Reprinted as a centennial edition, Lady Sheba's Grimoire was the first published record of a witch's notebook. At the time it caused a sensation in the Pagan community, particularly because it revealed to a non Pagan public what many considered oath-bound secrets. Lady Sheba (aka - Jessie Wicker Bell) staunchly defended her decision to publish her personal book of knowledge on the basis of bringing about a new understanding of the forces of Nature. Just prior to the book's first publication, she had legally registered the New American Order of the Brotherhood of Wicca in Michigan -- the first official establishment of witchcraft in the United States.


The first part of the Grimoire covers many areas of magick: instructions on the power of magick, making tools, the language of witchcraft, a large collection of spells and recipes for incense, oils and teas, and a energies fascinating section on Wiccan dances. Given that it is supposed to be a literal copy of a notebook, it is not surprising that this section is eclectic in nature and somewhat disorganized. Some of the material is useful, while other material now seems silly, dangerous or both (the Flying Ointment and Sun Tan Oil for example). Some of the spells and rituals given violate the Wiccan Rede (the ritual to "Gain Control of a Man Without Feeling Guilty" is one example).


The second part is a Book of Shadows, and for those readers who know only the works of modern authors (like Cunningham or Raven Wolf), some of this material may come as quite a revelation. Lady Sheba's rituals are nearly identical to what I understand is Gardnerian Wicca rather than those found in Wicca 101- type books of the last decade. As well, all of the rituals are coven-oriented.


I remember my early years as a witch, when there was very little information to be found outside of covens and circles. My knowledge came as much from fantasy novels as it did from "official" craft books, but it was always tempered by personal experience. Because I remember how hard it once was to find useful information, I hold this book and its author in respect. I would not specifically recommend it to seekers, because there are so many excellent books available now for learning and' developing one's craft as a witch. However, Lady Sheba's Grimoire should be considered part of the historical section of the modern Pagan's library, a reminder of how it once was. When Lady Sheba first practiced as a witch, it was against the law in England!


At her request, the ashes of her Book of Shadows were mingled with hers after her death on March 20, 2002, and scattered over the Wicker family graveyard in Kentucky. She had lived long enough to see Llewellyn's re-issue of this groundbreaking book.


~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Lady Sheba

Llewellyn Publications, 2001