Scott Cunningham, Wicca:
A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

(Llewellyn's Practical Magic Series, 1988)

This is the most basic book for a person interested in Wicca, or paganism in general, to read. Scott Cunningham's words are clear, direct and simple. He describes Wicca in three sections: Theory, Practice and The Standing Stones Book of Shadows. This format gives an interested reader a basic grasp of what Wicca and modern paganism are all about.

The first section, Theory, discusses Wicca and shamanism in a historical and social context. Next the deities are considered, along with the use of magic, tools and other aspects of ritual. He also explains the holidays, reincarnation as it relates to Wicca, and initiation. Since this is specifically a guide for the "solitary practitioner," initiation is an important consideration. Cunningham stresses that initiation comes from the gods and goddesses; initiation by another is not necessary to be dedicated to the pagan path.

In the Practice section, Cunningham gets down to the basic of technique. This includes meditation, journal writing and visualization, among others. Wicca is a spiritual path, and these exercises help the seekers to get in touch with their spiritual selves. Self-dedication is discussed thoroughly, including someone's motives for dedicating themselves to this path. A basic self-dedication ritual is included, though Cunningham stresses that the best rituals are personal and created by the individual seeker; however, as a guide, he includes a sample ritual. He also explains ritual design, and encourages readers to create personal rituals using symbols with special meaning to themselves.

The Standing Stones Book of Shadows is a "sample" which a seeker can follow until he has created his own book. This section includes various prayers, descriptions of rituals for seasonal festivals and the full moon, and even food recipes for use in rituals and afterward. Recipes for incenses and oils are included in this section, as well as an herbal section, giving the reader ideas of how to use herbs in rituals. Crystals, drawn symbols and signs, and runes are also described in easy-to-use appendix forms. The entire format is designed for ease of the new reader, who may be completely unsure and want some structure.

In all, this is a very basic starting book that will stand as a reference in any modern pagan's library. As a reader becomes more experienced and confident in her own skills, she will find Cunningham's advice to follow her heart and instincts to be very true. Even after many years of practice, I still use this book as a dictionary, guidebook and for ritual ideas as holidays come around.

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is readily available in most bookstores and assorted other stores. I have even found it in Hot Topic and the local "head" and t-shirt shop.

[ by Beth Derochea ]

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