Cunningham, Scott (1956–1993)
Cunningham, Scott (1956–1993) 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 Witchcraft
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
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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 of Natural Magic (1983); Cunningham’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 pagan
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 contact
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
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.