Cunningham, Scott (1956-1993)
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 became 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 lead-ers 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.
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.