Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Pagan's Book of HOURS (differing from Book of Shadows)

While a Book of Shadows (hereafter noted as "BoS") can contain a plethora for its Keeper, there is one specific section that I believe should be available in (or close by) every BoS, that being a Book of Hours: (specifically, this is the topic of my post, the second of the letter "B" posts for the Pagan Blog Project):

A Book of Hours, whether a section within your BoS or a "stand alone" book, is a treasury of calendars noting Sabbats, moon phase dates and times, day correspondences, as well as other sacred days to you and/or your coven and/or family. It also typically contains a trove of artwork and can include photos of past rites and/or their altars. In addition to these, the following wealth of spiritual offerings are included, of which I offer a compendium within this post:

* litanies
* prayers
* invocations
* mantras
* blessings
* meditations
* petitions made to the Ancient Ones, Goddess, or Gods
* a variety of endings for these.

The distinguished title, "Book of Hours", was given to such books of time and prayers in the medieval times, when such books gradually became readily available to lay people - at first, only to royalty and upper class, but by the end of the 15th century, the books became more readily available to the emerging middle class. These books were often lavishly decorated for those of higher station. Written specific to the individual to whom they were presented, the books were oft personalized as prayers contained the name of those to whom the book belonged. Additionally, they were further personalized in its contents, containing artwork that spoke deeply to its Keeper, as well as other poems and works penned in tribute to the Keeper's Patron and Patroness Deities.

Modern day Books of Hours can be afforded similar luxuries as aforementioned, containing such things as a calendar of the Sabbats, Esbats, as well as prayers specific to the hours of day - morning and evening, as well as those spoken prior to retiring for the day. Prayers for seasons and the turning of the Wheel should also be included. The Book of Hours serves its Creatrix and Keeper (in this case, You) in all times and seasons - hence the name "Book of Hours". Additionally, the rhythm of life is noted through prayers specific to those momentous occasions we honor and celebrate through Rites.

Litanies include such ceremonial forms of prayer that include lists. An example of such would be listing the many and varied attributes of the Goddess, Danu, enumerating her strength and beauty while honoring Her.

Prayers are, of course, a spiritual communion of your heart and mind - most often through words, but also through enactments and deeds. I have discussed Pagan prayer with many people, and have found that there are a number of people who are, through their past experiences with previous religions, a bit jaded toward that particular term. Yet, throughout history, peoples across lands and cultures have reached out to their Goddesses and Gods in prayer. These prayers need not follow any specific format, for they are your heart to your Goddess... Having these prayers noted within your Book of Hours, however, can be a great blessing when in the proverbial "heat of the moment", when words may not come easily.

Invocations are a form of prayer calling upon a certain Deity to aid you, whether as Witness to a Rite you are enacting, for protection, inspiration and so on.

Mantras are a different type of incantation and come in the form of repeated words or short phrases, used in prayer. They often are sung or chanted and can, for some individuals, create an altered state of consciousness.

Blessings, or Sainings, are words which call for favor or a Gift from Goddess, Gods, the Elementals, etc. These are commonly known as, "saying grace", in some circles, and are oft spoken at meal times, at weddings or handfastings, and before going to sleep.

Meditations (or, what my Grandmother called "Ponderables") range from simple ideas upon which one may ruminate to a fully written enactment that is designed to take its hearer on an inner journey and back again.

As for endings to these, there are so many that one can use beyond the simple, yet beautiful, "Blessed Be" or "So mote it Be". Be creative! Remember that you are undertaking the tasks of the day "For the Good of All"... Work from that place, and see how many endings you can create that speak fully of your heart's intention.

There are several Pagan Books of Hours available that I will mention, but do not diminish the strength and beauty to be found in your own words. Remember that a Book of Hours should be personalized. As such, try writing your own thoughts,much as you would prepare your own words for a spell-working or self-ritual. Look to such works as the Carmina Gadelica for inspiration, but adapt the ideas, words, and intention to your own personalized use.

Here are some links to some of my favorite Book of Hours:

Caitlín Matthews is author of the following, which, this blogger unabashedly names as favorites:


C. Serith penned the following:
A Book of Pagan Prayer

Starhawk, along with several other contributors, have created this beautiful work, especially helpful for those who are called to serve as Death Midwives:

Shanddaramon gives us this short, but beautiful, work:

While there are an abundance on the market, readily available for purchase, please always remember that those words which come from your heart and mind are, above all, priceless treasures to Goddess, the Gods, the Ancient Ones, the Elementals, and so on.  Glean from your own experience with the time in which you are praying. What does the dark of night with the shining stars above feel like to you? What do you see when you look up at Her radiant glory on the night of the full moon? What sounds come to you in the darkest hours of night, when the night seems never-ending? Reach deeply within. The rest will come, giving you a beautiful addition to your Book of Hours. Best of all, it will be just as it need be... for YOU. Personalized, beautiful, perfect. Just as She sees You.

Many blessings,
The following is an image from a Book of Hours specific to a calendar cycle. It was a full page miniature denoting the beauty of the month of May. This Book of Hours was from the 16th Century, drawing by Simon Bening.


  1. I love this post! I have been collecting poems, litanies, blessings and invocations (many from books you mentioned) since the very beginning of my Craft practice. Such a wonderful way to put my soul at peace by reading the words collected.

    1. Thank you for your comment! Pagan prayer is very near and dear to my heart! Sometimes I feel very alone in this passion. It's always a blessing to know there are others who share that same desire, to commune with the Ancient Ones and Goddess!