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Llewellyn.com - Monthly e-Magazine - October 2009

Remembering Scott Cunningham: Public and Private
by Donald Michael Kraig

Llewellyn.com - October 2009

The landlord of the house that I shared in Encinitas, north of San Diego, had the roof of the house resurfaced. A month later, during torrential rains, the terrible job that was done turned the house into a waterfall. The people who lived there decided we had to move.

I knew the owners of a small occult store, Ye Olde Enchantment Shoppe, and happened to go there a few days later. On the store’s bulletin board there was a 3 x 5 card from a person offering a room for rent. I asked the owner, Judith, what she knew about him. “Oh, he’s a nice young man and a writer. I think you’ll like him.” I called, saw the second bedroom that he was subletting, and ended up spending the next six years as the roommate of Scott Cunningham.

When people find out that Scott and I were friends, the most common question I get is “What was he like?” That’s difficult to answer because different people experienced Scott in different ways. So I asked some people who knew him what Scott meant to them personally and to the community.

The first person who quickly offered a response to my request was Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, Chairman of Llewellyn. He wrote:

Scott was a good author who became a good friend. More than merely a good friend, he was one of those friends I truly loved and valued.

We exchanged a lot of mail and we talked a lot when he visited, and I was honored that he chose to spend a last Christmas/Yule with us as his ‘goodbye’ to the many people at Llewellyn who also loved and respected him.

Scott was the most understated, charismatic person I’ve ever known. Everyone gravitated to him—and I am speaking here of the large Wiccan and Pagan Community who met him and delighted in his talks and conversation. Yet, unlike many others who are described as charismatic, that is not the first word most people would use to describe Scott Cunningham. Those who knew him in person and those who knew him through his books would all, I believe, speak of his sincere honesty and devotion to the Craft, and to the craft of writing.

Scott was always concerned that someone could mistake an ingredient in his recipes and be hurt, or that someone could misunderstand any of the rituals or statement in his books. As a result, he would write draft after draft of his books before he was satisfied they could “harm none.” At the same time, Scott never saw himself as an ‘elder’ or other authority, and he was very much concerned that Wicca not become any kind of official religion with a ruling hierarchy and an approved theology.

Scott wrote for individuals who would study and grow through practice and experience rather than degrees and badges. He believed in experimentation and self-discovery. He would study and practice, ask opinions, but still it was his own counsel that guided his interpretations of magic and ritual.

The world knows him as a prolific author, but as his publisher impatiently awaiting the next manuscript I know of the careful and factual writer who sought accuracy and perfection in his style. Just as much as Gerald Gardner, Ray Buckland, Lady Sheba, and those other great ones, Scott Cunningham is responsible for the best in modern Wicca and Paganism.

Wherever you are Scott, your friends and readers still remember you, honor you, and love you.

I think Mr. Weschcke put his finger on an aspect of Scott that was quite unique. He wasn’t flamboyant or trying to attract attention, but he just naturally drew people to him. When I give workshops I stand, move around, gesture, and use my body language to amplify what I’m saying. When Scott gave a workshop he would sit in one place and amaze me (and the audience) with the depth of information at his fingertips and his ease at expressing it so it would be understandable.

Scott’s books never talked down to the reader. They were honest and direct, presenting Scott just as he was. As a result, some people have mistaken Scott’s simplicity and clean writing for “fluffiness.” I think this is an absolute mistake. Being simple can also mean being clear. That’s exactly what Scott was. For proof of his depth, just look at his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, both of which are standard resources in the field.

The next person who was kind enough to respond was Raven Grimassi, author of books including Spirit of the Witch and Hereditary Witchcraft. Like Scott and myself, Raven lived in San Diego. Scott and I first met Raven by taking a workshop he was giving. Raven writes:

I first met Scott Cunningham in 1979 when he attended a series of classes I presented on Wicca. The class took place in San Diego at a store called Ye Olde Enchantment Shoppe. Scott sat in the back of the room, and caught my attention because he kept shrugging his shoulders and taking furious notes. After class, Scott would often come up and ask questions or make comments. Before long we became friends.

Scott was a very funny man who loved to insert puns at every opportunity. He wrote for a magazine I created, called The Shadow’s Edge. Scott was a columnist for the magazine with two features sections: “The Green Man,” and “Coven Crack-Ups.” The former contained his writings on herbs and plant lore. The latter was a collection of jokes and musings that occurred in circle after the completion of the ritual and the administering of much celebratory wine.

Scott was initiated into my Aridian Tradition of Witchcraft in 1980 as a first degree, but left the system almost two years later in favor of a self-styled form of Wicca. Scott became a very popular and successful author writing about his personal vision of Wicca. His books opened the way for many people that felt disenfranchised from organized religion, and who were seeking a different path.

In my opinion, Scott’s books brought Wicca to a crossroads where tradition and personal vision divided into separate roads. His writings changed the way Wicca was viewed in the days of Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, and were responsible for a new definition and practice of Wicca. This bold move has placed his name forever in the history of key people associated with the movement.

Indeed, it was during the late 1970s and early 1980s that Wicca reached a tipping point. Its growing popularity had thousands of people wanting to become members. At the time, though, the way to become a member was limited to initiation within a coven structure. If you didn’t have access to a coven, you couldn’t really be Wiccan. This troubled Scott. Why did you need to be initiated into Wicca just to worship the Goddess? If you had to be initiated to be a Witch, who initiated the first Witch? His personal experiences with covens and his personal revelations resulted in one of his most popular books, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. While other books on this subject have been published, this was the first one to catch the public’s attention and, as Raven pointed out, literally revolutionized the practice of Wicca. Unlike thirty years ago, today “Solitary Wicca” is the most practiced style of Wicca.

And yes, Scott was very funny and a great punster. I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but Scott and I would frequently have punning contests as well as what at the time were called “chop out” contests, where we would jibe each other with insults. We could get away with this because we both respected each other and knew that they were just jokes and did not have real emotion behind them. One day, Scott said to me, “You always want to be the center of attention!”

Later that night, at a party, Scott had a crowd around him. I went up and said, “Oh, so I’m the center of attention, huh?” We both laughed for some time. Occasionally we would meet someone who would obviously take any sort of remark personally and we wouldn’t play with him or her in this way.

Another person from that period in San Diego was Marilee Bigelow. Scott and I, as well as some other people, used to hang around her house and kitchen table, having discussions late into the night. Her Hallows celebrations were legendary. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay area and was recently voted the best Tarot reader in the city. She writes:

Click here to read the full article.

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Llewellyn.com - Author Interview - October 2009

An Interview with Adam Selzer, Author of Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps
by Llewellyn

1. How did you get into ghost hunting? Have you always believed in ghosts?Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps

In all honesty, it’s just something I thought was cool back when I was twelve! My friends and I were really into Bigfoot, UFOs , Nostradamus, and things like that. But I tried to convince myself I didn’t believe in ghosts, because they scared the heck out of me! We didn’t have a whole lot of TV shows about ghosts and the unexplained back then–mostly just episodes of In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy. In those days, though I kept trying to keep myself from believing in ghosts, I had a very low opinion of skeptics ; TV shows almost invariably made them look like idiots. The narrator would say “skeptic” in the same tone of voice narrators use to say “liberal” in political ads, and the one skeptic they showed would always give some asinine explanation that involved imagination and swamp gas. As I grew up, I grew to be a lot more skeptical about ghosts–I haven’t seen anything that I’m certain will always stand up to scientific explanations, though some of what I’ve run into is going to be awfully tricky to figure out, at the very least.

2. How long have you been with Weird Chicago Tours? What is the oddest happening you’ve come across while doing tours?

I’ve been with the company since it started in 2006; before that, the whole Weird Chicago crew worked for one of the other local ghost tour companies. I can’t claim that something unexplainable happens on every tour, but every now and then something weird does happen. There have been some very strange nights—like the times we’ve heard a gunshot go off in an empty ballroom, or the time we saw a woman in a black dress float across an abandoned alley and vanish. I try to keep my skepticism up, but swamp gas doesn’t dress that well!

3. What kind of entities do you generally come across while giving tours? Are they generally benign?

I’ve never run across something that wasn’t benign. Every now and then we’ll hear about a ghost that has a bad attitude, but it’s not like they can hurt you. We hear a lot more than we see—footsteps, voices, the sound of people washing dishes in empty kitchens, the occasional moaning sound…stuff like that. One of the problems with doing these things in the city is that there are usually a million other places the sounds could be coming from. About as close as we get to something that isn’t benign is a voice we’ve picked up in the basement of a block that used to be called “Hair Trigger Block.” It was where all the shell-shocked Civil War vets went to gamble and shoot at each other. There’s a voice that’s been recorded down there that makes inappropriate advances at women and threatens guys to fights. But (assuming these are actually ghosts), these things can barely make an audible noise, much less fight anyone. You very rarely hear about ghosts that are that malicious; I mean, there was the Bell Witch story, but that was such an anomaly that we’re still talking about it two hundred years later. Most of them aren’t all that bright; even with the ones that we classify as “intelligent,” I’ve never run across anything that appeared to have anything more than a rudimentary intellect. I mean, obviously the things don’t have functioning brains!

4. Have you ever yourself been frightened by one of these entities?

Maybe a little. There was one time on the top floor of a hotel that I got the distinct impression something was chasing me. I ran like hell until I got to the elevator and wouldn’t look behind me for anything. It was only later that I found out that a ghostly little boy had been seen running down the hallway on that floor for years. Of course, this doesn’t mean that’s actually was chasing me. I’d say there’s about a 99% chance it was just me being a chicken!

5. What methods do you use to locate ghosts and spirits?

To be totally honest, we usually just go looking and hope for the best. You can use equipment like EMF readers to give you a clue, but there’s not a gadget out there that will actually tell you if there’s a ghost in the room—that jump in EMF might come from a radio tower a few blocks away or something. I know some teams that set up equipment and just monitor the equipment the whole time, but I don’t mess with that. For one thing, you’ll never know if it’s actually a ghost until one of them actually floats up to you. For another, it’s not much fun. Half the fun of a ghost hunt is to go poking around old buildings—you’re apt to find plenty of cool stuff besides ghosts.

6. Do you employ any other ghost hunters, psychics, mediums, etc. while doing your tours?

One of our guides is Ken Melvoin-Berg, whose day job is being a psychic detective. He’s about the only psychic to whom I give the benefit of the doubt. Every now and then we’ll have a “special guest” ghost hunter turn up for part of the tour.

7. Are there any myths about haunted locations that you feel need to be debunked?

Click here to read the full interview.

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Llewellyn.com - Llewellyn Journal - October 2009

Revitalizing Your Tarot Practice, Part II: Spreads
by Barbara Moore

In "Revitalizing Your Tarot Practice, Part I—Decks," tarot expert Barbara Moore looked at ways of recovering from "Tarot Reader Burnout" by using or incorporating another deck. However, what can you do if you only have one deck, do not wish to use another deck, or want to renew your enjoyment of an old favorite deck? Discover techniques that can revitalize your tarot practice by using and creating new spreads.

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Hunting Ghosts with Paranormal State
by Michelle Belanger

Now in its third season, Paranormal State has added a new psychic to its regular line-up of investigators: Michelle Belanger. Author of such books as Haunting Experiences and the new The Ghost Hunter's Survival Guide, Michelle details just what it is like to be called in to investigate the paranormal.

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The Dollhouse Oracle
by Janina Renée

Miniature objects play a role in the material culture of magic and divination, because they can signify material goods as well as other things—including intangible qualities—that we’d like to manifest in our lives. Perhaps the best known miniature is the dollhouse, which intrigues both children and adults. As such a symbolic structure, a dollhouse can serve as the basis of a tarot layout, in which the cards are inserted into its miniature rooms, and then interpreted in the context of the rooms’ different metaphorical associations. Author Janina Renée presents the "Dollhouse Oracle," a way to use the tarot for insight into your life.

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Llewellyn.com - Reader's Top Picks - October 2009


Llewellyn.com - Try This! - October 2009

Managing Moods with Flower Essences

Re-Focusing Yourself After Life's Minor Disruptions

The Benefits of Soul Regression


Llewellyn Journal - October 2009

Revitalizing Your Tarot Practice, Part II: Spreads

Hunting Ghosts with Paranormal State

The Dollhouse Oracle


Llewellyn's 2009 Samhain Sale!

Llewellyn's 2009 Halloween Sale!

Llewellyn.com - New Releases - October 2009


Black is for Beginnings
Black is for Beginnings
by Laurie Faria Stolarz


Book of Witchery, by Ellen Dugan
Book of Witchery
by Ellen Dugan


Cauldron of Memory
The Cauldron of Memory
by Raven Grimassi



Cunningham's Book of Shadows
Cunningham's Book of Shadows
by Scott Cunningham




The Ghost Hunter's Survival Guide
The Ghost Hunter's Survival Guide
by Michelle Belanger



The Heart Tarot
The Heart Tarot
by Lo Scarabeo



The Lovecraft Necronomicon Primer
The Lovecraft Necronomicon Primer
by T. Allan Bilstad



Memories of the Afterlife
Memories of the Afterlife
by Michael Newton, Ph.D.


Pagan Magical Kit
Pagan Magical Kit
by Lo Scarabeo




Shining Angels Tarot
Shining Angels Tarot
by Lo Scarabeo




The Witch's Coin
The Witch's Coin
by Christopher Penczak



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