So I've noticed that a lot of people think that the grimoire/spellbook/whatever was given the name Book of Shadows because it was "kept hidden during the Burning Times", but it's just dawned on me that during this time, the majority of Pagans were country folk and peasants who most likely couldn't read or write. So they most likely didn't keep a "Book of Shadows". Can anyone give some validation/their opinion on this?
Re: Book of Shadows Origins By: Lark Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 2 Apr 13, 2017
The term "Booki of Shadows " was a term coined by Gerald Gardner in the 1940's in regards to the book of rituals, etc maintained by Gardnerian Wiccans. It has since become mistakenly to any form of magical diary or spellbook.
You are quite correct that for centuries the vast majority of people were illiterate and would not be able to read or to write. Not that these were Pagans, particularly during the so-called "Burning Times". The idea that the Witch trials of Western Europe was a war against the Pagnas has long been disproved. Those people were Christians and most were not Witches or magic users at all.
There were grimoires which we can trace back to that time, such as the writings of Dr. John Dee who lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. But such writings were generally kept by the educated few and most date to the period of the Renaissance.
Re: Book of Shadows Origins By: prsona / Knowledgeable
Post # 3 Apr 13, 2017
Another point is that until relatively recently in history, yes: Large portions of the population were illiterate. Most of the population were also working class, which was -- again for most of history -- very different than it is today.
This caused two circumstances:
Formalized systems were more often preserved by and practiced by those who were wealthy enough to not only be educated, but also to have enough spare time and finances for an elaborate system with some fancy accouterments.
Folk magic was much more common among the working class, was much more often passed down orally, maybe pictorially, and symbolically through folk tales and fairly tales, rather than systems being developed and written down.
There are some very good books about the histories of European witchcraft, though most knowledge cuts off around the Renaissance. At this point, Christianity was very deeply embedded into many earlier folk traditions. Nonetheless, they are very interesting to read about.