Cunningham, Scott (1956–1993)
Scott Cunningham, author of a number of book on contemporary
Witchcraft, was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, on June
27, 1956, but moved with his family to San Diego, California,
in 1961. His father, Chet Cunningham, was a writer and the 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. He beCunning
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came fascinated with magic and witchcraft, and a short time
later met a classmate who had begun practicing Wicca, the contemporary
Neo-Pagan Witchcraft. Following graduation he attended
San Diego State University to study creative writing. He
left after two years, having already launched his writing career.
Cunningham jumped from short fiction and magazine articles
to books in 1980 with the publication of his first novel, The
Cliffside Horrors. Over the next two years he wrote more than a
dozen novels in various genres from adventure to horror. He
published one gothic romance novel under the pseudonym
Cathy Cunningham and a series of Westerns as Dirk Fletcher.
In the mid-1980s he authored two scripts for the popular television
program ‘‘Knot’s Landing.’’
Through the 1970s, Cunningham continued his study of
magic. He made contact with several covens and studied in several
different traditions, though ultimately he withdrew from
coven participation and decided to practice as a solitary. He
also developed his interest in nature and became knowledgeable
in herbalism and the various substances used by magicians
in their practice. Along with his novels he began writing textbooks
and reference books for Wiccans. These began appearing
at a time when the variety of books available to those interested
in Wicca was still relatively limited.
His first Wiccan book, Magical Herbalism (1982), met with a
popular response and he began to write regularly for Llewellyn
Publications, the primary publisher of Wiccan materials in the
United States. His research culminated in 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 (1988). Wicca grew up
as a coven-centered practice, but through the 1980s there had
been increasing awareness of the presence and legitimacy of
solitaries, witches who followed Neo-Pagan belief but practiced
alone. However, little material had been produced for solitaries.
The response to Cunningham’s book made Wiccan leaders
aware that the solitaries formed a much larger segment of
the community than many suspected.
That same year Cunningham also finished The Truth about
Witchcraft Today, a full-length version of a booklet published the
previous year. This introductory text proved equally popular as
his work for solitaries, and many Wiccans credit it with making
them initially aware of the existence of the Craft. Cunningham
became a popular speaker at Wiccan events and appeared to be
on his way to long-term leadership in the Wiccan community,
but had already manifested the illness that would lead to his untimely
death on March 23, 1993. He continued to write until
his passing, and several of his manuscripts were published posthumously.
Sources
Cunningham, Scott. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical
Herbs. St. Paul, Minn. Llewellyn Publications, 1985.
———. Hawai’ian Religion and Magic. St. Paul, Minn. Llewellyn
Publications, 1994.
———. The Magic of Incense, Oils, and Brews. St. Paul, Minn.
Llewellyn Publications, 1989.
———. Magical Herbalism. St. Paul, Minn. Llewellyn Publications,
1982.
———. The Truth about Witchcraft Today. St. Paul, Minn.
Llewellyn Publications, 1988.
———. Wicca A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. St. Paul,
Minn. Llewellyn Publications, 1988.