Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Pracitioner

Wicca for Solitaries Cover
Llewellyn Publishing via Amazon

The late Scott Cunningham is probably second only to Ray Buckland when it comes to the volume of information he has published on Wicca and witchcraft. As a college student in San Diego, Scott developed an interest in herbs, and his first book, Magickal Herbalism, was published by Llewellyn in 1982. It has since become known as one of the definitive works on the use of herbal correspondences in magick and witchcraft. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner came out six years later. At the time, it was met with some grumblings from Wiccans who practiced only under the initiatory coven system.

Who Was Scott Cunningham?

Scott Cunningham created dozens of books on NeoWicca and modern Paganism, many of which have been repackaged and reprinted posthumously by his publishers. He passed away in 1993 at age 36, ten years after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He originally began training in Wicca under author and High Priest Raven Grimassi, but after a few years left to pursue solitary practice.

While Cunningham often comes under fire from lineaged Wiccans who point out that his books are in fact about NeoWicca, rather than traditional Wicca, his works typically offer a lot of practical advice for people who practice as solitaries. He frequently points out in his writings that religion is a deeply personal thing, and it's not up to other people to tell you if you're doing it right or wrong. He also argued that it was time for Wicca to stop being a secretive, mystery religion and that Wiccans should welcome interested newcomers with open arms.

Criticisms and Support

Michael Kaufman runs Wild Ideas, a website dedicated to the exploration of nature-based spirituality. Kaufman says,

"Right now, it seems like three-quarters of the so-called Wiccans in America think that "Wicca" is simply a euphemism for "make up your own religion as you go along." That's not wholly due to Cunningham's work, but he was certainly a major contributor. I don't mind his books on magic and spellcraft, but whenever he attempted to deal with Wicca as a religion, he consistently seemed to miss the point."

However, despite these perceived shortcomings, this is a book that most Pagans have read at some point in their studies, because many feel it does offer an excellent perspective on what it's like to be a solitary Wiccan.

Despite some criticisms that Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner may be a bit light in nature, and that blanket statements are occasionally made by the author, the book certainly does have a place in history. It was one of the first books to hit the mainstream on the topic of modern Wicca, and to find its way into non-Pagan bookstores.

Many Wiccan and Pagan covens use Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner as an educational tool for their new members and initiates, because its practical, hands-on advice has been viewed favorably by thousands of people living magical lives today. 

What's Inside?

Cunningham goes into a good amount of depth on gods and goddesses, rituals, ceremonies, and tools of the Craft. While a number of people are quick to point out that his tradition of Wicca isn't the same as every other tradition, Cunningham never denied that. His goal in writing this book was to make Wiccan philosophy available to people who might not otherwise have access to such teachings.

The second part of the book goes into detail about magical theory, meditation, divination, etc., and the last part is a copy of Cunningham's Book of Shadows that he created in ritual. There is detailed information about Sabbats and Esbats, crystals, herbs, and more. 

Some of the subjects covered in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner include:

  • Writing, planning, and performing your own rituals
  • Setting up altars, both basic and ritual-specific
  • How to perform a self-dedication ritual, although Cunningham does refer to it as self-initiation
  • Working with magical energy
  • The use of magic, from spell construction to magical tools
  • Correspondence tables for herbs, crystals, and more

Cunningham believed that dogma and rigidity was damaging to the Pagan community, and that it was more important that practitioners focus on the ideals and values that supported Pagan beliefs. He felt that reverence for the gods and nature, along with social awareness and personal empowerment were far more valuable than organization and hierarchy.