Scott Cunningham was a Wiccan and popular author of more than thirty books, these he wrote fluently using both fiction and non-fiction genres. More than fifteen of his books were written on Wicca and its related subjects, he also wrote scripts for occult videos. Cunningham was a key player in opening up Wicca to solitary practice, and by making a great deal of information available to the public he helped to influence many newcomers
entering the craft.
Scott was born on the 27th June 1956 in Royal Oak, Michigan. In 1961 he moved to San Diego where he lived until his death in 1993. His introduction to the Craft came through a book he read in 1971, one purchased by his mother called 'The Supernatural' by Douglas Hill and Pat Williams. Scott had always shown an interest in plants, minerals and other natural earth products and this book furthered his interest. It also showed diagrams of Italian hand gestures used to ward of the Evil Eye
and these particularly fascinated him.
Later in high school he used some of these gestures to attract the attention of a female classmate, for he knew her to be involved with an occult and magical work group. When she inquired if he was a Witch, he replied saying 'No, but I'd sure like to know more'. The classmate introduced Scott into Wicca and the training he received further intensified his interest in the powers of nature. Over the next few years he took initiation into several covens of varying Traditions gaining
experience but really he preferred to practice as a solitary practitioner.
In 1974 he enrolled at San Diego State University were he studied creative writing, inspired to do so by his father Chet. His father was a prolific and professional writer who had authored some 170 non-fiction and fiction books. Scott started writing truck and automobile articles for trade publications, he also wrote advertising copy on a freelance basis. After only two years on his University course, he had collected more published credits than most of his professors, so he decided to drop out on the rest of the course and started writing full-time. The first book he had published was an Egyptian romance novel called Shadow of Love (1980).
Scott's writing style was easy to understand being simple and direct, his teachings focused on encouraging people to: "employ whatever works for them in their religious, spiritual, and magickal endeavours". He was a fine herbalist and produced several books dealing with herbs, including: Magickal Herbalism (1982) and Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magickal Herbs (1985). His books on Wicca led to a steady rise in his popularity and he soon became one of the best-read Wiccan authors of his time. Sales of his most popular book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (1988), reached over 400,000 copies by the year 2000.
His prominence was instrumental in influencing the changes that took place in the Wicca movement during the eighties. Due to his influence the Wiccan religion shifted primarily from the hands of initiates into the public arena and many eclectic Traditions were formed as a result. While essentially a self-styled Wiccan and a solitary practitioner, he was initiated into several established Craft Traditions.
In 1980 he entered into the Aridian Tradition where he undertook a course of study on Witchcraft and Magick from Raven Grimassi. Then in 1981 he entered the Reorganized Traditional Gwyddonic Order of Wicca, an Pictish Gaelic Tradition. Additionally he was also an Initiate of the American
Traditionalist Wicca. Scott travelled around the country giving lectures and occasionally making media appearances on behalf of the craft. He viewed the craft as a modern religion created in the 20th Century, and thought that Wicca while containing pagan folk magic derived of ancient times, should be stripped of it's quasi-historical and mythological trappings and represented to the public as a modern religion utilizing ancient concepts.
A sudden onset of health issues began to affect his public appearances, then later his writing. In 1983 he was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a form of cancer. To make matters worse in 1990, he also contracted Cryptococcal Meningitis. His health continued to decline as he suffered opportunistic infections related to his primary disease. On the 28th March 1993 he died.
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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