Finally read my first Scott Cunningham book this Summer and decided to go with the ever popular and always recommended “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” as my intro to his writings. Before I go any further with the review I’ll give a disclaimer that I am NOT Wiccan. My Pagan practice is eclectic and takes a few notes from Wicca (mostly the Wheel of the Year), but it is not very much related to the religion itself. With that being said, just remember that my review is coming from someone who is not involved in this specific practice.
I can see the usefulness of this book as a beginner’s intro into Wicca specifically (not as a general Pagan book), but that’s about where it ends for me (which is fine, since it’s supposed to be introductory in a way). It is written based on Cunningham’s views on Wicca and his own beliefs, complete with examples of his craft, so it’s not super educational on the history of Wicca. It’s possible you could offer it to family or friends who don’t “get it” as a way to further explain what Wicca is for you, but that’s if you’re okay with some of the potentially embarrassing moments in the book, which I will get to next!
There’s a tiny bit of shade thrown at Christianity in the book, which may or may not upset more sensitive family if you do so choose to share this book with them. It’s not hateful, but it does come off a bit “this way is better” which isn’t necessarily true; the faith that speaks to you (if any) is the path that’s truly better for you and if Christianity is not it, that’s fine. My biggest issue with the book, as far as cringe-worthy notes go, is the woo-woo. Some of the things, or really examples, he claims are magic is so out there. For instance, claiming that rubbing your hands together really fast, then holding them apart and feeling a tingling is magic energy shooting from your palms. While, yes, the heat you’ve activated by rubbing your hands together is a form of energy, it’s not magic…this is simple physics. He also used an example of casting a spell to obtain the funds to pay your phone bill, but pretty much leaves it at “do this spell and the money will come eventually” whereas really you should focus intention and motivation to pay the bill, but still put work in to actually getting money to pay it (like saving up, selling items you don’t need, etc). That was just too much for me.
Other critiques I have are that I felt his section on the tools, while easy to understand, were too simple. Not much information on the history of the tools or anything. I also disagreed with his views on dark/black magic. He constantly talks about the duality of Wicca, but once light and dark are there, he kind of pushes dark away and claims it as a no-no for good Wiccans. There’s a saying I heard somewhere that goes “If you can’t hex, you can’t heal,” a much better example and embrace of duality, in my opinion. Now, I’m not saying you should bind, hex, and curse after every little slight you experience, but I don’t view dark/black magic as an ultimately bad thing either.
All-in-all it wasn’t a terrible book and I do see value in it for a beginner Wiccan, but I wouldn’t recommend it alone; it’s definitely not a text that stands on its own for Pagan study. I will be reading more by Cunningham eventually, as this book didn’t totally turn me off to him and I’m interested to read some more of his work.
Keep reading and learning, everyone. Blessed be!