As I mentioned a few posts ago here, Cunningham’s Book of Shadows is now in our warehouse and being shipped out to stores all over the world. I thought I’d share the quirky story of its discovery for those of you who haven’t gotten the book yet and read deTraci Regula’s first person account, contained in the appendix.
If you really want to know how we are happening to publish a book by an author who has sadly been in the Summerland for many years now, you’ll have to start with my boss, Bill Krause. Bill is Llewellyn’s Publisher, which means that he oversees the day-to-day operations of acquiring and publishing books. (Carl Llewellyn Weschcke continues as Llewellyn’s owner and CEO, but Bill does a lot more of the heavy lifting these days.)
So Bill was at BEA (a large trade show for the publishing industry) and saw a book being promoted by a very famous, very dead author. What the heck? The guy is dead and still writing books? Obviously, if some new material is discovered, it makes good sense for a publisher to publish unpublished publications (that’s how we roll), and it got him to thinking – could there be any unpublished material by Scott Cunningham lying around? Cunningham is without a doubt our most popular author to this day, and his clear style of explanation and warm voice continue to speak to millions of readers around the world. Bill asked our friend, author and blogger extraordinaire, Donald Michael Kraig, who had been Scott’s roommate, if he thought there was anything we could still publish. No, he said. Not a chance. Scott needed money, so anything that was publishable was promptly sent to Llewellyn when he was alive.
But then one day Bill was having a chat with Sandra Weschcke, President and Treasurer of Llewellyn, and Carl’s wife. She said, “Well, did you ask deTraci Regula?” A close friend of Scott’s, deTraci was one of his heirs and ended up with boxes and boxes of his belongings, which she stored in her garage. So Bill got on the phone with her.
At this point, deTraci came forward with some shocking information – Scott had been working on an Animal Magic book, which he had never finished. Another close friend, David Harrington (who co-authored The Magical Household and Spell Crafts with Scott), had finished it after his death. “Great, can you find it?” asked Bill. (Admit it, wouldn’t you love to read Scott’s take on animal magic? I know I would!)
deTraci, a travel writer, took many months before getting back to Bill, but when she did, it was big – she had found a Book of Shadows, neatly typed and left in a manila envelope, clearly meant for publication. Here is what that envelope looked like:
She mailed it in to Bill, who brought it over to Carl’s immediately. Carl, still in his pajamas while recuperating from shoulder surgery, wrote an excited email back to Bill after checking it out. (The following is an excerpt from the actual email, which I’ve acquired from Bill, emphasis is in the original):
Yes, Bill, this is IT!
As I glanced at it, some memories came flooding back. Scott and I did talk about this perhaps thirty years ago. We both had a lot of concerns and talked about how to overcome them. But I didn’t know that he continued to work on it.
What Scott has done is to weave traditional Wiccan material with some Scott material and then Scott’s creative (inspired) work. As a result, this book fills certain gaps in a traditional book of shadows.
This was to be Scott’s life work – that would be a complete book of shadows. Until I read the entire mss I can’t tell how complete this is – but a glance tells me that it is more complete than any other.
Well, as it turned out, this Book of Shadows is what Scott used with his correspondence students in the very early days. It does vary from the Standing Stones Book of Shadows that was published in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, especially in terms of rituals, which are not solely for solitary practitioners. It contains herbal and oil mixes that differ from those found in The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews. And it contains many brief charms, spells and rituals that I haven’t seen in his other books.
So here we were, with the raw material for a new book on our hands, albeit one that had not been finished by Scott. Carl supplied some connective tissue to bring the book together into a whole by suggesting brief excerpts from some of his other books to serve as introductions to the various sections of the Book of Shadows. (These are clearly designated as such in the book, so you will always be able to see what is previously published material, compared to what was found in the battered manila envelope.) Scott’s former editor Connie Hill, the layout designer and I worked on the organization of the book, since pages weren’t numbered and there was no table of contents. But besides correcting the odd misspelling here or there and adding explanatory notes when necessary, Connie really left Scott’s work as it was, and as it was meant to be. She told me, “Part of my charge in producing the book was to preserve Scott’s “voice,” that expressive sense of wonder that he shared with his readers, wonder and awe of the magicalness of the natural world. The first time I met him, he’d just done some workshops in New Orleans, and gave us a taste of his style with a presentation on the magical properties of pizza. His wisdom was evident, yet he was forever young.”
deTraci also provided her feedback on the manuscript, and even tested out the Cyder Cake recipe that is found in the book. She said it was delicious! She even sent us this photo of it.
Rounding out the book is a foreword by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, explaining in more detail the purpose and intent of this “American Traditionalist” Book of Shadows and what that term actually meant to Scott. We scanned in Scott’s hand-written symbols and runes from the pages found in that manila envelope and added them to the book, along with a bibliography. Finally, four of Scott’s close friends, including deTraci Regula, Marilee Bigelow, David Harrington, and Scott’s sister Christine Ashworth, wrote articles about Scott for the appendices. All the extra additions provide context and add depth to what would otherwise look like… well, perhaps like your own Book of Shadows. A grand collection of personal invocations, charms and spells that is not really meant as a teaching tool when separated from its owner. In this incarnation, we feel it can proudly stand on its own as a legacy to Scott’s great work.
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