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  • Writer's pictureRyan Kurr

Inside the Grimoire

Atop a tiny rollable wooden cart, tucked into the corner of the second part of my living room, which I call the "witch room," is where I have a tiny altar. I'm very lazy about it, and unlike the kitchen side of me, I'm not very good about making it seasonal. Or perhaps, I follow a different set of seasons from time to time. For roughly the last year or so, I have had it set up to bring in the energy of The Magician. My favorite card of the tarot deck (and especially in my deck, The Darkness of Light Tarot) because it is all about manifestation, fast-moving energy, having all the tools, skills and self-reliance to get shit done. It's an awe-inspiring card, because The Magician has access to every resource and combines them with confidence to reach a goal. I set it up to draw in that type of energy when I started to work on writing Sage, Smoke & Fire. I'm still on that ride, pulling out every trick I know until the book is published in July. This little altar is also where I keep my grimoire. It is a leather-bound book, with a sliding metal lock, and a pentacle on the cover. Inside is where I keep spells, magical recipes, rituals, reference notes, magical exercises and artwork. Some people would call this a Book of Shadows, but I've never connected with that term and it is more often used by Wiccans, which I am not.

I remember the day I decided I was going to buy it. I was browsing Alchemy Arts one afternoon, and I walked past the glass case near the front door, gazed over the book inside, and continued poking around the store. I found myself back at the case after another trip, no—two more trips around the shop. I had been keeping magical notes on scrap pieces of paper and collecting spells I wanted to remember on sticky notes. In an effort to be more organized and also accepting the opportunity to treat myself, even though it felt like a superfluous luxury I couldn't afford and didn't need at the time, I decided to purchase it. I was going through a wild time in my personal life and something in the back of my mind whispered to me, just buy the book, Ryan. So I did. When I arrived home, I immediately smudged it with white sage and consecrated it with a custom essential oil blend and a ritual that I no longer remember. At least in detail. The final step in my consecration was to brand it. I lit a stick of crimson sealing wax and let it drip over the first page of the book. I remember being somewhat irritated that I sprayed several tiny droplets across the page before I was ready. But, once I stamped the wax with my dragonfly seal, I ended up kind of liking the way the wax fell. It felt right, it still does, even to this day. It was born on September 14th, 2014. I wanted to fill up every page right away but I was also insanely particular about what I wanted to write inside. So much so, that I hardly put anything in it at all, in the beginning. I wanted it to be something I was proud of, something that had direction and was free of flaws, like a published book that had gone through five revisions, a proofread and a line edit all before it was sent to print. I was so afraid of making the wrong entry and wasting pages that days, weeks and in some cases years would pass before I would make an entry.

Life happened, and I fell out of the habit. But then one day, I picked it back up. It reminds me of this issue of seasons I mentioned earlier. There is a sort of ebb and flow when it comes to creative development in regards to my grimoire. I will go through phases where I am very active, only to be followed up by long periods of neglect. But I never force it, I don't believe that is how it should be created. I do it because I want to do it, not because I feel like I have to do it. My life went through some pretty radical changes after I started the grimoire in 2014. At the beginning, all the entries were text, handwritten with a black pen, specifically the Sakura Pigma Micron Pen, Size 08 (my favorite). As time went on, I worked more on my spirituality and put more of an effort into using my grimoire as a tool for creative expression and meditative space. The more I let go of perfection, the richer it became. The more I tended to the cultivation of my grimoire, the more surprised I was with what I had done with it. I mixed watercolor with moon elixirs and used that to paint, I used leaves I harvested from local trees to stamp their impressions upon the pages and shaded drawings with ash of burned herbs. Not every page is so art-forward, there are many entries that are less graphic and more about text. Yet even on those pages, I sometimes write in different directions, forming a shape, turning the book to accommodate. The grimoire opens my mind up to another perspective, which naturally echos into how I see the world around me.

In a world where creativity and creative expression is judged, critiqued, controlled and interpreted, I think it is important, in any creative medium, to ignore all of that. What is art? How do you define art? How do we react and respond to art? It's much like responding to grief, everyone does it in their own unique way. Our immediate response to art is an emotional one. (and it should be) and within the realm of emotions, there are millions of variables from person to person. I think it is impossible to truly rank art solely on the fact that it is subjective. One person's gold is another person's trash. Sure, the world is organized in such a fashion that it rewards those who meet the standards of what is defined as art, through technique and the execution of its presentation. We as humans are far from perfect, and a lot of beautiful things are perfect in their imperfection, just as much as something that is immaculately symmetrical and perfect. A grimoire is a place to expose your emotional side, free from judgment, and there is a wealth of value in that.

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