Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Pracitioner

Author: Scott Cunningham

New and original covers of Scott Cunningham's classic work. Images by Llewellyn Publishing

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.

Michael Kaufman at Wild Ideas 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 its shortcomings, this is a book that everyone should read at some point in their studies, because it does offer an excellent perspective on what it's like to be a Solitary Wiccan. Cunningham goes into a good amount of depth on gods and goddesses, rituals, ceremonies, and tools of the Craft.

While many 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. For someone new to a Pagan path, this is a great jumping-off point, although if you've been practicing for a long time, many of the topics covered will probably seem like old news to you, and in fact may be a bit oversimplified. This isn't a complex book, but it's a decent resource for those who are just starting out, or anyone who feels they need a refresher on the basics of Wiccan practice.

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

A number of readers over at Goodreads have primarily positive things to say about Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner:

  • Reader Stephanie says: "...by layout out theory before ritual and aspects of practice, rather than indulging the reader and jumping straight into "Magick!", the reader has a true chance to decide whether or not any of it aligns with his or her belief system. There are so many useful little tips in this book that even though it convinced me that I would not be happy as a Wiccan, I am happy to try many of the exercises Cunningham puts forth for trying to attune myself to a deity."
  • DJ Harris says: "This is Scott Cunningham’s attempt at simplifying all things Wicca for the "newbie." It does cover subjects with a common sense approach, but leaves out many needed fundamentals. He does have a gentle voice, very inviting for the inexperienced, won't be appreciate by the seasoned pro."

Despite criticisms that Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner may be fluffy in nature, and that blanket statements are occasionally made by the author, the fact is that this book has 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. It's easy to read, and a good start for any beginner's library.