Scott Cunnigham, was he a benefit or hindrance to modern Wicca?

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I feel that I must dedicate at least one post on this blog to Scott Cunningham. He is the author who introduced me, and I am sure thousands if not millions, of men and women to Wicca. Before his book Wicca: the Solitary Guide for the Practitioner I was merely lost as to my religious identity. The information on Scott is somewhat muddled, but here is an account of who he was and how he became the influential author within the Pagan community.

At the outset I must give special thanks George Knowles of Controversical.com from whose page much of the detail of Scott’s life has been documented. 

Scott was born in Royal Oak, Michigan in 1965. Scott’s father was a professional writer, which may explain how Scott was able to so prolifically document on the subject of Wicca. Any one who knows Michigan can attest that it can become very cold and harsh at times of the year. Scott’s mother, Rose, was ill and was advised by doctors that a more milder climate would be beneficial for her health. Due to this the Cunningham family moved from Michigan to sunny San Diego, California.

San Diego, for those who have not been there, is an amazing city bordered by Mexico to the south and known for its military bases and beach-side activities. It can be a progressive and at times ‘alternative’. In San Diego Scott met Raymond Buckland, who was a very active member of the American Wiccan community. Scott became involved in the Serpent Stone Family. Scott also enrolled in a creative writing degree at San Diego State University, however within two years of the course had produced so much published work he left the university to continue is writing career.

Scott’s transition from coven Wiccan to solitary practitioner is somewhat unclear. However, the reason behind his popularity is unmistakable. He has an amazing list of books to his name. A good list of those works can be found here. He had an amazing way of writing that took complex and intricate concepts and made them easy to understand and follow. Patti Wigington in an article published in Thoughtco.com I think best describes Scott’s style:

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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 good 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.

Interestingly, Scott was able to take his knowledge of natural magic and translate it into language that beginners to Wicca could easily understand. He shared his belief of the Divine, and of symbolism, and although he never dumbed it down, he managed to take complex information and explain it in a way that someone who had no prior understanding of Wicca could still absorb. (https://www.thoughtco.com/about-scott-cunningham-2562615)

Scott unfortunately was not with us for very long. Originally contracting and overcoming Lymphoma he contracted cryptococcal menigitis of which he succomed to in 1993 at the age of 36. His legacy lives on as his writings are continued to be sold globally and I would imagine occupy the shelves of many practicing Wiccans.

There are some who feel that Scott’s teachings have not helped the proliferation of traditional Wiccan teachings, and in fact may have caused some set-backs due to their simplistic and otherwise one-sided disposition. I would agree that Scott’s books are simplistic, at least to some extent, and a practitioner may use his teachings as a jumping-off platform to expand their knowledge. But without his kindhearted introduction to Wicca many teenagers like myself at that time would not have had the courage to embark on the discovery of such an amazing spiritual experience.

Let’s face it, being within a minority population can be daunting. Mainstream society approaches minorities with an array of concern, disapproval or even fear. My hope is that through writers like Scott, bloggers like myself and the general shift of a more accepting society we can come to a place where the minority may not be celebrated but at least welcomed and moves made by the majority to understand.

Until next time, blessed be.

Garrettlonewolfe

Articles

Controversial.com- Scott Cunningham

Wikipedia- Scott Cunningham

Thoughtco.com- Author Profile: Scott Cunningham

Wild Ideas- The Temple Library: Why I don’t like Scott Cunningham

Wikipedia- Raymond Buckland

Biblio.com- A list of books written by Scott Cunningham

 

 

Are animal familiars important to a Pagan home?

RecenIMG_1731tly my partner and I brought home an 11 week old Tabby kitten. While I have had several cats in my life I have been mostly a dog-person (so to speak). In my travels as a Wiccan I do see regular references to cats being an important part of a Wiccan household, so I decided to do a bit of digging to see where this comes from. At the outset I will say that there is not a lot of helpful objective information, but I will share what I have.

With regards to cats as Pagan pets this belief seems to centre around the Egyptian god Bastet who was worshiped for magical powers. Bastet appears to have been revered for her female magical energy, and was first recorded in Egyptian history in 2890 BCE. Bastet was originally depicted as a lion and was associated with the power of the sun. Later that depiction changed into what we more commonly associate with a cat. Her power remained that of protection, particularly in cat form for the pharaoh Ra.

The association between cats and witches in the US and Europe

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In more contemporary times witches have been associated with cats. Every year in America news reporters across the country warn that owners of black cats keep them inside on Halloween for fear of pranksters causing harm. The association with ‘witches’ and cats in the United States stems back to the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts during the 17th century. Christian persecutors felt that cats were somehow spiritual extensions of witches, and therefore could walk relatively unnoticed amongst the population doing the witch’s deeds. Dogs were also represented in the massacre, as they were also said to do the evil bidding of witches, however It is my opinion that based on the cat’s ability to climb and move quietly through spaces they would cause more concern.

In Europe the association with cats and evil-doing started long before. In the 12th century cats were scene as both an aid to society and an animal to be feared. An article during by Irina Metzler described how cats were recognized as valuable in controlling the rat population (known for spreading disease), however they were seen as stealthy hunters who could not be domesticated as dogs can. This lack of domestication (obedience) I believe caused the distrust and  eventual fear.

Modern cats in Pagan homes

A search of today’s modern information stream (the internet) reveals that many modern-day Witches and broader Pagans believe in utilizing the magical power of cats (and other domestic animals) in their spells. Often these are in regards to harnessing the collective power of the animal’s spirit with your own to create a broader and stronger magical connection. Others are about protection and security. In any form Cats and other domestic animals seem to have a strong place within a modern magical home.

So what’s my take?

Any animal member of a family plays an important role in the magic of that household, just as any human members would. I believe that cats share an air of mystery and magic over dogs due to their inquisitive nature, ability to climb and jump, and their inherent lack of domestication (we all know that cats want to do their own thing!). Are cats particularly magical as opposed to other animals, I am not convinced. There is no doubt that having a pet within a household, magical or not, brings a new added facet to the spiritual crystal within. We love our Max, and he will be welcomed for years to come.

I hope you have found this article as interesting as I have. I would be interested in your feelings on the subject of animals and Witches.

Until next time,

Blessed Be

References:

Cats in Ancient Egypt

Wikipedia- Bastet

Wikipedia- Familiar spirit

What is a Animal Familiar?

Why are cats associated with Witches?

Animals in the Salem Witch Trials

Why were cats hated in Medieval Europe

Cat Magick

Animal spells- Witches of the Craft