Category Archives: Spiritual record keeping
Book Review: Trolldom: Spells and Methods of the Norse Folk Magic Tradition by Johannes Björn Gårdbäck
Over the last year and a half my magical practices have started to take a change towards more folk magic systems. To me the lack of formalized ritual for spells is much more appealing than the need to invoke deities for every spell or magical action I perform. In many ways folk magic traditions relate to me more than most of the modern witchcraft practices as they do not make magic separate from day to day life. Magic in this instance was a tool for life nothing more or less. Folk magic simply was and is The Magic of the people.
I’ve been focusing on Hoodoo which is an American system of folk magic created during the slave era and deeply tied into African American culture and Southern Culture in general. I figured as an American I might as well look into a system of magic that was born here in this country. Often times I get mixed views on my interest in Hoodoo as I am not Black nor am I from the south. I am a Northerner. I am from Maine and I have never lived outside of Maine. So for some of them I was participating in cultural appropriation. Not being from the South or Black how could I understand all the intracices of the culture? How could I honor those ancestors?
One common theme of advice I was given was to look into my own personal heritage and see what sort of folk magic traditions I could explore. I’d be honoring my ancestors and I would be staying within specific cultural guidelines. For this reason I looked up and did some searching on Germanic or Norse style of Folk Magic. Trolldom was the topic that came up. So when I was given an opportunity to read a book on my own ancestral practices and traditions I was all over it. It felt right to be reading that book and to start looking at adding some of the workings into my own practice.
If you are expecting spells and forumulas that deal with the Norse Gods you wont find a lot in this tome. Most of the spells either deal with a land spirit or they call on Jesus, God,Mary,The Holy Spirit, or the Devil. Like most folk traditions alot of the pagan elements are still there but you will have a hard time to find specific workings with the Norse Gods. There are plenty of books on the market for Nordic witchcraft and magic that deals with those deities.
This is the magic of the people. We are lead to believe that all the magic died out when the Norse Culture became Christianized. That is simply not the case. In fact many of the old workings which dealt with the old gods were simply modified to deal with the spirits and the religion of Christianity. Knowing this now I am still quite happy with the material in this book as I feel it still connects me to those ancestors. Afterall my most recent ancestors would have been Christian. So if they practiced this craft or if they had a family style of Trolldom it is the Christian spells and spirits they would have worked with.
For the reasons above I have read and enjoyed reading Trolldom. It took a long time to read. This book is intense and full of information. I spent a lot of my early days with the book just going back and forth with the glossary at the beginning of the book. There were so many new terms and phrases to learn and understand. The language component in this book is one of the most important elements but it is also one of the most difficult components to deal with.
The language barrier involved in this project is the reason there are two sections based on language. You have a glossary (which is right after the dedication) and then you have a section on different terms for different practices within this particular set of workings and systems. Trolldom encompass more than just Norway and Icelandic magic which is why the language issue is present. This book actually ecompases quite a few different “Nordic” cultures. It covers Norway, Iceland, Sweeden, and Finland as well as having a bit of Anglo-Saxon and some Lore preserved in Powwow or the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions. For this reason the section for the glossary and on the terms is not only important to mark and return to throughout the book, but is an essential part of understanding this practice.
This book is broken into a few different sections. First is the glossary which was the most difficult to get through. The second section is about the History. Here the author showed how and where Trolldom survived. I find it interesting to note one of the places visited and mentioned in the book is in my Home state of Maine. Its not a town I have been to or near but it in some ways brings this book and its workings closer to home. I feel better knowing that there are places in my home region where this practice was passed on in some manner.
After history you had the terms. This section was about how different regions had different names for the practice of Trolldom and the practitioners of Trolldom. Here we also got into the discussion about how one learned Trolldom and how you could become a professional in the art of Trolldom. In this culture Trolldom was not just a practice it was an honored profession that many people would take advantage of. You had your specialists and a few generalists each with unique skills and practices as well as a unique term for their practice.
The next section was on divination on the two different terms and styles mentioned. For me the importance divination plays in Trolldom shows me a relationship with Hoodoo. Trolldom has infact been called the Norse Hoodoo, so I would say that the use of divination in magical practices and how they dictate the works to be done is a key component in folk magic. It seems today more and more people are just doing what ever type of working seems to be the best for them and their situation without taking the time to check the source of the problem or situation.
Finally we get into the workings or the methods. These spells are called Formulas. The book has many different sections from Health and healing, to hunting, protection, curses, and even a group of miscellaneous spells. What I liked best about this section of the book was the fact that there was the English spoken components translated but you could also see the original language as well. For me this shows just the amount of work that went into this tome.
I will say there are several spells and workings that are basically included only for historical accuracy. Some items listed in spells like animal parts or human bones are not as easy to get a hold of as they may have been at one point in time. There are some spells that mention digging up and harvesting things like bones of dead men or going to hanging sites. Many of these practices are not readily acceptable in the world we live in today. However if you wish to understand a tradition that has been around for centuries you really need to understand these historical spells. There is enough material that you can find spells and formulas that are suitable for today’s society.
I hope that the author will continue the work and write a book just on the herbal charms and herbal uses in this book. While you can find several herbs mentioned in the folk name as well as botanical and a common name, only a small selection of the possible herbal charms are even shown in this work. For many people who practice folk magic Herbal magic is a huge part of the practice. So I would encourage the author to work on an herbal trolldom book.
As many of you may or may nor know I don’t consider myself a strict traditional witch, though I do have a lot of traditional leanings. I feel that I needed more direct experiences and practices within Traditional witchcraft to consider myself a traditional witch. Training in the Feri tradition is a part of that.
The other reason I didn’t consider myself really a traditional witch is that I didn’t work really directly with local land spirits and forces. I worked more with my personal energetic forces rather than spirits. That has been changing recently with my studies in the Feri tradition and in Hoodoo/Conjure.
So recently I did a prayer and asked if there were any fairy spirit in the area to make themselves known. A few days later a mushroom ring appears in my backyard. For the first time in my life a fairy ring appeared in my home. It made me feel like the local fairies and spirits did take the first offering I gave at my home/house spirit shrine.
Its just something I thought I would share. I have never experienced a fairy ring in my yard before. So for me its a special gift of the fairies. To me its a signal that my connections with the local forces and spirits is growing and they are listening to me.
Grimoire: My Record system
Most witches out there have books that they keep their rituals and spells in. Many traditions call this book a Book of Shadows. In this book they write down all their rituals, all their spells, and any work that they do with spirits and spiritual beings. This record becomes in many way our personal sacred texts and documents. In some cases witches can use their experiences within their records and books to in effect create the lore for their own system and practices.
Like most witches I do have my own magical book and record system. I actually used to have several different books that I would keep. In an effort to keep all of the rituals from the different systems I studied separate as they were all separate systems I decided to keep my notes and my notes books separate. Its only recently that they have been combined back into one book, at least for the time being.
As a solitary and primarily self directed witch I have the freedom to basically record any information I want in any way that I want. This means that I can have articles from magazines in there as well as any personal reflections. My book is really personal and is my own record. Though this book will in the end be used as the basis for the tradition I would like to found and teach, in general my book is something that really only makes sense to myself.
Now I call my book a Grimoire for many reasons. The term book of shadows just never seem to fit. For one thing I have never been in the shadows with my practice at all. I have always been open and upfront about it. I have never hidden my practice. Though I might not have discussed it or brought it up in front of some family members I’ve never really made any attempts to hide the fact that I am and have always been a witch. So the concept of a book of shadows when I am not in the shadows didnt make any sense.
The other reason is that my book has more than just spells, rituals, and invocations. My book has theory and exercises. It has lore and poetry. My book basically contains the sum of my spiritual knowledge and experience over the years. In this book I have recorded the names of spirits I work with, their personalities, and much more. This book could in essence be used to teach my path to another person. It provides step by step exercises with reflections to give an idea of what could be experienced. The book even has some of the realms and other worlds I have visited listed in there with details.
I also like the term Grimoire. So I use it for my own practices. I know that its not one of the great Grimoires of Ceremonial Magic and Invocation traditions, but for me it still is a Grimoire. Other people when they have read my book will be able to look at it and perform the rituals and the works in there and have effective practices. They can use my book as a step by step manual for the works I have done.
The other thing is that I have material from the official Temple Tradition Grimoire for the first degree in my book as well. The Temple material does have its own book as well. However the material also belongs in my book as I have experiences based on the training found in the Temple tradition. That is the other reason I call my book a Grimoire. If the Temple tradition calls its ritual handbook a Grimoire, than I think I can call my book the same thing. I am after all scribing information from the Temple text into my own text as well.
One thing I am going to try and be better about is actually recording and writing down my rituals and my spells. I’m the sort of witch who may not always write down the rituals and spells that they have performed. For this reason there are large gaps in my book of dates. I also don’t have any information from my early days as a witch. That first book is long gone. So working on my Grimoire is actually one of the ways I have started to get my spirituality back on track.
I have all kinds of notes from books I have read that need to be transcribed into my Book. I am also going to sift through my diaries of a couple years. I know in several of my diary entries I have thoughts on Gods, Goddesses, and my spirituality. The notes and the diary entries will provide more material for my book and show me even more places where I have grown and where my spiritual paths have developed. I just need to spend the time to sort my notes and find out where in my book they will belong.
I do hope that in time I can create different books of Grimoire style work. I want to have a book just for Dragon work. That way in that book I have only information that relates to dragons. By separating that information it also makes it easier to find exactly what I am looking for in my books. The same goes for my work with Germanic paganism and Greek Paganism. I’m also creating a prayer book and a specific spell book. The creation of these books is part of my spiritual development and my spiritual practices. It relates to my view of the importance of the sacred scribe.
Over the next few weeks my Grimoire is going to get more information into it. I am going to be adding spells I have posted on websites and I am going to be adding in all sorts of additional correspondence information and the like. I may have to end up making the main book into separate books any way as this one is already quite full. So I may end up with theory and exercises in one book with rituals and correspondences in another book. We shall see how things develop over time.
I know that as I study Hoodoo and get recipes for various items and spells I will be including those in my book as well. I already have a few recipes for different types of water in my book. Soon I am going to add spells to the book. I just got to the spell centric section of one of the books I have been reading and working through. So that in itself is going to add a bit of stuff to my book. I’m always busy developing something spiritually between my business and this new maintenance of my Grimoire there is always something new to do and make.
Today we are going to talk about growth. Specifically we are going to talk about how you can see how far you have grown spiritually and in your path from when you start to where you are now, or even a year later. The longer we are on any spiritual path the more we should be growing as a person. The more we should understand and experience things spiritually. Our understandings of the universe can change as we grow spiritually and as we learn and have experiences. So seeing where we were and where we are now can be a great point of reflection.
So how do we look at spiritual growth? This is really a hard thing to measure. How we grow spiritually, how fast we learn and gain experiences is completely a personal thing. No two people will have the same speed or rate of development of their spiritual skills and senses as other people. Often growth may not seem to be happening but it has. This is why reflections and record keeping is so essential.
One of the ways we look at spiritual growth is to answer the same questions we started with at the beginning of our journey. These are the questions I outlined in the post on Asking and answering questions. By re-answering these questions you can look back over what you said before and see what your answers are now. You should answer the questions first and as before take as much time to answer the questions as you need. When you have answered the questions then you can read your original response. I would then suggest am entry comparing the two entries for each question. This way you can see where your thoughts changed.
The other way you can judge how you have grown is basically by your experiences and what you have recorded down. Again by reflecting on what you have done and what you didn’t do as well as your thoughts and feelings about everything you have experienced you will be able to see where things have changed. In essence seeing what has changed and where you have grown takes a lot of reflection and introspection.
Finally you can also look at your life around you. Through your spiritual studies your life should have become more positive and you should feel more fulfilled in life. By looking at your life and the way things have changed you can also evaluate how things are and how you have grown spiritually. Its our day to day lives and actions where some of the largest changes will occur in ourselves. One of the examples I can think of making a noticeable change is in working with affirmations and colored energy balls on a regular basis to bring changes within yourself.
In the end you wont grow spiritually if you don’t get out there and do things. Start by trying exercises that seem fun and interesting to you. Though if they have a previous exercise you are supposed to engage in before working that exercise you need to go back and do the exercises. Remember to listen to your intuition. Your intuition will guide you and help you find where you belong. Walking an alternative spiritual path like any numerous pagan paths, spirituality, and any form of witchcraft can be a rough road, but you are the one that will make it happen. be strong and you will find your way.
Beginning your path
Over the last few weeks I have given you a lot of information about researching and answering questions related to your path. I gave you advice on how to choose your directions and even some concepts on divinity to start with. These are all great things to know and have as an idea before you actually begin your path. However once you know where you are going, what your views on deity are and the cultures you are basing your practices off of how do you actually start to begin your practice and path? This is the question we are going to focus on and answer for you today.
There are many different ways that you can actually begin your path. The important thing is to try and spend as much time doing research and reading about new beliefs and practices you want to explore as it is to actually spend the time doing the work. If all you do is read and research and reflect on what you read and research you will have a lot of book knowledge and some great opinions. You just wont have any experience and you wont actually “know” the processes, the spirits, the Gods, or even the effects of the practices you have been dedicating your time to.
Ways to begin your practice
I remember when I took my first steps on my path as a witch I was very nervous. I was afraid of doing things wrong. I was afraid that the Gods and the spirits wouldn’t listen to me. I had no formal teachers or training. I was simply stumbling in the dark. So I remember the anxiety. It was both a positive anxiety as well as a negative or hesitant type of anxiety. I had the same feelings when I started to practice Germanic Paganism. The important thing is that you work through the anxiety and the sensations and start on the path.
So what can you do to start on your path? You can build an altar. You can start a magical journal or spiritual record of your practices. You can start a meditative practice. If you are very confident in your connection to your path you can perform a rite of dedication and direction. Finally the most important thing you can do is try the exercises you encounter in the books and websites you use as tools and references in your studies.
There are as I said many different things that you can do to start walking your path. You may not be able to do as much as you would like right away and that is ok. You may miss sabbats and opportunities for rituals and worship as you learn the important dates and times in your chosen spiritual path. The Gods know you are human and you are learning. So long as your heart is in your path and you work hard you will be amazed at the path you will create for yourself.
One of the things you can do to begin your path is start an altar. Altars are a wonderful way to express your spirituality. By creating an altar you are creating a sacred space in which you can focus on performing your spiritual work and practices. Altars can be very simple or they can be very elaborate. There are many different things that you can put on an altar and there are many different ways that an altar can be set up.
My basic altars when I am working with a new spirit or starting to work with new Gods are very simple. They typically include a candle that I light when I am praying to that spirit. I also light the candle as an offering to them. I also if I have them have an incense burner for burning incense as offerings to the Gods and spirits and to help as a focus when I work on meditation. I also typically have a cup or bowl for any liquid offerings I may give the spirits.
No two altars are going to be the same. If you do decide to set up an altar let it be a reflection of your relationship with the spirits you are working with. Your altar is for you and your practice alone. It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what you have on it at this point in time. Its just there as a focal point and expression of your relationships with the spirits you work with.
A lot more can be said about altar creation. I have written two entries elsewhere on this blog that deal with altar creation. If you decide to start with the creation of an altar I would recommend you look at the articles. They contain several examples and some exercises for you to use as you build your altar.
Magical and spiritual record keeping
The second thing I mentioned you could do as a formal start of your path is to create a spiritual journal. This journal may have already been started if you have been following the exercises and advice I have been giving you on this blog. Some traditions have specific names for the journals that are kept and others are incredibly personal. In all traditions though the personal spiritual journal is a very powerful sacred personal object.
One thing I mentioned previously is that as you do your research into the various paths out there was take note of things that you agree with and things you disagree with. I also advised you to write down quotes that gave you something to think about. I have also given you several different types of questions to answer and reasons for asking those questions.
All of the notes you have taken, the questions you have asked, and the answers you have given yourself are the start of a very important document. This document or well book is very important. This book is going to serve as your record of spiritual growth. This book will have a lot of information in it as time goes on. It is also one of the most personal spiritual items and tools you will ever make.
You may be asking why a journal of your spiritual experiences, thoughts, and beliefs is important. The answer is simple. This book and journal will show how you have grown and developed spiritually. This book will contain things you agree with and things you disagree with. You will basically put anything in here that you feel is important information about your path. There really isn’t anything you can’t put in this journal.
The act of working on this spiritual journal is also a way to connect your mind and emotions with your actual soul and spirit feelings. By writing out your thoughts and reflections to ideas and concepts you are processing how your spirit feels about these things. This allows your mind to understand what drives you and allows your mind to spend time finding ways to include those thoughts, beliefs, and practices in everything that you do.
Writing in a journal is a very therapeutic thing. It helps you process the day and it helps you really sort out how you really feel and think about many concepts and ideas. In many different spiritual paths one of the key concepts or ideas to strive for is to know yourself. Writing in a journal is one of the best ways to know yourself as you are truly honest to yourself about how you feel and what is on your mind. By knowing yourself you also know what your real needs, wants, and desires are. In spirituality this can also mean knowing exactly the type of connection you are actually seeking with the Spirits and the universe.
These books will also serve as your references for your personal experiences. In them you should include exercises you have done (the steps of the exercise and your experiences), prayers you have said and or rituals you have done. It can also include prayers and spells you have found inspiring from other sources. If there is poetry or myths you find inspiring and directly related to your path you can put that in there. Its your guide to your experiences and your development as a spiritual person.
In witchcraft most often there are two terms for these spiritual journals. One of them is occasionally called a mirror book. That book is full of your reflections and ideas. Its where your theories and beliefs are recorded. Its a reflection of your innerself and your soul. This is a very personal book and is often not shared.
The other book is often called the Book of Shadows. The book of shadows is a book containing spells and rituals. It also has the lore of the practice. In solitary practice this book is your sacred text basically. It forms a workbook for formulating spells and rituals. Its your tool in your acts of priesthood. This book can be shared with people if a solitary chooses to share their work. Typically if it is handed down it will be to children or very specific family members interested in the practice all at the individuals discretion.
In covens and in specific traditions there is a Book of Shadows that is specific to that coven or tradition. Members are expected to hand copy or make themselves an exact copy of the book for their own use. Like the individual book this also contains all the materials needed to form the rituals and practices of the coven. It may also contain coven history and tradition history. These books are also used as teaching materials to preserve the practice and and ensure that all members have the same information to go from. Ceremonial Magic has a similar practice called Grimoires, and some witches elect to call their ritual and theory books Grimoires as well.
One element that is common among spiritual paths is some sort of meditation practice. This practice is a way for you to go within yourself and reflect on things. It can also be a way for you to communicate with spirits and Gods. Meditation is a very powerful tool for spiritual development and daily spiritual practice. This is one tool that comes in many different forms and has different uses.
One use for meditation techniques is to understand different philosophic principles. By working with different powers of the mind in meditative states you can learn and experience different philosophies which will create spiritual experiences. Often times these meditative techniques also are building blocks to deeper spiritual techniques and can also be magical techniques as well.
Meditation techniques can also help you learn how to better focus and use the powers of your mind. Through meditation you can travel to the spirit worlds. You can meet many different spirits and interact with them. You can experience the mysteries in the universe. These mystery experiences will provide you understanding and spiritual growth. These are things that will also make your spirit and you feel at home and have deeper understandings and connections to the world around you.
Basically meditation can work for psychic development, spiritual development, mental development, and the development of focus skills. Meditation has many different effects and uses spiritually and practically. Its worth an entry all of its own. When you engage in meditation as the starting point or beginning of your practice you will want to explore many different philosophies and types of techniques. Remember to record and write down what you experience in meditation and what the techniques were.
This is often the first real serious step a person takes on their spiritual path and practices. Dedication rituals are very serious acts and indicate a specific level of commitment. When you are dedicating yourself to your path you are promising any and all spiritual powers on this path that you are there to serve them and to learn from them. You will listen to them and you will do all that you can to live your life the way they ask you to. It also shows that you are ready to make your path an intricate part of all aspects of your day to day life in some manner. You are ready to not just be a student and exploring of the path. You are ready to say this is my path. I will follow you for as long as I can.
If this is what you want to do for your first step on your path than you should go for it. If this is your choice then you have done enough research and had enough of an emotional connection and response that you know that this is where you want to go for now spiritually. Taking the step of dedication is a big step and its one that should not be taken lightly. In some paths a self dedication is the equivalent of an initiation of sorts. In other paths its a phase of learning before swearing a deeper oath and practice. For myself dedication is both a learning period and a way of swearing an oath.
I am not going to write any more on dedication here. It is a first step in a path and it is a way to begin your path. I have written an essay on this blog earlier in more depth about dedication and the types of dedication there are. That post even has two different types of dedication rituals.
Do the Exercises
Many books on spirituality and spiritual paths will have exercises scattered throughout the chapters to illustrate and give you personal experience with the concepts being discussed. Most of the exercises do have a practical aspect to them. When it comes to spirituality and magical practices the only way to really understand the concepts of energy and spirit is to have experiences. The experiences do more to teach you the philosophies and world views than just the books ever could.
Sometimes it may not be easy to see the meaning or reason behind the exercise being placed where it is. If this is something you experience that is fine. In this case finish the chapter. Read the exercises and the rest of the chapter. Reread it a few times if you have to. However once you have an idea of what the exercises and the chapter together are teaching you need to do the exercises. The exercises will actually show you more than any words can.
In spiritual paths the concept of mysteries and how they must be experienced is often brought up. The exercises including guided meditations and occasionally mini spells or rituals are there to have you gain access to the particular mysteries of that path. The author of those exercises has used them several times themselves and seen how they worked for their spiritual paths and development. By publishing those exercises in a book, website, blog, or podcast the author is providing access to the mysteries for others. They want you to share the experiences they have had.
When you do an exercise be sure to write down the exercise in step by step processes so you can repeat the exercise. Also write down everything you experience while doing the exercise. You will find that some of the techniques out there will be more effective for you than others. That is ok. By having the experiences and by doing the exercises and the work you are knowing yourself and your spiritual path bringing both into closer harmony.
In this post I have illustrated several different ways that you can start practicing and walking your path. Each of these first steps has a benefit to them and they also have their down sides to. Each step also plays its own role in your development spiritually and personally. These steps are all good ways to start including your path in your life in a more direct and outward way.
My personal suggestion would be to do a mixture of the journal, meditation, and exercises for a while. Then after you know a bit more about the spirits you are working with and you have gained some experiences I would set up an altar. Now the altar can be a tool for meditative focus and spiritual development. I would work with these combinations for a few months before I performed an act of dedication.
I hope that these steps help you find and develop your spiritual path. As always if you have any questions or comments please let me know. If you feel that there are other steps out there I could have mentioned also please let me know.