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

 

 

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Pagans seventh largest religion in the UK

Beltane celebration            Pagan pride picnic

Credit: Pagan Nature Celebrations               Credit: Pagan Pride Picnic 2009: Nottingham

According to the 2011 UK census Pagans represented the seventh most popular religious faith according to a report in an article in the Chronicle live. While total numbers of respondents were not stated in the article it did report that 1802 people did identify themselves as Pagan in the North East.

The trouble with this story is the difficulty of identifying what constitutes a ‘Pagan’. Of the 1802 people in the North East who stated they were Pagan 456 ( 26%) identified themselves as Wiccan. However, the actual paths of other Pagan faiths was not identified. The report described Paganism as ” according to the Pagan Federation, the term covers a vast number of traditions or “paths” whose central idea is that there is a divine force inherent in nature. Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organized rituals or their own personal reflection.” While giving a very nebulous idea that we are somehow in-tune with nature the description fails to identify any true religious principles other than our belief in a divine connection with nature.

From my standpoint one of our great assets as a set of religious beliefs is also our downfall. There are quite a few spiritual sects which serve to fall under the Pagan definition, but that variability leads to confusion when interacting with non-Pagans. To their credit the Pagan Federation of the UK does try to define and explain Pagans and Paganism on their webpage. The one sentence statement is: “A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.” Further on the same page it states that Paganism is “the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity. This ancient  religious outlook remains active throughout much of the world today, both  in complex civilisations such as Japan and India, and in less complex  tribal societies world-wide. It was the outlook of the European religions  of classical antiquity – Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome – as well as of their “barbarian” neighbours on the northern fringes, and its European form is re-emerging into explicit awareness in the modern West  as the articulation of urgent contemporary religious priorities.”

The issue with these types of depictions are that they do not address the areas of concern for those who are concerned about our beliefs. Questions like: do you have a moral code of non-violence and piety, why is nature so important within your religion, and how does your religious beliefs teach regarding interaction with other non-Pagan faiths? Could it be that a general discussion of Paganism cannot formulate such central answers to these questions, as has been accomplished for other mainstream religions?

Simply a question, however is Paganism too inclusive? Could it be that our quest to encompass those religions who are nature-centric and do not fall under the umbrella of the major faiths causing isolation and removal from acceptance? Especially in this day and age of sound bytes and definitive statements to explain somewhat complex ideas is Paganism serving to be one of its worst enemies?

Link to the Chronicle live story: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/pagans-demand-greater-respect-revealed-3658870

Link to the Pagan federation page on introduction to Paganism: http://paganfed.org/paganism.shtml

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Monotheism, Polythesim, or other? The existence and belief in gods

Wiccan five elements 1
Wiccan five elements 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The definition of theism, according to Oxford online dictionary, is ” belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe: there are many different forms of theism” http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/theism

That started me thinking, am I a polytheist, as some may suggest (believing in multiple gods). As to the idea of a creator I must admit I take a more Darwinian approach- a belief in the Big Bang and subsequent genetic mutation and improvement based on survival of the fittest. This is in line with the Wiccan connection with nature and the natural process of life. So I do not believe that there is some ‘master plan’ with a conscious entity at the helm.

Another question exists in the term ‘god (God)’. I don’t think this fits either. I believe that there is a spiritual energy which surrounds and is included within all things- but this spiritual energy does not have a mind of its own, and does not have any purposeful control. Often it is talked about as Wiccans and other faiths celebrating the God and Goddess- this I do not question. However, to me this is the human mind trying to describe and comprehend the infinite. The God and Goddess are simply differing vibrations in the spiritual energy- not specific entities in their own right. They represent the qualities spiritual energy in relation to gender  and personality traits.

As to the intervening portion, I think this is rather obvious. You reap what you sow- as the Wiccan Rede describes. Therefore, we intervene in our own future with every action we take.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

So I am an average pagan

Pentacle is the sacred symbol used in modern P...
Pentacle is the sacred symbol used in modern Pagan religions. The Pagan pentacle represents the five elements on which is structured the cosmos; the apex at the top of the star enrolled in the circle represents the spirit of God that manifests itself in the emanation of the many deities and in the nature of the universe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I am an average pagan. Not that I have knowledge of all pagans- as our religious beliefs do not require formal membership. However, I consider myself an average pagan as I strongly subscribe to a belief system which has been cast in varying shades of contempt, fear, and confusion. Because of this I, and many others of like-mind, need to constantly walk the line between our non-pagan face we show society and our pagan side which we show only to those who truly understand us and what we stand for.

As many of my fellow religious followers within more mainstream faiths I regard my spirituality and its tenets in high regard- and feel they are inspiration and aspiration for my life and future goals. But we are a religion without a codified document to show the world, without specific buildings with which to practice our craft, and without recognized members of our faith to openly spread our word. Ours is a ‘mysterious’ faith that has been left to interpretation by those who are unfamiliar.

Back to the average part: I am a husband and father, I hold a professional position of respect, and I have friends and neighbours who enjoy my company. However, with all of the trappings of modern domestic life I constantly need to consider my thoughts and words to prevent any change in other’s impression of myself should they discover my faith. It is as though the path I walk down is littered with all manner of traps and pitfalls which could jeopardize the balance of social acceptance. Why do I need to do this?

After careful reflection, and some rather interesting conversation with family, I decided that one of the main drawbacks with the pagan faiths is a lack of knowledge amongst those that do not share our views. A discussion about pagan religions needs rational, thought-out, and honest knowledge about who we are and what we stand for. This is to counter popular media and social outlets which depict pagans sitting around cauldrons and chant incarnations while staring at magical altars conjuring up all matter of ill-will for others. I think if mainstream society could understand where the foundations of pagan-based faiths come from they would see how non-threatening we can be.

I cannot speak for all members of the pagan community, as that would not be appropriate. In this forum I serve to give the view of an average pagan and his reflections on wider religion, society, and the world. In doing so it is hoped that some would see our faith as being founded on similar ideas as other religions- and with this understanding both sides can look to grow.

Garrettlonewolfe