Cunningham, Scott

Cunningham, Scott (1956-1993)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Best known for his books on herbs and, later, on Wicca, Scott Cunningham was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, on June 27, 1956. He was the son of prolific author Chester ("Chet") Cunningham and his wife Rose. Scott's great-great-grandmother, Abby Pointer, was described as a very superstitious woman who "believed implicitly in the signs of the Moon" and planted her garden by those signs. His paternal greatgrandmother, Emmy, read tea leaves.

The Cunningham family moved to San Diego when Scott was four years old and he grew up there with his brother Greg and sister Christine. When he was fifteen he looked through a book his mother had bought (The Supernatural by Douglas Hill and Pat Williams, Hawthorn Books, 1965) and became fascinated with the illustrations and articles, especially those dealing with Witchcraft. That evening he watched the movie Burn, Witch, Burn! on television. The following day at school Cunningham met fellow student Dorothy Jones, who was to become his magical teacher and to initiate him into her version of the Craft. She told him that she had been initiated two years earlier, at the age of thirteen. Her Craft name was Morgan. Cunningham's journal entries at the time state that "This form of Wicca, unlike most others today, had no specific name, and had but one `degree' and one initiation." Yet in later years (1982) he wrote that it was called "American Traditionalist . . .

the Standing Stones Tradition does not claim to be an ancient order. It was begun in 1971 by Morgan, a Moon Priestess. . . ."

In 1974 Cunningham enrolled at San Diego State University and studied creative writing. Within two years he had more writing credits than many of his professors and shortly thereafter he dropped out. His interest in herbs and their properties grew, and he quickly became an expert on the subject, writing a book called A Witch's Herbal. It was rejected by a number of publishers before being accepted at Llewellyn Publications and published in 1982 under the title Magical Herbalism. It went on to become a classic on the subject. Cunningham followed up with Earth Power (1983) and Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (1985), both published by Llewellyn. Two years later he produced The Magic of Incense, Oils and Brews.

In the 1980s, Cunningham visited Hawaii and fell in love with it. He went there as often as he could until the end of his life, visiting the volcano Kilauea and dropping tributes of flowers into the crater, reverencing the Goddess Pele. He developed a great interest in Kahuna, the Hawaiian culture and magical practices. His Hawaiian Religion and Magic was published posthumously in 1994.

In 1987, with Llewellyn's backing, Cunningham and his friend deTraci Regula made a one-hour videotape titled Herb Magic. Much of it was shot at the Taylor Herb Farms in Vista, California, and, despite many obstacles along the way, was a success.

In 1988 Cunningham produced Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (Llewellyn), which was initially greeted with some disquiet by Witches who had been through coven initiations and practiced only in groups. The book reflected this author's thoughts on Self Initiation, as presented in Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft (Llewellyn, 1986), and Cunningham said that he felt that helped his cause. In recent years Cunningham's book has done extremely well, becoming one of Llewellyn's top sellers.

In early 1990, while on a lecture tour, Cunningham was rushed to a hospital and diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis. He never fully recovered, and although he returned home and went back to writing, his health steadily deteriorated. There were many books he wanted to write and several he did manage to finish including Hawaiian Magic, written after he returned to his parents home in January 1993. He died there on March 28, 1993.

Other of Cunningham's magical books are A Formula Book of Magical Incenses and Oils (1982), The Magical Household (with David Harrington, 1987), The Truth About Witchcraft (1987), The Truth About Witchcraft Today (1988), The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews (1989), The Magic In Food (1991), The Truth About Herb Magic (1992), Sacred Sleep (1992), The Art of Divination (1993), Living Wicca (1993), and Spell Crafts (1993).