In the television series Charmed, the fictional Halliwell Sisters or The Charmed Ones own a powerful and coveted Book of Shadows that has been passed through their family line. It contains spells, potions, and information on their enemies. The book has been enchanted to protect itself, causing it to move away whenever any evil being attempts to touch it. It has a large triquetra set on its front cover, symbolizing the Power of Three.
In reality, a Book of Shadows is a collection of magical and religious texts of Wicca and other Neopagan witchcraft traditions, containing the core rituals, magical practices, ethics and philosophy of a practitioner.
The ancestor of The Charmed Ones
, Melinda Warren
began the Book of Shadows in the late 17th century
. The year 1693 is inscribed in the first page of the book, presumably when the book was started. When Melinda was burned at the stake for being a witch, her book was passed to her daughter Prudence. The book was then handed down from mother to daughter for more than three hundred years, until it was inherited by Prue
, and later Paige
upon the death of their grandmother Penny
The book has grown over the years with each witch who has possessed it, and by the late 1960s, it had about one hundred pages. It continues to grow as The Charmed Ones add more information to it. Penny Halliwell mentioned that she created most of the potion recipes in it. Patty Halliwell added text on Barbas, the Demon of Fear, as well as information 'The Place of Magic In The Rearing of a Child.'
The Halliwell sisters have added several entries as well. The first entry added by Phoebe; it was a spell to banish the Woogyman. The spell read: "I am light. I am one too strong to fight. Return to dark where Shadows dwell. You can not have this Halliwell. So go away and leave my sight, and take with you this endless night." Phoebe has also added a detailed entry on Cole Turner, Belthazor's human half. Later, at the end of the series, the sisters write about their adventures and what came of it.
Leo Wyatt also added an entry titled "Tips for Future Whitelighters", fearing he may not live to see his sons grow up. The entry included information on whitelighter powers and advice on charges.
In the final episode, Piper tells her granddaughter, also named Prudence, that the book will one day be hers.
The Book of Shadows is a thick, green, leather book with an embossed red triquetra
on the cover. The triquetra symbol has been known to change, usually according to some change in the sisters powers/emotional state. The book is somewhat worn due to its three centuries of use, but it is almost completely intact, with the exception of the page on how to relinquish one's own powers, which was torn out and burnt by The Charmed Ones after they nearly lost their powers to a warlock. The Book of Shadows has appeared in every episode.
Powers, abilities and uses
The Book of Shadows can:
- Be used as a means of communicating with the girls by Grams.
- Identify evil
- Protect itself from evil
- Magically add pages to itself
- Try to keep itself within its home, unless removed from the manor by one of The Charmed Ones
- Change according to the status of The Charmed Ones
- Can have its spells reversed if they are read backwards
- Seems to have a consciousness, or at least an essence
- Can't be photocopied (and presumably cannot be scanned)
Due to its link with the Halliwells:
- It can lose its entire content if the Halliwells' powers are stripped
- Its spells will become evil counterparts if the sisters turn evil
- If the sisters are under emotional distress, its power to protect itself is diminished
The Book of Shadows also has an evil counterpart known as the Grimoire
. The Grimoire is a large brown book with an unknown demonic symbol of an upside down pentagram and skull on the cover. The pages of the Grimoire are said to be blackened by its evil. Much like the Book of Shadows, the Grimoire possesses the power to protect itself from its enemies or anything Good. Its spells and incantations are written in Latin. It makes only a few appearances and is later orbed under a mountain of rock in the West Andes by Leo
Bianca, and her family of assassin witches possess a grimoire which contains their family's spells, although this is simply a grimoire and not the Grimoire.. The book had a symbol of two snakes intertwined with each other added to its cover for the episode. The book was sold on eBay in late 2007 and reached a final bid of $405.00.
In the episode Bride and Gloom The Charmed Ones' Book of Shadows began to change itself into a grimoire once the girls turned to evil, even transferring once good spells into new dark spells.
In the series, Gypsies
and witches are sister traditions. Though never specifically stated to be so, Gypsy families also have their own versions of the Book of Shadows that is passed down to immediate family members. This was shown in an episode where the Gypsy Eva finds her family spell book previously owned by her mother after her death. Like the traditional Book of Shadows, Gypsies' books contain spells and magical recipes.
Pagan author and self-proclaimed "expert" Raymond Buckland
said in his 2002 book, "The Witch Book"
, that the Charmed
Book of Shadows gave the show an air of authenticity and showed that the producers of the show seemed to at least know a little of what they were talking about when depicting Wiccan
Judika Illes adds that the Charmed
Book of Shadows describes the witches of the show much in the same way of the real world Italian Benandanti
traditions. She claims the show draws deeply on Wiccan terminology and ritual (such as the witches adding information to their Book of Shadows), but asserts that it is still a fantasy show. In "The Book of Shadows: The Unofficial Charmed Companion
", Ngaire E. Genge talks about the Charmed
Book of Shadows in relationship to modern Wiccan Book of Shadows and the ancient grimoires of such notables as Abra-Melen the Mage
and King Solomon
. The author is more critical of Charmed
's use of the book compared to real-world Wiccans but adds, as Buckland did, that it is still a fantasy show. While not specifically mentioning the Charmed
Book of Shadows by name, "The Craft: A Witch’s Book of Shadows
" by Dorothy Morrison appears highly influenced by the series, featuring the same triquetra
symbol on its cover as does the Halliwells' Book of Shadows.
Criticism has also been garnered for Charmed's Book of Shadows. Author Peg Aoli, a noted Wiccan and media critic at "The Witches Voice" has been critical of mixing real world Wiccan rituals items, such as athames and the Book of Shadows, with Charmed’s "Hollywood" witchcraft. Aoli critically slammed the series' representation of witchcraft in an essay in "Totally Charmed: Demons, Whitelighters and the Power of Three". Furthermore, other critics at "The Witches Voice" argue that Charmed's representation of witchcraft, including their Book of Shadows, creates "so many misconceptions" about Wicca in the modern world.