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.
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.
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.
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:
"In the wintertime, Scott and I would often pile into my car and head off up into the mountains of East San Diego County. We would wander for hours in this wilderness area, enjoying the sights, sound, and smells of these fabulous woodlands. One of my favorite memories of Scott was spending all day gathering plants, berries, and herbs in this forest.
I also know about Scott's dedication to accuracy. Scott never published anything without checking his information for accuracy or trying things himself. When he was writing about drying herbs, I had to dodge branches hanging from the rafters. When he was writing about corn dollies, he drove to Tijuana, Mexico to obtain some straw. He soaked it in the bathtub so I couldn't take a shower!
Even though Scott was becoming famous, being a beginning author does not always pay the bills. I was working at a variety of jobs, ranging from magazine sales over the phone and working in a store that sold sleight-of-hand magician's supplies, to being a Tarot reader, a bank courier, and a workshop leader. In short, neither of us was rich and it wasn't uncommon for either of us to run short of money. We didn't loan money to each other, but we would take each other out for food and entertainment.
However, the main way we would support each other was through our personal libraries. We each had nice libraries, and if one of us was broke, we would regretfully figure out which books we could sell. Inevitably, before taking them to a bookstore, we'd buy them off of each other. As a result, I'd buy books from Scott and he'd buy books from me. Sometimes, the same book would change hands between us several times.
Besides having my highest respect, Scott was a great friend. He passed to the Summerland on March 28, 1993. Sometimes, I think that was his last and greatest joke on me. March 28 is my birthday. Now, I can't have a birthday without thinking of him. Good joke, Scott. But you needn't have worried. Carl, Raven, Marilee, and hundreds of thousands of your admirers think of you every day.
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. After a decade of personal study and practice, he began ...