Scott Cunningham (1956-1993) was a prolific Wiccan author and expert on earth and natural Magic, best known for his books on magical herbalism, earth power, crystals, gems and metals and “the truth about Witchcraft.” Born June 27, 1956, in Royal Oak, Michigan, Cunningham lived in San Diego from 1961 until his death in 1993. He began practicing Wicca in 1971. A full-time writer, he authored more than 30 fiction and nonfiction books and wrote scripts for occult videocassettes.
Cunningham was introduced to the Craft in 1971 through a book purchased by his mother, The Supernatural, by Douglas Hill and Pat Williams. Early on in life, Cunningham had had a strong interest in plants, minerals and other natural earth products, and the book piqued his curiosity. He read it and was particularly fascinated by the book's descriptions of Italian hand gestures used to ward off the Evil Eye.
In the next two days, two other incidents added impetus to his interest in the Craft: a movie about Witch- craft shown on television; and a female classmate in high school who was involved in an occult and magic study group. Meeting on the first day of drama class, the two began talking, and Cunningham unconsciously made the Evil Eye hand gestures. The classmate recognized them and asked, “Are you a Witch” “No,” said Cunningham, “but I'd sure like to be one.” The classmate introduced him to Wicca. Learning magic intensified his interest in the power of nature. Cunningham was initiated into several covens of various traditions (see initiation) but eventually opted to practice as a solitary.
In 1974 he enrolled in San Diego State University and studied creative writing, intending to become a professional writer like his father, Chet, who has authored more than 170 nonfiction and fiction books. He wrote truck and automotive trade articles and advertising copy on a freelance basis. After two years in college, he realized he had more published credits than most of his professors, and decided to drop out and begin writing full-time.
The first book he wrote was Magical Herbalism, though it was not his first to be published. That book, Shadow of Love, an Egyptian romance novel, appeared in 1980. Magical Herbalism was published in 1982. Between 1980 and 1987, Cunningham published 21 novels in various genres, six nonfiction occult books and one nonfiction booklet. Besides Magical Herbalism, his credits include Earth Power: Techniques oj Natural Magic (1983); Cunning- ham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (1985); The Magic of Incense, Oils and Brews (1987); The Magical Household (1987; coauthored with David Harrington); and Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem and Metal Magic (1987); The Truth About Herb Magic (1992); Sacred Sleep (1992); The Art of Divination (1993); Spellcrafts (1993); and Hawaiian Magic (1993).
Cunningham anonymously wrote a booklet, The Truth About Witchcraft, which explains folk magic as well as the Wiccan religion. An expanded, booklength version of The Truth About Witchcraft, as well as a second title, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, were published in 1988. He also wrote The Magic of Food (1991), a book about the magical properties within foods.
Cunningham lectured to groups around the United States and occasionally made media appearances on behalf of the Craft. He viewed Wicca as a modern religion, created in the 20th century, incorporating elements of pa- gan folk magic. He said Wicca should be stripped of its quasi-historical and mythological trappings and presented to the public as a modern religion sprung from primeval concepts. The purpose of Wicca is to facilitate human con- tact with the Goddess and God; the differences between traditions, he maintained, are petty and distracting.
Like others in the Craft, Cunningham believed in Reincarnation, but said many people place too much importance on exploring past lives. He said the present is what counts, and one's attention should be given to learning the lessons of the here and now.
Cunningham's intense devotion to his work and his prolific outpouring of writing perhaps was fueled in part by his intuition that his time might be limited. In 1983, at age 27, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. After surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and healing rituals and spells, the cancer was in remission.
In 1990, during a publicity tour in the midwestern and eastern United States, Cunningham began to suffer increasingly painful migraine headaches. In Salem, Massachusetts, he collapsed, semi-conscious, and was rushed to the hospital. He was diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis complicated by AIDS infections. He spent several weeks in the hospital and then was transferred to the University of California San Diego Medical Center. He had no medical insurance, and friends and family set up a fund to help pay staggering medical bills.
Cunningham recovered enough to resume writing and traveling, although his health was impaired and his prognosis was not good. In 1992, his vision began to fail, and he spent increasing time in the hospital. In January 1993, he sold some of his personal belongings and books and moved back home with his parents. In February 1993, the spinal meningitis returned, along with an infection in the brain. Cunningham went into a coma for several days and lost his remaining vision. He returned home, where he passed away on March 28.
Cunningham left an autobiography unfinished at the time of his death. It was completed and published as Whispers of the Moon by David Harrington and deTraci Regula in 1996.
- 1980 – Shadow of Love (fiction)
- 1982 – Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise
- 1983 – Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic
- 1985 – Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
- 1987 – The Magical Household: Spells and Rituals for the Home (with David Harrington)
- 1987 – Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic
- 1988 – The Truth About Witchcraft Today
- 1988 – Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
- 1989 – The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews
- 1989 – Magical Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent
- 1991 – Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic
- 1991 – The Magic in Food
- 1993 – Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen
- 1993 – Divination For Beginners
- 1993 – Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
- 1993 – Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects (with David Harrington)
- 1993 – The Truth About Herb Magic
- 1994 – The Truth About Witchcraft
- 1995 – Hawaiian Magic and Spirituality
- 1997 – Pocket Guide to Fortune Telling
- 1999 – Dreaming the Divine: Techniques for Sacred Sleep
- 2009 – Cunningham's Book of Shadows: The Path of An American Traditionalist – A rediscovered manuscript written by Cunningham in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
- Harrington, David, and deTraci Regula. Whispers of the Moon: The Life and Work of Scott Cunningham. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1996.