the magic, those who have not discovered its deepest secrets. To these I will teach there what is still unknown. You will be free from slavery and as a symbol of your real freedom you will celebrate your rites in nakedness (…) >>

Nudity today is not an obligation. In the 20th century, a large part of the occult orders, especially Crowley and Gardner, insisted on nudity as an important part of the rites, whether purification, sexual, invocation... nudity was a way of showing oneself free, not only spiritually, but from social pressures.

Likewise, the Goddess exposes her blessings and the prize of immortality. It is clearly indicated that animal sacrifice is not necessary in Wicca: << I do not demand any sacrifice since I am the mother of all that is living and my love waters the earth. >>

After the monologue and presentation of the goddess, the magical words or chants take place. The text used are magic words used in Le miracle de Theóphile, a religious theatrical performance from the 13th century, the work of the troubadour Rutebef. In it, the sorcerer Salatin (probably a name inspired by Saladin), makes an invocation to the demon using these same words.

<< Bagahi laca bachahé
Lamac cahi achabahé
Lamec bachalyos
Cabahagi sabalyos
Lagozatha cabyolas
Samahac et famyolas
Harrahya! >>

Some scholars have proposed that the text is a bad transcription of Basque words, others that they are "meaningless" words, as occurred in ancient or medieval spells, but the majority of Wiccan authors downplay this importance. Most practitioners consider them to be magic words traditionally used in covens, and treat them as such. The High Priestess is then "possessed" by the Goddess, and her words are spoken in an oracular manner to the coven, which may summon her on the occasion of a festival or Sabbat, or for any specific reason that they wish to raise.

Invocation to God

At the same time, a ritual of invocation to the masculine divinity was developed, although the case in which possession by the God takes place is rare. Rather, the invocation is used above all to symbolize the presence of God when a rite takes place where the representation of both sexes is relevant.

<<Great God Cernunnos, come down to earth among usRespond to my call and show yourself before all.Shepherd of the goats along mountain pathsLead your flock from dusk to bright day.Forgotten have been the paths of sleep and nightMan seeks them more with bat eyes.Open the door without keys or lockThe dreamlike portal that leads to You.Oh! Shepherd of the goats, I beg you, answer me. Akhera goiti-akhera beiti! >>

The last words (Akhera goiti-akhera beiti) seem to be, nothing more and nothing less, than Euskera, the Basque language, and would come to mean: He-goat up, he-goat down. It is believed that they are words that would refer to the supposed infernal covens and invoking the devil in his form as a black bastard. But let's not forget that the goat is traditionally also a symbol of fertility.

Closing ritual

As we will see in the second part of this article, there are many other Wiccan rituals that take place in a Wiccan liturgy, in an occasional coven or on a Sabbat. But for now it seemed best to close the article by indicating the correct way, according to the Gardnerian Book of Shadows and the standardized vision, to end both a coven and a personal ritual in which a magic circle has been made with the evocation of the elements . As it could not be otherwise, the God and Goddess and the elemental spirits are kindly bid farewell.

<< Listen Lords of the Eastern Tower, Lords of the Air. I thank you for having attended our rituals and when you return to your beautiful and sweet kingdoms, I greet you and say goodbye. >>

And likewise with the others: <<Listen Lords of the South Tower, lords of Fire.... Listen Lords of the Tower of the West, lords of Water, lords of death and initiation... Listen Lords of the Tower of the North, lords of the Earth, guardians of the boreal portal... >>

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada -

-Guiley, R.E. The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca. New York: Checkmark Books (2008).
-Howard, M. Modern Wicca: A History From Gerald Gardner to the Present. Llewellyn Worldwide, Minnesota, 2009.
-Siegler, E. Nuevos movimientos religiosos, Akal, 2005 Madrid.

Related Posts:
> Sigils: magic seals.
> The witch's ladder: curse, pendulum, rosary and amulet.
> The Wicca Altar and ritual tools.
> Neopaganism and Magic.

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