This practice of preserving a tradition through hand copying the material has parallels in earlier magickal traditions. One of the earliest books of the grimoire tradition, the thirteenth/fourteenth century Liber Juratus or The Sworn Book of Honorius, gave instructions in its prologue for the preservation of its knowledge through copying its contents:
“and therefore we being somewhat moved, made this oath among ourselves: First, that this book should be delivered to no man until such time as the master of the art were in jeopardy of death, and that it should be copied but to three at the most.”
Liber Juratus was essentially the first Liber Spirituum (‘Book of Spirits’) of the grimoire tradition, being a magickal book of practice. Many of the subsequent grimoires in the following centuries would give details of how to make and consecrate a Liber Spirituum. The Key of Solomon went so far as to detail the nature of its contents, these being “the prayers for all the operations, the Names of the Angels in the form of Litanies, their seals and Characters”.
Many centuries earlier in ancient Egypt there were books of spells and ceremonies which were jealously guarded by the priesthood. These books, such as The Book of the Heavenly Cow, were never shown to anyone outside the priesthood, lest the uninitiated should profane the magick within and render it ineffective. However the first reference specifically to a ‘witch’s book’ may be seen in the writings of the Roman poet Horace, recorded in his Epodes in 30 BCE from his dialogue with the witch Canidia:
“And by the inflexible divinity of Diana, and by the books of incantations able to call down the stars displaced from the firmament”
<1> The Religion of Babylonia & Assyria, Jastrow, 1893, also quoted in The Book of Witches, Hueffer, 1908
<2> An Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft: With Observations Upon Matters of Fact, Hutchinson, 1718
Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ https://amzn.to/3Ay4HJr. Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.