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Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

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Cunningham's classic introduction to Wicca is about how to live life magically, spiritually, and wholly attuned with nature. It is a book of sense and common sense, not only about magick, but about religion and one of the most critical issues of today: how to achieve the much needed and wholesome relationship with our Earth. Cunningham presents Wicca as it is today: a gentle, Earth-oriented religion dedicated to the Goddess and God. Wicca also includes Scott Cunningham's own Book of Shadows and updated appendices of periodicals and occult suppliers.

240 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1988

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About the author

Scott Cunningham

140 books1,177 followers
Scott Douglas Cunningham was the author of dozens of popular books on Wicca and various other alternative religious subjects. Today the name Cunningham is synonymous with natural magic and the magical community. He is recognized today as one of the most influential and revolutionary authors in the field of natural magic.

Scott Cunningham was born at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA, the second son of Chester Grant Cunningham and Rose Marie Wilhoit Cunningham.

The Cunningham family moved to San Diego, California in the fall of 1959. The family moved there because of Rose Marie's health problems. The doctors in Royal Oak declared the mild climate in San Diego ideal for her. Outside of many trips to Hawaii, Cunningham lived in San Diego until his death.

Cunningham had one older brother, Greg, and a younger sister, Christine.

When he was in high school he became associated with a girl whom he knew to deal in the occult and covens. This classmate introduced him to Wicca and trained him in Wiccan spirituality. He studied creative writing at San Diego State University, where he enrolled in 1978. After two years in the program, however, he had more published works than several of his professors, and dropped out of the university to write full time. During this period he had as a roommate magical author Donald Michael Kraig and often socialized with witchcraft author Raymond Buckland, who was also living in San Diego at the time. In 1980 Cunningham began initiate training under Raven Grimassi and remained as a first-degree initiate until 1982 when he left the tradition in favor of a self-styled form of Wicca.

In 1983, Scott Cunningham was diagnosed with lymphoma, which he successfully battled. In 1990, while on a speaking tour in Massachusetts, he suddenly fell ill and was diagnosed with AIDS-related cryptococcal meningitis. He suffered from several infections and died in March 1993. He was 36.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 755 reviews
Profile Image for jade.
489 reviews309 followers
January 5, 2016
Books on Wicca religion by author Scott Cunningham are often recommended to me, and this particular one is generally considered to be his most popular and best-sold one. It’s often recommended to beginners instead of advanced practitioners, and I, curious to see what all the fuss was about, decided to check it out.

I have to say, it’s definitely not my favourite book on Wicca, and there are much better books out there intended for a beginner’s audience. I have some issues with the way Cunningham presents Wicca as being either ‘light’ or ‘dark’; good or bad. He is firm on the fact that a Wicca would never do anything to cause another being harm, and tells aspiring Wiccans to stay away from the ‘dark side’ of magic. From what I’ve gathered, Wicca is about recognizing both the light and the shadow of life and nature, accepting them as a cycle, as one whole – two sides of the same coin (also existing within a person, by the way). I don’t think Cunningham’s is a balanced or healthy approach, and not typical of Wicca, either.

Another problem I have with this book, is that Cunningham really doesn’t seem to delve into the spirituality/philosophy behind Wicca, nor behind its rituals, its tools, its materials, and its incantations. Of course, there shouldn’t be too much depth in a beginners’ book, but here he makes it come across as if there’s nothing behind it at all, except some sort of vague connection/feeling to and for Mother Earth. His chapter on magick was especially lacking since he didn’t explain the reasoning/philosophy behind it all; nobody just looking into it can grasp the concept of magick and how it’s used in Wicca from the way he’s written that particular chapter. A lot is missing, too – where is the chapter with practical and specific information on elemental magick, for example?

And when he does give away a bit of helpful information on a specific topic, he does so scattered throughout the entire book – he’s constantly referencing different chapters/pages both back and forth, which seriously made me question the sequence in which he penned down this book.

I consider Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner to be far too fluffy, presenting an unrealistic, sweet, and ‘good’ view of Wicca. It’s also vague and broad, not even touching upon the different traditions existing within Wicca; at times, it feels more like a book on general paganism/new age than on Wicca itself. I also have a bit of trouble with the fact that Cunningham sometimes claims things without backing them up, and throws around out-of-context sentences that seem to make no sense unless one conjures up a skewed explanation/reasoning for them (such as the comment that both love and the field of (para)psychology fall in the water-category of spells; p. 43). (Again, this is also an example of titbits of info hidden away in one or two sentences throughout the book.)

I did, however, very much enjoy his chapter on music, dance, and instruments. I thought this was executed rather well, made some nice references to elemental magick, and covered a subject that I don’t come across that often in general Wicca books. However, again, this information is useful for paganism in general, not specifically Wicca.

Sadly, this isn’t a very good book in my opinion, and not one I would specifically recommend as it paints an unbalanced and incomplete view of the Wicca religion. There’s still other books by Cunningham that I wish to read, which have higher ratings as well (his works on herbs, crystals, incense/oils, etc.), and I certainly hope that they’ll be better than this one.

If you’re a beginner looking for a good start, I would rather recommend Wicca for Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy & Practice, by Thea Sabin. It’s much more complete, especially in the philosophy/beliefs section, and paints a realistic picture of Wicca. It’s also doesn’t push the author’s personal opinion on its readers as much as Cunningham does in his book.
Profile Image for Heather Purri.
37 reviews30 followers
March 10, 2020
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Written for beginners.

- It's a Wiccan classic.
This is used by virtually all Wiccans. At a bare minimum, you'll come away knowing how to erect an altar, write your own rituals, and initiate a relationship with the gods. I highly recommend getting the ebook, so you can quickly find what you need.

- It has a Book of Shadows in it.
If you aren't ready to write your own Book of Shadows (journal), he includes an abridged version of his. If you have the ebook, you can copy-paste the Book of Shadows section of the book onto a word processor and edit it to include your own experiments, insights, etc. If you do that, I recommend you write in a different color so that you know which parts are yours. You're gong to want to eventually put your parts into your own Book of Shadows.

- The invocations are beautiful.
Cunningham's writing style was no-frills and straight to the point, but his "romantic, baroque" (his words) dialogue for rituals and invocations for the gods is beautiful. Liturgy is generally not a strong suit for Pagan authors, unless the book is a devotional (a prayer book).

- Like many Wiccan books, especially older ones like this, Wicca is described as a duotheistic (one god and one goddess that encompass all gods and goddesses) religion. That was Wiccan theology when it was founded. However, nowadays most Wiccans are polytheistic (many gods, who are all autonomous spirits). Beginners (the target audience) wouldn't know that they have the option to be polytheists or non-theists (no gods, but gods work as archetypal symbols to use in witchcraft). Don't hold that against Cunningham because duotheism was the only option at the time. This is just my disclaimer for beginners.
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 106 books83.5k followers
October 22, 2008
Where would I be without Cunningham? His view of Wicca and of magic in general shaped mine. His practice is where mine begins and ends.
Profile Image for aphrodite.
413 reviews867 followers
November 18, 2020
this was a solid beginner book on wicca. I was surprised at how much I knew already so this really is an overview on the basic foundations of the practice. but man people were not kidding when they say cunningham is not a wordsmith. when I’m picking up a resource book I’m not exactly looking for prose but this was very dry to read.

I also can definitively say wicca is not the religion for me due to how 𝑔𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑑 it is. I’m sure many wiccans have adapted the beliefs to fit their own view of gender but dividing all of nature into either The God or Goddess doesn’t fit with me personally. but I’m happy I read this since it’s such a staple resource for practitioners. maybe his other books will be more helpful for me.
Profile Image for Maya.
2 reviews8 followers
February 28, 2012
"Wicca: A guide for the Solitary Practitioner" by Scott Cunningham is an amazing book that was recommended by several wiccan/pagan youtubers on youtube.
This is actually my first wiccan/pagan related book that I've ever read in my entire life. I really got interested in the search of my spiritual quest when I discovered this wonderful pagan community in youtube. Yet, I wanted to do a little more of research and just searching the net was too much work for my lazy ass. I thought for me it would be a little bit easier to start with a book. Within a lot of book recommendations I choose this one.

I highly recommend this book if you are recently starting your spiritual journey into wicca, or paganism.

My thoughts on it was that wicca is such a broad religion that it's not covered completely in the book, yet it gives a phenomenal brief of what this religion is all about.

It's an easy read, easy to understand. Overall it's an excellent short resource book that you could use to start a path in wicca.

In general this book gave me an understanding because it brought me to realize how ignorant I was on this path. And its such a wonderful resource that help me learn and comprehend about wicca, and paganism. Though at times i felt that the book moved a bit fast leaving you shorthand on wanting to learn more about a certain chapter. But then again this book is just an intro to what is Wicca about.
Profile Image for Carrie (The Butterfly Reader).
1,017 reviews96 followers
January 16, 2022
This book was the second book I ever read about Wicca. It helped me so freaking much. It made everything idiot proof. Which I personally needed when I first started coming from the background I did. It's written in a way that is easy to understand, easy to follow, and the author just feels like he's sitting there talking to the reader. It's a personal kind of feeling and I loved that so much. There is a lot of info in this book, everything one would need to start down this path that they've chosen.

Some have said that this book is too 'fluffy' and while I agree that it leans to the lighter side of things. I liked that going into this from my background it was a good thing. Had it not been so fluffy I might have not continued on. So while some people hate the fluffy part, I don't. I think these 'fluffy' books are perfect for people like me. So I will always love this book and think it's great.
Profile Image for DJ Harris.
114 reviews59 followers
May 8, 2013
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.

It is important to note that Scott Cunningham practiced Wicca 20+ years and was the author of more than 50 books. He passed from this life on March 28, 1993, after a long illness. He is missed.

Blessed be.

Get Your Copy of Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham on Amazon Now!
Profile Image for Steve Cran.
887 reviews89 followers
July 28, 2011
Scott Cunningham one of the foremost experts on Wicca has written a book geared towards the beginner and solitary practitioner of Wicca. Not every practitioner of Wicca will join a coven. Another piece of good news is that Mr. Cunningham has injected a spirit of individuality and freedom into the craft that does not bind one strictly to on way as the only way.

The book covers alot of ground. It covers Runes, rituals, Sabbat and different meditations. It is a good companion for Silver Ravenwolf's "Teen Wicca" What I liked about the book is that it gave you the freedom to make your own way into Wicca. Included in the book is an herbal grimoire, knowledge of Runes and what they mean, all of which In plan on photocopying before I return it to the library. I have included some notes I have taken on the book below. Excellent book.

Wicca was formerly closed off to society at large. Now a days things are beginning to change. Anyone who can read has access to the knowledge of Wicca. The religion of Wicca is based on SHaminism which is one of the oldest religion around. Shamnism came before societies were formed. Shamanism enabled people to access altered states of consiousness via such tools as fasting, music, dance, herbs etc. The Shaman or person who accessed these states often kept the information to himself and shared only a bit of what he knew.

The religion of Wicca is based upon the reverence of the two deities. The Goddess and God both are equal and one cannot have one without the other. The same would go with both good and evil. In nature there is this duality male and female. The Goddess has many different names across a variety of different religions as does the God. Ussually the Goddess is represented by the moon at night and the God is represented by the Sun during the day. A good time to connect to the Goddess is when viewing the moon at night and saying a little prayer. The same could also hold true for the God.

The Goddess goes through three stages, as represented by the moon. First she is the maiden as young woman in the full of life. Her second stage is that of the Mother someone pregnat with life and giving birth. Finally she is the crone advanced in years, nurturing and full of wisdom. The Male God goes through three stages as well represented by the changes in the solar year. First he starts off as a young boy being birthed on December 21 the time of Yule. A young baby comes to manhood during the Beltane holiday and finally passing on dur9ng Samhain. THe cycle repeats itself on the Yule.

Wicca is a religion that embraces magic. Magic is the projection of natural energies to produce a desired effect. There are three kinds of energies or power. The first type is Personal power. This is the power that exists inside each and everyone of us. The second power is natural power. Natural power is the power contained in nature. All elements in nature have power be they stones, fire or water. Finally there is divine energy an energy that comes from the God and Goddess.

To perform magic one needs certain tools or at least the tools are helpful. The first on is a broom. Brooms dispel negative enrgy and protect the home from bad vibes. The next is the wand. THe wand is used for invoking deities or powers. At first a wand can be made of any material later on more specialized forms of wood produce a more beneficial efect. The next is a censer. A Censer is what burns the incence. You can take a vessel fill it with sand or salt to absorb the heat from the charcoal. Sprinkling incesnce on charcoal is the preferred way. THe next is the cauldron where many potions and things are made. It is the most important and it represent the Goddess. Your next tool is the athame or magical knife which is used to direct energies raised during your ceremony. A white handled knife of Boine is used to carve your ritual item. Other items include a pentacle, crystal ball, bell and book of shadows.

Through out the year there are several days of power. Every full moon there are Esbats. There are 8 Sabbats during the Years. These are important. The first Sabbat is the Yule which occurs on December 21. This is the birth of the male god. It is said that the Persian God Mithras was born on this day and the Christians merely appropriated it. This is also tghe shortest Day of the Year.

Next is Imbolc. This occurs roughly around the beginning on February. It is meant to mark the Goddesses recover after giving birth. In this Holidya the god is a young boy who fertilizes the earth. It also acts as a purification from being shut in all winter. It is known by several names and some Wiccans wear a crown of candle in celebration of this this holiday.

Ostara Occurs around March 21 which is the Spring Equinox. In this Holiday te Goddess awaken from her winter rest. This is a time of expansion. Animals and people are encouraged to reproduce. It is a good time for doing spells that involve future gain or tending garden.

Beltane occurs on April 30 This is symbolic of the Goddess becoming pregnatn from the God. Phallic symbol are erected mostly May poles. People would awaken at dawn gather flowers and there is dancing around the pole.

Mid Summer Solstice on June 21 is when the powers reach their peak. Both God and Goddess are awash in fertility.. People leap over bonfire to encourage fertility, love health and love. This is the perfect time for all sorts of magic.

Lughnasadh happens on August 1 this is the first harvest. It was when crops whiother and drop their seeds. THe male God is losing his strength and the Goddess is feeling sadness.This is also known as August Eve or Feast of bread.

Mabon occurs Septemeber 21 during the Autumn equinox and the day and night are equal. Nature declines and her crop, bounty and goodness are being withdrawn. The Male god wanes while at the same time growing in her belly.

Samhaim which we know as Halloween occurs October 31. This marks the death of the male God . This is ussually a time of reflection when peopl look back over the year and reflect upon what they have done and trhe concepts of life and death. During this time animals are sacrificed in oreer to gurntee food for the winter.

Most Wiccans believe in reincarnation as the God is born dies and then is reborn.

There are 8 step to perfroming a ritual. THe first one is purification of the self. This is usualy done by bathing and getting one self cleaned. Some can use music or allow themself to let the wind blow on them.This gets rid of the negativity.

THe next step is to purify the space. This is more difficult if the ceremony is being done indoors. First one can sweep the area clean with a broom and can also sweep it symbolically using a witches broom. One can also sprinkle salt along with different herbs to help purify a space. Incense serves the same purpose.

Next is to create the sacred space. This is done by creating your circle calling your corner/ Next you invoke the deities to join you, observe the ritual, raise the energy, Earth your power, Thanks the Deities and then break your circle.
Profile Image for Jonathan Martin.
45 reviews5 followers
April 8, 2021
When I took my first tentative step into exploring paganism, this is one of the books I fortunately encountered. Although I don't class myself as Wiccan now, it certainly provided a fantastic overview of this spiritual path and introduced me to elements of paganism that I have kept as part of my own belief structure ever since. The ancient Celtic calendar, also known as the Wheel of the Year, is given an adequate introduction and there are some beautiful poems and blessings for each Sabbat, plus ideas on how to celebrate, what ritual is and the tools commonly used and their meanings. It's a great reference book and ideal for beginners or just those with a curious mind.
Profile Image for Amber.
2,917 reviews28 followers
May 10, 2017
Classic, and outdated. Nevertheless, I wanted a basic introduction to Wiccan and it delivered as such.

I found myself furious with the depiction of the Goddess. This is not at Cunningham's fault, as it was (is?) a widely thought depiction but here it is... there is no reason to associate the Goddess solely as symbolic to fertility. We know men can be fertile and affect procreation. Rather, the Goddess is creator. (Is a male god even needed?)

I was also bothered by the holidays and what they meant. Cunningham begins with Yule and the birth of the god from the goddess, only to circle around at Beltane when the now older god impregnates the goddess with.... himself. (Anyone thinking of that horrible Ms. Marvel storyline? No? Alright.) The "Days of Power" sprinkled between the fuckery all pertain to the growth and change in the god, but the goddess is always one affected and defined by the god, either mother or so such. My feminists out there, are you cringing yet? Of course, that is only one version of the many in Wicca. Wicca itself is problematic (looking at you, Gardner, and your secret society bullshit)

I've been told that Wicca has evolved into something more conscious of this problematic association, and that Cunningham is someone simply within their culture. (Yes, and what about all the people that were right about it? That were perfectly woke? Aiye!)

More grievous is his history lesson on the first chapter, stating that shaminism was the first religion and then begins talking about "our ancestors" (Whose ancestors?) without any sources to back him up. Super oversimplified and inaccurate, disregard those statements please!

Now for what was good about the book, it was a very easy read and is a very good starting point. I can disagree all I want with religion itself, but I feel like I got a good grasp of it, which is what Cunningham sought out to do. Plus, he himself stresses about reading several sources and developing your own path. I'm sure there's a better book out there (I've been recommended a few goddess-centric ones and am looking for suggestions!!), but I feel like for what it is, it was good and it's what was available to me.

I don't know what kind of witch I intend to be, but I'm interested to find out.
Stay tuned, ya'll!
Profile Image for Abraxas Abrasaxtes.
15 reviews19 followers
May 14, 2012
This book was the first one I ever read on Wicca (as with most judging by the reviews) It literally blew my mind and set me on a path that I have never diverted from since I was 13. Now in my 30's I can't help but look back at this book with a sense of nostalgia and love for Scott Cunningham. I would recommend this book to anyone starting out on the Witches Path as it is written in a simple and beautiful format that is easy to digest yet still covers all the essentials.
Profile Image for sjams.
337 reviews9 followers
July 12, 2011
Wicca is truly a beginner's book, and one of the best I've read. I haven't gotten much further than beginner books in the last ten years, so I might know. ;) The organization is really compelling: 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.

In general, this is a very clear and easy book to read, with a good general overview of many, many things. After reading the (necessarily) short section on the sabbats, I decided that I probably should get a proper book on those so I have a better understanding of some others' points of view of them. Then, of course, it has a large bibliography with a good range of books on Wicca, should you read this and then decide that this really is the path for you. For me, when I began reading the rituals for the sabbats in the Book of Shadows portion, the nameless Goddess and God that were constantly invoked put me off. I am now definitely a politheist; I need names for the goddesses and gods in the ceremonies and I need them to be individual entities, not just names put on for show.

A lot of the information confirmed a lot of the other intro books I've read regarding Wicca, but done in a much better manner. If I knew someone who was really into duality and I could see them becoming Wiccan, I would give them this book as a starting point – but only as a starting point. As Cunningham himself points out, it's a path of self-knowledge and seeking, and in such a religion there is no sitting back and letting someone else do the work. And that's one of the very good things about it.
4 reviews3 followers
April 23, 2011
Often times in reading books on Wicca you have to pick and chose what works and what to take seriously. Not so with Scott Cunningham, one of the best writers on the subject. Cunningham provides an excellent guide to Wicca for beginners, one that covers all the basics-what magick is, how it works, and, more importantly, provides a deep understanding of the spiritual roots of the religion tied directly to mother earth and the Pagan old gods.

Wicca: A Guide, is no book of spells or incantations, though it has some basic information. Rather, it walks newcomers and the curious alike through an understanding of what Wicca is, the mythology of the Goddess and the God, and provides rituals for sabbats, prayers, and dedications and such a well rounded explanation of the basics ranging from circle casting to correspondences that even advanced and seasoned practitioners should consult it frequently.

If you are interested in Wicca, starting out with no help from others or idea of where to go or how to get there, or simply curious about the old religion, this is the book for you provided by one of the most highly recommended Wiccan authors.
Profile Image for Jill.
57 reviews5 followers
February 14, 2012
Meh. It's an okay glimpse into a very, very broad pagan/witchcraft path, but it's not Wicca, in my opinion. I feel like too much time was spent spelling out the differences between Christianity and witchcraft and that it's not devil worship, as if I already didn't know. I have a feeling I will be dealing with this a lot in introductory pagan/witchcraft books.

It was okay up until his Standing Stone BOS. I didn't care much for his prayers or for his spells, as they are not my own and not how I would do things. I felt the herb section was useless, but I hear great things about his herb book, so I may check that out.

I only skimmed through the small gems and candles section because I got bored and wanted to read something else.

I may read through it again to see what can really be drawn from it (I didn't take that good of notes while reading it) but I won't be looking forward to it.
Profile Image for Carol Weekes.
Author 13 books24 followers
September 23, 2011
The late Scott Cunningham presents a clear, concise, and easy-to-read introduction to the topic of Wicca, both for the new practioner and for those simply interested in expanding their understanding of a path that dates back centuries. Cunningham is known for his earnest and down-to-earth approach to his chosen topic. He explains each concept so that the lay-person can understand the history, meaning, approach, and results of the practice of Wicca and Paganism. Highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in the ancient arts of the Craft.
Profile Image for J.A..
Author 56 books78 followers
August 11, 2008
Cunningham's masterpiece is an excellent first guide to the Old Religion, with an emphasis on personal autonomy and a do-it-yourself spirit. Highly recommended for anyone just starting out on the path.
Profile Image for Cara.
113 reviews1 follower
September 4, 2018
Disclaimer: I’m not Wiccan and haven’t identified as Wiccan since I was an impressionable 13yr old who had just finished watching “The Craft” (that’s not meant as an insult to Wiccans, it’s a jab at young me for not doing research or giving much forethought into what I believed and just diving into something because it looked cool, which is rude) so my impression of this book is not coming from a practitioner standpoint. I do (and have) identified as a Pagan since high school though and have a rather laidback/eclectic view on things which has evolved many times over the past couple decades. Also, heavily (and openly) agnostic, hello!

So now that that’s out of the way...where do I start? Well, I read this book because I never have and figured I might as well since it’s at the top of everyone’s list for Beginner Pagans/Wiccans to see what all the hubbub was about. (And I’m trying to bust out my Reading Goal for 2018 lol) I will say that as an introductory book, it does a pretty fair job at explaining itself (though a lot appears to be mostly the author’s personal path/view of Wicca so I hesitate to say it’s a *perfect* guide for a completely in the dark Pagan novice), so it definitely isn’t useful for long time practitioners. It could potentially be a good “this will help explain me” book to give to your parents/friends if you truly are Wiccan and you follow this particular way of viewing Wicca.
There does appear to be some shade thrown at Christianity throughout the book which seems a bit unnecessary, but it’s not blatantly cruel. And the explanations on the tools, while easily understood, seemed lacking but I can’t place why. I also wasn’t a huge fan of his thing against what he calls “black or dark magic” since Wicca is supposed to be a religion that celebrates duality, so that came off as weird and contradictory. “You can’t heal, if you can’t hex” or so I heard somewhere before 😜
The big thing I can’t get passed is the woo-woo. Maybe it’s because it’s Wicca or maybe it’s just Cunningham, but gods damn the woo-woo shit drove me batty. I work in science so magic is already a difficult concept to grasp but I attempt to at least see reason in focusing intention through meditation, but this guy is writing about how if you rub your hands together really fast, then hold them apart slightly then that tingly warm feeling that comes is the magical energy you conjured up. Like, yes heat is a type of energy and the friction of rubbing your hands together did raise that, but that’s not magic, that’s physics so I just can’t wrap my head around that idea. He also had an example about casting a spell for money to pay a phone bill and...ugh, I just can’t. You can absolutely focus your intention and motivation to reach a financial goal, but it requires actual work as well.

All in all, if you’re somewhat new to Wicca and not sure about joining a coven, then this book could be a good stepping stone to at least explain the bare bones. However, I would strongly suggest you read more sources and take a grain of salt with books that don’t offer much history of Paganism in them and admit to being based purely off of the author’s experience (which, to his credit, Cunningham says the same). I do have another book of his I plan on reading that is a bit more earth based, but I’m definitely going into with a side eye now 😕🤷🏼‍♀️
Profile Image for Edward Branley.
Author 12 books45 followers
December 7, 2015
Written by the late, brilliant Scott Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is still the best "how-to" book for those interested in Wicca as a religion. The book has three sections, Theory, Practice, and a Book of Shadows. The chapters in the Theory section explain just what Wicca is, how it's practiced in a group/coven structure, and how the reader/seeker can modify that practice to become a "Solitary Wiccan". The author explains the basic tenets of the religion, defines magic, the Goddess, the God, and the days of power. Cunningham's presentation of the "Wheel of the Year" is solid, giving the seeker a framework to begin a year's worth of Wiccan observances.

The Practice section outlines a basic format for Wiccan ritual: preparing the sacred space, casting the circle, calling the Gods, the Work itself, and closing the ritual and breaking the circle. Cunningham's style is simple and clear, giving the seeker what they need to pick up at any time of the year and start "being Wiccan". The stories of how he acquired some of his tools are wonderful.

The third section of the book is a fully-developed Book of Shadows, which is the Wiccan equivalent of a Christian prayer book, like a Roman Missal or the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The "Standing Stones Book of Shadows" isn't merely a template. It's possible for the seeker to run with this BoS as-is and do good Work.

Cunningham's language may, in some spots, seem a bit dated. Wicca was about group/coven practice. To be Wiccan, you sought initiation in a coven. The two main "traditions" at the time were Alexandrian and Gardnerian. Cunningham explains how those traditions are not the only paths to the God and Goddess.

From a writer's perspective, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner gives good information for character development. While writing about coven dynamics and interpersonal relationships in a group are a challenge, this book gives the writer the ability to develop robust characters as individuals.
Profile Image for Penelope.
54 reviews7 followers
August 27, 2011
Everyone recommends this book as a perfect beginner's book for Wicca and I can kind of see why. I wouldn't say it's the best book out there but I've read a lot worse and Cunningham does cover the basics really well.
Profile Image for Tyler Gray.
Author 2 books225 followers
February 19, 2023
I read this many years ago. Actually I read it first at 13, got caught and got in trouble (but I did finish it first lol) and again as a young adult, I don't remember what year exactly. I'm 34 now so long overdue for a revisit!
Profile Image for Diane Cortese.
2 reviews
March 17, 2013
The author did a good job in covering the basics of Wicca for the solitary practitioner. As a Wiccan, I did notice a few places where he could have elaborated or where he treated an issue in a more complex manner than necessary. With that said, it is still a good "starter" book.

Cunningham expresses Wicca as a duality, though he explains that some Wiccans may mostly worship the Goddess "as a reaction to the patriarchy of mainstream religions." This makes it sound like a rebellious act. It may simply be to connect more to the feminine power within.

On the tools, the broom (besom) is used as a purifier or banisher but have not heard of it associated with water--as it is made from wood and tree/plant bristles and normally associated with Earth(North.) I have read that the censer, crystal sphere, bell, and pentacle are generally secondary to the wand, athame, cauldron, and chalice. Of course he may be introducing these tools to provide a larger list than other writers. The athame is the magic knife and I noticed he tried to correct this in his glossary though he does not explain its many uses.

The part on preparing for ritual with the bath, proper clothing and jewelry is unnecessary and might put the reader off as being too structured. On the steps of ritual, he puts forth a good basic design though a bit lengthy on details. The 3 most important are the Three C's (consecrate, cast, call) to be done in that order, which he could have said in very few words.

I disagree with his footnote (Breaking the Circle,) that some Wiccans believe a counterclockwise movement is negative. Contrary to this, many books say moving clockwise is waxing or growing energy, and moving counterclockwise is waning, or letting go of energy--(to mirror the moon's cycles.) I have been witness to the deliberate use of counterclockwise action in my years of practice with others.

I also disagree that Wiccans believe in reincarnation and past lives. There are so many converging beliefs that you cannot make a general statement. What Wiccans recognize are the cycles of birth, life, and death and see in nature that life can begin anew--as the plants deep in the soil. How far they take that belief differs.

I did like the addition of using gestures and mirror work because this is rarely mentioned in beginning wicca books. I also found his use of stones as his source of power in practice and in visualization interesting. His explanations on the Sabbat are a start to understanding the earth's cycles and I admire that he tied it to the goddess and her son/consort as a life cycle. This can be a complex concept. The part on breathing, meditation and visualization was excellent. The practice on energy-play was new to me and seems helpful. The BOS part is a good sample of what could be in your individualized book. I did think the Spells section was too short, though I was impressed with the spells he cites. They are unique and the actions make sense symbolically. Doing magick for the bill he needs to pay was a great example in setting your intent and visualizing a desired outcome.

As this book is an intro to Wicca it should be supplemented with other sources to compare. I got the book after years of practice, which made it repetitive but yet each Wiccan book holds different things that may speak to you so they are all worth browsing. Note: Many introductory Wicca books are written by male authors. I would recommend adding some books on the divine feminine to balance them out.
3 reviews3 followers
July 23, 2011
I remember enjoying this book a lot, though I haven't read it in a while.
At first, I found it slightly repetitive. It seemed to say everything every other "Wicca 101" book had said. That's not to say the information is wrong or useless; it's just that I already knew most of it. I still found it interesting to read though because it helped me think more deeply about my beliefs. For example, I found this paragraph on page 26 very interesting:
"If you truly desire to know the nature of magic, practice it! Many are afraid of magic. They've been taught (by nonpractitioners) that it's dangerous. Don't be scared. Crossing the street is dangerous too. But if you do it properly, you'll be fine."
There are sections like that which made me think differently. Even if I didn't agree with everything he said, it made me stop and think.
But as it went on, there was some very useful information I keep going back to even now. For example, I really enjoyed "A Ritual of Gestures" chapter which is filled with prayers and invocations for certain deities. I also enjoyed the Herbal Grimoire chapter though after getting his "Magical Herbs" book, I don't refer to it as much.
Overall, I did enjoy this book and I do recommend it to beginners. I think if I had read it sooner in my spiritual journey, I would have found the information more helpful.
This is one of the most well-known books on Wicca worldwide. Do I think it is the best? No. But I think that it's a great start for anyone starting on this path.
Profile Image for Amanda .
448 reviews84 followers
February 21, 2012
First of all, I need to say that I’m not Wiccan. I stumbled across this and scrolled through it ( pdf version) for shits and giggles really. It so fluffy, it reads like a young teenage girl’s bedtime story.

For example: He performs this spell over a drawn version of his phone bill and states, “Within a day or 2, perhaps a week, Ill either receive unexpected or delayed money, or will satisfy other financial obligations in a manner that frees me to pay the bill”. Eh, wouldn’t that have happened anyway regardless of whatever “spell” he had cast? Either that or not pay the bill! He uses clever language to try and make it seem like he did something that made a difference.

I’ll try it the next time my credit card bill comes in!!

It seems to me that it’s just taking bits that you like from other faiths (Pagan rituals, ancient Egyptians rituals, Greek mythology and even a bit of yoga!) and mashing them together to form an anything goes, do whatever you want sort of thing.

The rest of the book is spent pointing out its differences to Christianity.

I’m in the mood to watch Hocus Pocus now :D

Profile Image for Patrick.
8 reviews
December 19, 2016
The author does a good job at giving a brief overview of solitary wiccca. However, as a skeptic, claims without evidence or non-sequiturs really bother me. The book is riddled with them.

Scott's personal story about the power of wicca was laughable. He performed a ritual so he could pay for his utility bill and then he was able to pay for his utility bill. I mean, I'll pray to Thor right now so that I'll have a way to pay my utility bill next week. I'll get my paycheck from my job, pay my bill and Thor will have come through for me..behold the power of thor.
He also makes silly statements like "if you have difficulty finding a cauldron,persevere and one will eventually materialize. It certainly can't hurt to ask the god or goddess to send one your way." Yes, more time increases the likelihood of finding something...there's nothing magical about that.

All in all, his explanations were satisfactory but his stories and justifications just showed a whole lot of confirmation bias.
Profile Image for Debra.
Author 12 books110 followers
June 18, 2017
While taking an introductory course on Wicca last year, several people recommended Scott Cunningham’s books to me. Classmates said that his books are filled with comprehensive information in an easy, readable style, and they were right. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is a practical book that includes sections on theory and practice as well as a discussion of festivals, rituals, symbols, signs, crystal magic, and so forth.

I especially liked Cunningham’s thoughtful tone. He doesn’t tell the reader that his is the only true or correct book on Wicca. In fact, he makes it clear to readers that there is no authoritative, final word on the topic, and encourages further reading. To that end, Cunningham supplies a comprehensive list of books by other authors, as well as a glossary of terms, which was quite helpful. The book certainly inspired me to read more on this fascinating topic, and to read more of Cunningham’s work.

Profile Image for Danny.
138 reviews4 followers
November 21, 2020
Scott Cunningham is such a popular author in the Wiccan communities. I've come across people who love him and people who hate him. Personally, this was the very first book I read about Wicca and it certainly helped educate me. It is a good 101 book and doesn't go into very much detail. I would recommend it to anyone who is just starting on the Wiccan path or one who is trying to understand it. It also does have some great references in the back that I find very useful.
Profile Image for julia ☆ [owls reads].
1,628 reviews322 followers
October 31, 2020
Very accessible and focused on working with the Goddess and God (which is not really something I'm looking for, but even so). I really liked the Book of Shadows section and the suggested reading list at the end.
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