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The Path of an American Traditionalist

Author: Heather Belt
Posted: November 6th. 2011
Times Viewed: 3,404

I write a blog on blogspot.com called “Path of an American Traditionalist”. I decided to call my blog this for one reason. It all starts with Scott Cunningham and “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner”, which was the first Wicca book I was ever introduced to at the age of fourteen. As common as this sounds my mother saw an A and E special on “witches and Wicca” and became instantly enamored with the idea. She went out and purchased none other than a Scott Cunningham book. As I have previously written in another article this would ultimately lead me down the magical path I am still on today. I consider myself very much a follower of Scott Cunningham.

Scott Cunningham has been a very important, influential and inspirational part of not only my craft, but my spiritual self, as well. A man gone too soon, he never had time to fully develop the exact recipe to create a true American Wicca tradition of witchcraft, but he was well down the path before his passing. What most of us witches heavily rely on today all stems from belief systems of other cultures that are not uniquely American. Most tradition of magic that are popularly practiced today have roots in Europe, Asia, as well as various other countries, but only the branch of paganism that could claim some ownership are the Native Americans.

What most witches don’t understand or appreciate (in my opinion) about Scott Cunningham was the message that took the forefront in all of his books. Wicca does not require a system of clergy, standards, rules or authority. The authority comes only from the Goddess and God. Even most of the Native American traditions had an informal hierarchy. Scott’s message has always been a break from, well, tradition!

Having said that, his books are richly steeped in a “tradition” created solely on his own experience with spell work. That is not to say that he does not solely rely on the work of people like Gardner, Crowley and Leek, but what he does is take his personal interpretations of their work and applies the knowledge to further his own. Furthermore the knowledge he applies to his “encyclopedia” type books are well researched, well-written and informative for any witch! In 2009 “Scott Cunningham’s Book of Shadows”, was published by Llewellyn. For obvious reasons, because of his passing in 1993, a new Scott Cunningham book had not been in circulation for a very long time.

It is mentioned in the forward of the book that Scott’s intentions were to create a system of witchcraft/magic that was uniquely American and without constraint. Scott was taking the knowledge, experience and wisdom he had gained from the many years he spent practicing magic and applying the craft to create a non-uniform system of magical practice that’s roots would be American. The author of the forward states that he is uncomfortable with the world “traditionalist”, applied to the work and legacy of Scott Cunningham. He says this because he believes Scott Cunningham was anything but a Traditionalist. I believe the author misunderstands the word and its usage.

While the word “tradition” does normally conjure up thoughts of rules and guide lines within a community, I believe what Scott was trying to convey was a sense of “Tradition” that would be become the basis for a new way of practicing Wicca without the constraints of the “old ways”. His Tradition would be that of religious freedom inside of paganism and Wicca. By using this word he was not trying to start a new religion, but rather build upon and create something that was uniquely American and create something that was American in taste and flair. He was pulling together a system of practicing a sort of “free-base” magical system that relied on coming up with your own spells, chants, recipes, etc…by applying knowledge taken from other authors, witches and most importantly your own spell work. His “Tradition” would be one heavily influenced by the idea of religious freedom in Wicca, which is the basis for America itself. Which could be interpreted as a play on Aleister Crowley’s infamous quote “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law”.

I’m not sure what Scott would have continued, finished or accomplished if he was still here today, but I know it would have been amazing! From all of the research, reading and studying I have done on him, I am confident in saying that he was NOT comfortable with a lot of the “traditions” of witchcraft that preach uniformity in the sense that you have to have this particular book, this candle or this oil, in order to properly perform magic. Even though he revered and respected his pagan friends that choose to go the coven route, Scott himself never felt comfortable in any formal setting of ritual work. In a book by David Harrington entitled “Whispers of the Moon: The Life and Work of Scott Cunningham”, it is often stated that Scott joined several covens and formal magical paths, but always ended up going back to being a solitary practitioner. Scott said to his friends that he always felt more at home being a solitary witch. He was a rebel of sorts in that he took Wicca out of the living room and back to where it belongs, in nature.

My blog is a tiny corner of the world where I can express myself, my craft and my ideas that have all been heavily influenced by Scott Cunningham’s life and work. If Scott Cunningham did create a tradition, even by accident, I am following it by being a living product of his message. You don’t have to have fancy ritual items, or a high-priestess degree to worship the Goddess and perform magic. You don’t have to know and memorize every tiny aspect of the Wiccan religion to be a follower of the Goddess. As Scott believed and always wrote, all you need to contact the divine is an open heart, an open mind and the will that lies within.




Copyright: This article is the sole work and property of Heather S. Douglas



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Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

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