Here is the first review of the Wiccan book: Wicca A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham.
Scott Cunningham’s Wicca is new and not rooted in the past. Yet he claims that it does find its traditional roots in these ancient shamanistic cultures. Scott also details in the preface that he believes that we all have the personal power to oversee the outcome of the rituals and magics the Wiccan uses. Wicca is a highly segmented religion making it hard to find viable resources or other Wiccans to validate claims or experiences. Also it seems Wiccans don’t proselytize as a matter of fact Scott encourages those reading his book to not proselytize, though he mentions that he had a very difficult time locating information when first starting out. This would easily be remedied through gentle forms of proselytization, I’m not talking Jehovah’s Witness type or even Mormon type, but maybe a billboard in a few major cities, or even coordinating a central group to govern the potential financial aspects of bringing Wiccan temples to major cities (you know, a Wiccan sanctioned park in a major city), these would all go far in helping curious people find out more about Wicca than what they read on the internet.
One thing that impressed me almost immediately when reading the intro was that Scott blatantly states Wicca doesn’t claim to be the one true way.
Here’s the quote,
“Wicca doesn’t solicit because, unlike most western religions, it doesn’t claim to be the one true way to deity.”
This means that as a Wiccan you know you’re likely following a fairy tale, but who cares? It is your fairy tale and your beliefs make it real. Or at least that’s the way this type of claim seems in the eyes of a skeptic.
“Wicca is a joyous religion springing from our kinship with nature. It is a merging with the goddesses and gods, the universal energies that created all in existence. it is a personal, positive celebration of life.
And now it is available to all.”
This comment will take me some time to come to terms with, because I don’t believe he truly believes his last line at all. But other than that I believe this statement to be fairly believable, Wicca so far does seem to be a religion deeply embedded in nature and existence.
Chapter 1 – Theory
“Shamanism has been defined as the first religion.”
This is the first quote of the chapter and it speaks volumes to what I am about to experience. It brings up the fact that religion has been a part of our culture even before the written word. Shaman were the people a tribe would go to for medicinal attention, wisdom and knowledge, they were the ones who would discover knowledge and dispense such knowledge as either public or private knowledge. They were said to use tools like, fasts, thirsts, self-infliction of pain, ingestion of hallucinogenic substances, and concentration to gain such knowledge. All of these were supposed to place them in an altered-state of consciousness, within which they were able to communicate and commune with the gods and goddesses. The term most commonly used in the book to describe this altered-state of consciousness is ecstasy, which makes me think that Scott is leaving a few “tools” out. As stated in the primer I wrote a couple days ago, this subject highly excited my wife because she has always been of pagan belief and often was referred to the Wiccan belief systems, the one thing that usually kept her away was a concern over her personal choice of magic, which heavily related to sexuality and the belief that energies created during copulation could be used as a focal point of magical energies. So to have Scott say that the mindset that allows communing and communicating with the gods and goddesses was in fact ecstasy genuinely impressed upon her that those people she spoke to may have been right, she may in fact be a Wiccan, but only time and more chapters will tell. Let’s get into the rest of this chapter.
It seems that Scott has decided that modern Wiccans no longer do things like self inflicted pain and using hallucinogens to invoke this altered-state of consciousness. He instead believes a majority of Wiccans use things like chanting, meditation, visualization, music, and dance to “commune with deity”. He believes that these gentler methods can attain similar states of consciousness as even the most brutal of barbaric rituals. I must be honest I tend to disagree with this, because if these rituals were able to impart information like how to make fire to a species that never used fire, or how to make the wheel, why could we not enter into these altered-states to find secrets and knowledge that can help us with our day to day lives currently? We are a much more enlightened culture these days, there is no reason why we couldn’t have a single shaman within a family or all of us be shaman if these gentler methods were able to work in similar ways, there had to be a price for knowledge, they is always a price, whether it be time, money or in the Shamans case, blood and flesh. I believe that the modern Wiccan has evolved past those rituals because of the social stigma behind them, but as I said this is a belief of my own and I do intend to find out others opinion on the fact, moving on.
“Wicca teaches that nature includes a broad spectrum of mental and spiritual states of which most of us are ignorant.”
This is an interesting statement because previously in his text he mentions that you cannot be enlightened through a book, but to no longer be ignorant of these other states wouldn’t we need some form of guidance into these other states? This does not seem to afford much for the solitary practitioner. How am I to know, if I am ignorant, whether I am speaking to the Gods and Goddesses or to Steve down the block who is actually talking on a CB radio being picked up through the fillings in my teeth?
“Wicca doesn’t view deity as distant.”
This is an awesome statement, because one things I’ve always been interested in when speaking to Christians, is the fact that their God sits on a throne in Heaven, and can hear everyone in the world through his magic wireless telephone from the Jurassic period of invention. Now this may not have been an issue when it was a few hundred people, but suppose he is listening to over 6 billion people, wouldn’t that get confusing? I have to tell people to shut up when three are talking at the same time, I can’t imagine 100, let alone 1 million, now increase that by 6 thousand times through one phone line, his wireless carrier must make truckloads of cash from his overage fees. But back to Wicca and Wiccan deities, the fact that they believe their Gods and Goddesses sit beside, and rest within, them and must be called upon to speak to is a very acceptable concept to me, because I know when I want to speak with someone I either need to knock on their door or call them up, I can’t just start talking and expect them to hear me, and I imagine Gods and Goddesses are busy people they don’t have time to just drop everything when not properly asked to listen.
“The Wiccan ideal of morality is simple: do what you want as long as you harm none.” and “do nothing that will harm yourself.”
This is a very good lesson, it is the standard do unto others as you would have done unto you. But this one is like 7 up, it has a twist, it actually tells you not to harm yourself making it so that you cannot use self mutilation or other self induced pain as justification for harming others. You go Wiccans, maybe we should find a way to work this one into a Christian Bible story, I bet it would end a couple wars.
“Many people confuse Wicca and magic as if the two words were interchangeable. Wicca is a religion that embraces magic. If you seek only to practice magic, Wicca probably isn’t the answer for you.”
So what I get from this is that Wicca believes that other religions use magic, even if that religion does not, it is highlighted with the statement earlier in the chapter “Catholic priests use ‘magic’ to transform a piece of bread into the body of a long-deceased ‘savior.’” But also Wiccans believe magic to be a natural presence within nature fully accessible by anyone willing to try and harness its energies. Meaning Wiccans believe magic does not hold prejudice based on age, sex, race, creed, religion, or any other means of uniquely identifying yourself.
“Most Wiccans don’t believe in predestination. Although we honor and revere the Goddess and God, we know that we’re free souls with full control and responsibility of our lives. we can’t point at an image of an evil god, such as Satan, and blame it for our faults and weaknesses. we can’t blame fate. Every second of each day we’re creating our futures, shaping the courses of our lives. Once a Wiccan takes full responsibility for all that she or he has done (in this life and past ones) and determines that future actions will be in accord with higher ideals and goals, magic will blossom and life will be a joy.”
I liked when I first read this paragraph, it made me smile that Wiccans believe that they set their own path, they are trailblazers and don’t hold imaginary evils accountable for the other 6 days of the week. They understand that they are responsible and will be held accountable for their actions, but they will not always be held accountable in this life, but it seems in the next also. Wiccans believe in reincarnation, meaning that they believe you must account for your past deeds as well as your future deeds, this bothers me. It bothers me, because we roll back to the Christian issue of Damned from the Start. Meaning that even though I cannot, in this life, change the outcome of a situation I may have caused in a past life, I should still have to be punished for it. I don’t agree with this at all, I would almost prefer to be bad in this life and then end up a slug in the next but absolved from all of my bad deeds due to my life as a slug. Like I said, while I liked this paragraph at the beginning it ended up causing me some issues by the end, I don’t believe accountability for actions you have no control over is a good motivator for “higher ideals and goals”.
“When a Wicca is outdoors, she or he is actually surrounded by sanctity, much as is a Christian when entering a church or cathedral.”
So Scott, you’re telling me that if I was a Wiccan each time I walked outside it would be the same as if a Christian walked into a church? Ha beat that Bible thumpers! Wiccan’s are holy everywhere! Scott attempts to solidify his claim with this phrase, “Additionally, all nature is constantly singing to us, revealing her secrets. Wiccans listen to the earth.” This would almost be like the Wiccan equivalent Christians of hearing God’s voice I assume.
“The way is open. The ancient Goddess and God await within and around you. May they bless you with wisdom and power.”
I think I am going to have to give him a small pass on his initial claim that he doesn’t believe enlightenment can come from a book, I believe he truly thinks he is going to show us the path to being a solitary practitioner of Wicca.
We’ll see… honestly I’m getting more and more skeptical about his methods.
Check out my review of Chapter 2.