True cut sheet of parchment from a wild caught deer skin.When a spell instructs the Witch to inscribe something on parchment, most Witches use a fine writing paper such as the type used for calligraphy.  However, the word parchment originally referred to the skin of a lamb, sheep, goat, young calf, or other animal, that was specially prepared for writing.  This is true parchment or real parchment.

Vellum is a word generally used interchangably with real parchment.  However, vellum refers to a particularly fine type of parchment, usually made from the skin of a very young animal, especially calfskin, and is often rendered clear and white.  Parchment and vellum both make excellent book binding materials for their strength and longevity, and for their low elasticity.

Parchment was considered a superior writing surface.  Dried ink could be scraped off with a parchment knife, and it was durable enough to be handled repeatedly.  However, it continues to be an expensive item.

Many Witches feel that it is wrong to use the skin of an animal, others feel it is wrong to cut down a tree.  Either way, real parchment can still be found, but fine paper works just as well and does cost less.  We prefer to make our own paper and incorporate herbs, resins and even ground gemstones into the paper to add energy to magickal workings.

The use of parchment in older spells will clue an observant Witch in on the spell's origins.  Although ancient Greeks used parchment, it is unlikely that European Witches used it in their folk-type magick.  Many Witches were illiterate, and parchment would be costly or laborious to make.  This may give you some clues that a spell which requires parchment may have ceremonial magick, Judeo-Christian, or Kabbalah elements in it.

The use of brown ink on parchment (real parchment, or ecru colored parchment paper) makes a nice effect for framed certificates or sigils and mandallas.

A scribe's knife used to scrpe dried ink mistakes off real parchment.To the right is pictured a parchment knife.  It is also known as a scribe's knife, these were used by scribes to both help hold down the parchment, and to scrape any writing errors off of the parchment.  After scraping, the parchment would be polished with a stone or other hard object so that any new writing would not "bleed" into the paper.  This example dates from between 1800 to 1850, and has an ivory handle with a steel blade.

Parchment is costly, running about $35 per square foot and up. Parchment style paper is much more affordable at about 25ยข a sheet or less.

References & Resources:

  • An online search will yield many results for parchment, usually the paper type.  If you are looking for real parchment, check out Pergamena.  They also carry fine book binding leathers.
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