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Scott Cunningham: Life & Written Books

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Scott Douglas Cunningham was the author of dozens of well-known books on Wicca (Wicca is a Neopagan religion, which is linked to witchcraft and other ancient religions), as well as writing about several other religious alternatives. Scott Cunningham’s name a synonymous of natural magic and the magical community. He is recognized as one of the most influential authors in this field.

He studied for three years in a tradition under the direction of Raven Grimassi, another popular neopagan author.

Cunningham’s religious beliefs are simple and easy to understand. He practiced basic witchcraft, often been a solo practitioner, although his books describe several instances where he practiced witchcraft with friends and teachers.

While his beliefs were simple, he probably had every detail of his religion meditated. He practiced things consciously and made sure that the explanations in his books were brief and clear.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Scott Cunningham, a prominent figure in the world of witchcraft, had a fascinating early life marked by his exploration of various spiritual traditions, including Buddhism and Taoism, which later influenced his magical practices.

He authored a substantial body of work, including renowned books like “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner,” which played a pivotal role in popularizing Wicca and making it accessible to a broader audience.

One of his standout publications, “Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs,” detailed over 400 herbs and their magical properties, making it an invaluable resource for herbal magic practitioners.

Cunningham’s expertise extended to crystals and gemstones, as evident in his book “Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic,” where he shared insights into harnessing the mystical powers of these natural elements.

Early Life and Career

Scott Cunningham was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, United States.  On June 27, 1956, he moved with his family to San Diego, California, in 1961 due to health problems that his mother had, and there he would reside for the rest of his life.

His father, Chet Cunningham, was a writer and author of more than 100 books. In 1971, Scott read a book his mother had acquired, “The Supernatural” by Douglas Hill and Pat Williams, which introduced him to the world of magic. As a result, he became fascinated with magic and witchcraft.

A short time later he met a classmate who had begun practicing Wicca, a contemporary neopagan witchcraft. After graduation, he attended San Diego State University to study creative writing. But he left it after 2 years, because he had started his career as a writer.

During the 1970s, Cunningham continued his study of magic. He encountered several covens and studied in several different traditions, although he eventually withdrew from participation in the coven and decided to practice as a solitaire.

He also developed his interest in nature and became knowledgeable about herbalism and the various substances used by magicians in their practice. Along with his novels, he began writing textbooks and reference books for Wiccans. Keep in mind that these books began to be published at a time when there were not many books available for those interested in Wicca.

His first book Wicca, “Magical Herbalism”, published on 1982, had a quite popular reception, this permitted Scott to write with regularly for Llewellyn Publications, The first mayor Wicca Publisher on the US.  His investigations had continued on: Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (1985), Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem and Metal Magic (1987), and The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, and Brews (1989).

Cunningham’s most important and successful book was Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, published in 1988. Before this book, Wicca grew as a coven-centered practice, but throughout the 1980s there was a heightened awareness of the presence and legitimacy of the solo practice, which consisted of sorcerers who followed neopagan belief, but practiced alone. However, little material had been produced for solitary practitioners. The response to Cunningham’s book made Wicca leaders realize that solitary practitioners formed a much larger segment of the community than many suspected.

A list of his work

Among his works we can find the following:

1980 – Shadow of Love (fiction)
1982 – Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise
1983 – Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic
1985 – Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
1987 – The Magical Household: Spells and Rituals for the Home (with David Harrington)
1987 – Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic
1988 – The Truth About Witchcraft Today
1988 – Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
1989 – The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews
1989 – Magical Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent
1991 – Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic
1991 – The Magic in Food
1993 – Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen
1993 – Divination for Beginners
1993 – Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
1993 – Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects (with David Harrington)
1993 – The Truth About Herb Magic
1994 – The Truth About Witchcraft
1995 – Hawaiian Magic and Spirituality
1997 – Pocket Guide to Fortune Telling
1999 – Dreaming the Divine: Techniques for Sacred Sleep
2009 – Cunningham’s Book of Shadows: The Path of An American Traditionalist (This one is a rediscovered manuscript written by Cunningham in the late 1970s or early 1980s)

The importance of Scott’s work is because he believed that Wicca had been a very secret religion in the past and that it should become more open. For Scott the internal components of Wicca are available to anyone who can read. According to Cunningham the only secrets of Wicca are individual rituals, spells, and the names of deities.

Therefore, he dedicated a good part of his short life to disseminating this knowledge through more than 50 books, in addition to being the first of the Wiccans to give an emphasis to Solo practicing, which until that date did not have much relevance, partly due to the lack of information.

Major Works

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

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Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
  • Cunningham’s classic introduction to Wicca is about how to live life magically, spiritually, and wholly attuned with nature.
  • Scott Cunningham (Author)

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As the name suggests, this book is a Guide, and is considered the best Guide for people who are just beginning to discover Wicca. It contains everything that a solitary Practitioner must learn so that the gods will bless him with whatever he needs.

The first chapters talk about magic, the history of witchcraft, the tools that are used, the deities and in general the things you need to know to be able to start doing any kind of magic. In the central chapters, it goes about initiations, meditations, and how to put what has been learned so far into use. In the final chapters is what can be considered the fun part, because in here there are the rituals and the spells. This is where Scott Cunningham has put related things about his practices and how he does magic. But he writes it in a way that an initiate can experiment and learn in the process the basis for being able to do magic.

The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, and Brews

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This book is about the main implements used in rituals to perform magic, implements that allow you to prepare your mind to achieve the objectives. Both for people who have experience doing solo practices, and for people who are just starting out. This book will be a great help, because is more than a simple recipe book, it is a very practical book, Scott Cunningham talks about how to work with Frankincense, soaps, oils, and other implements to be able to perform magic. At the same time, he explains how these affect magic practices and rituals, also explaining the science behind everything. 

The book is divided into three sections. The first section aims to teach the basics, talk about how magic works, rituals, ingredients to use and how to create your own recipes. The second section deals with recipes, and emphasizes the function of implements, such as incense, oils, inks, bath salts, among others. The third section deals with substitutions. This section is fantastic, especially when you are dealing with herbs that may be considered dangerous, or that may generate unfavorable reactions to the person performing the ritual. In addition to that, it explains what are the effects that can be produced when making these substitutions.

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs

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This book is about the Herbs that have magical properties, as always in the writing of Scott Cunningham, it is a book that allows people who are starting, to understand well the functioning of herbs and the correct way to use them to perform magic. But, nevertheless, for the most advanced practitioners, this might be one of their most used books to consult when creating their own spells, rituals, or magic in general.

This book contains information about more than 400 different herbs, detailing their properties and how to use them effectively. That is, if you are looking for information about any herb, it is most likely found in this book, it may not contain the most detailed information, but at least it will give you a starting point.

Another thing that characterizes this book is that it has a section dedicated to making comparative tables of the different herbs, so that if you need for example: “Plants that work with the Air element”, You can find a list of all these plants, and so with other multiple cases, such as jurisdictions, elements, magical intentions, among others.

Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic

Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic (Llewellyn's Practical Magick)
  • Cunningham, Scott (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

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This book talks about the requirements to practice magic. Which as Scott Cunningham says, is the need, emotion and knowledge when practicing magic. He Explained that everyone on this earth could perform magic, we simply must know how to channel it.

The book also talks about several topics such as symbols (what are  symbols, how they can be used in rituals, what each one represents and what their functions are) visualization (which is the ability we have, to be able to do magic at a distance), the power of imagination, elements (The power of the elements, What they consist of, how they were created and then gives a more specific description of them, element by element, commenting on the spells, rituals and invocation of the elements), The magic of the stones, the magic of the knots, the magic of the images, among other topics.

This book might not have the most detailed information, because it covers a lot of topics, but for some initiated, this might be a great book to understand these topics, and then if they have a special interest in one of the topics, they can search for another book to get more specific information. In other words, it serves like an introduction to the techniques of natural magic.

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic

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Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic (Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia Series, 2)
  • Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic
  • Cunningham, Scott (Author)

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This book talks about the magical properties of crystals, gems and metals. Cunningham reveals the secrets of over 100 different gems and metals, describes what they look like, and explains the magical powers these stones contain.

In the first part of the book, we can find as always an introduction to magic and how metals, stones, gems and crystals, are used to perform magic, there will also be other topics such as: The rainbow of power, how to obtain the stones, the stories of the stones, the magic of jewelry, among others. The second  part tells us the history of the stones, the third part tells the magic of the metals, and finally the fourth part gives us supplementary information, such as the tables (Similar to what was already explained in the encyclopedia of herbs, it serves to locate in this case, which stones, gems, or metals are required depending on the magical intentions,  elementary rules, planetary rules, energy, among others).

Conclusion

Scott Cunningham was a man who spent much of his short life teaching his beliefs through his books. Something that characterized him and the reason why, even after almost 30 years since his death, he is still so praised, was his ability to provide good explanations to beginners, but at the same time, providing books that any advanced practitioner could not leave on the shelf, because he would use it constantly to consult while performing magic.

The name of Scott Cunningham for many within the Wiccan community, represents magic, because through his books, he largely defined magic as we know it today.

Bestsellers by Scott Cunningham

# Preview Product Rating Price
1 Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn's Sourcebook Series) (Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia Series, 1) Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn's Sourcebook Series) (Scott Cunningham's... No ratings yet $16.76Amazon Prime
2 Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner No ratings yet $11.98Amazon Prime
3 Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic (Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia Series, 2) Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic (Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia Series, 2) No ratings yet $10.17
4 Earth, Air, Fire & Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) Earth, Air, Fire & Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) No ratings yet $13.91Amazon Prime
5 The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) No ratings yet $16.83Amazon Prime
6 Cunningham's Book of Shadows: The Path of An American Traditionalist Cunningham's Book of Shadows: The Path of An American Traditionalist No ratings yet $21.49Amazon Prime
7 Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) No ratings yet $15.49Amazon Prime
8 Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen No ratings yet $17.99Amazon Prime
9 The Magical Household: Spells & Rituals for the Home (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) The Magical Household: Spells & Rituals for the Home (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) No ratings yet $15.99Amazon Prime
10 Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise (Llewellyn's Practical Magick Series) Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise (Llewellyn's Practical Magick Series) No ratings yet $14.68Amazon Prime
11 Scott Cunningham―The Path Taken: Honoring the Life and Legacy of a Wiccan Trailblazer Scott Cunningham―The Path Taken: Honoring the Life and Legacy of a Wiccan Trailblazer No ratings yet $21.95Amazon Prime
12 Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) No ratings yet $14.99Amazon Prime
13 The Truth About Witchcraft (Llewellyn's New-age) The Truth About Witchcraft (Llewellyn's New-age) 247 Reviews $9.99Amazon Prime
14 Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) No ratings yet $17.99Amazon Prime
15 Magical Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent (Llewellyn's New Age) Magical Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent (Llewellyn's New Age) No ratings yet $9.99Amazon Prime
16 New Essential Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (Includes Author's Book of Shadows) New Essential Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (Includes Author's Book of Shadows) No ratings yet $17.00
17 The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews (Llewellyn's Practical Magick) No ratings yet $15.19
18 Divination for Beginners: Reading the Past, Present & Future (Llewellyn's For Beginners, 14) Divination for Beginners: Reading the Past, Present & Future (Llewellyn's For Beginners, 14) No ratings yet $14.77Amazon Prime
19 Cunningham's Guide to Hawaiian Magic & Spirituality Cunningham's Guide to Hawaiian Magic & Spirituality No ratings yet $17.99Amazon Prime
20 Dreaming the Divine: Techniques for Sacred Sleep Dreaming the Divine: Techniques for Sacred Sleep No ratings yet $15.99Amazon Prime

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About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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