Scott Douglas Cunningham (June 27, 1956 – March 28, 1993) was a U.S. writer. Cunningham is the author of several books on Wicca and various other alternative religious subjects.
His work Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, is one of the most successful books on Wicca ever published; he was a friend of notable occultists and Wiccans such as Raymond Buckland, and was a member of the Serpent Stone Family, and received his Third Degree Initiation as a member of that coven.
Scott Cunningham was born at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA, the second son of Chester Grant Cunningham and Rose Marie Wilhoit Cunningham. The family moved to San Diego, California in the fall of 1959 due to Rose Marie’s health problems. The doctors in Royal Oak declared the mild climate in San Diego ideal for her. Outside of many trips to Hawaii, Cunningham lived in San Diego all his life.
Cunningham had one older brother, Greg, and a younger sister, Christine.
He studied creative writing at San Diego State University, where he enrolled in 1978. After two years in the program, however, he had more published works than several of his professors, and dropped out of the university to write full-time. During this period he had as a roommate, magical author Donald Michael Kraig and often socialized with witchcraft author Raymond Buckland, who was also living in San Diego at the time.
In 1980 Cunningham began initiate training under Raven Grimassi and remained as a first-degree initiate until 1982 when he left the tradition to pursue a solo practice of witchcraft.
Cunningham practiced a fairly basic interpretation of Wicca, often worshipping alone, though his book series for solitaries describes several instances in which he worshipped with friends and teachers.
He also believed that Wicca, which had been a closed tradition since the 1950s, should become more open to newcomers.
Cunningham was also drawn to Huna and a range of new age movements and concepts that influenced and coloured his spirituality.
In 1983, Scott Cunningham was diagnosed with lymphoma, which he successfully overcame. In 1990, while on a speaking tour in Massachusetts, he suddenly fell ill and was diagnosed with AIDS-related cryptococcal meningitis. He suffered from several infections and died in March 1993. He was 36.
1980 – Shadow of Love (fiction)
1982 – Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise (ISBN 0-87542-120-2)
1983 – Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic (ISBN 0-87542-121-0)
1985 – Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (ISBN 0-87542-122-9)
1987 – The Magical Household: Spells and Rituals for the Home (with David Harrington) (ISBN 0-87542-124-5)
1987 – Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic (ISBN 0-87542-126-1)
1988 – The Truth About Witchcraft Today (ISBN 0-87542-127-X)
1988 – Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (ISBN 0-87542-118-0)
1989 – The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews (ISBN 0-87542-128-8)
1989 – Magical Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent (ISBN 0-87542-129-6)
1991 – Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic (ISBN 0-87542-131-8)
1991 – The Magic in Food (ISBN 0-87542-130-X)
1993 – Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen (ISBN 0-7387-0226-9)
1993 – Divination For Beginners (ISBN 0-7387-0384-2)
1993 – Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (ISBN 0-87542-184-9)
1993 – Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects (with David Harrington) (ISBN 0-87542-185-7)
1993 – The Truth About Herb Magic (ISBN 0-87542-132-6)
1994 – The Truth About Witchcraft (ISBN 0-87542-357-4)
1995 – Hawaiian Magic and Spirituality (ISBN 1-56718-199-6)
1997 – Pocket Guide to Fortune Telling (ISBN 0-89594-875-3)
1999 – Dreaming the Divine: Techniques for Sacred Sleep (ISBN 1-56718-192-9)
2009 – Cunningham’s Book of Shadows: The Path of An American Traditionalist (ISBN 0-73871-914-5) – A rediscovered manuscript written by Cunningham in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Scott Douglas Cunningham was a popular Wiccan author of more than thirty books on both fiction and non-fiction topics. More than fifteen of his books were written on Wicca and its related subjects, he also wrote scripts for occult videos. Scott 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 influence many newcomers entering the craft.
Scott was born on the 27th June 1956 at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA. His parents Chester Grant Cunningham and Rose Marie Wilhoit Cunningham had two other children, an older brother Greg and a younger sister Christine. In 1959 due to his mothers recurring health problems, the family moved to San Diego, California, were the doctors declared the mild climate would be more beneficial for her. Aside from his many trips to Hawaii, Scott continued to live in San Diego until his death in 1993.
His introduction to the craft came through a book he read in 1971, one purchased by his mother (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 these gestures to attract the attention of a female classmate he knew to be involved with the occult and a working coven. She introduced Scott into Wicca, which 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. His father was a 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. His roommate during this period was the author Donald Michael Kraig, he also made the acquaintance of Raymond Buckland, who was living in San Diego at the time. After only two years of his University course, Scott had collected more published credits than most of his professors, and so decided to drop out from the rest of the course and began to write full-time. The first book he had published was an Egyptian romance novel, 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 (Llewellyn Publications, 1982), and Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magickal Herbs (Llewellyn Publications, 1985). His books on Wicca led to a steady rise in its 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 (Llewellyn, 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, and the Ancient Pictish Gaelic Tradition. Additionally, he was an initiate of the American Traditionalist Wicca.
Scott traveled 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. He also believed that Wicca, which had been a closed and secretive tradition since the 1950s, should become more open to newcomers.
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. Finally on the 28th March 1993, he succumbed, and Scott passed from this world and into the next. As an ambassador of the pagan way of life, his books today continue to influence us all.