The book you hold in your hands is neither an ordinary book with its printed pages, nor a Traditionalist Book of Shadows.
Before I explain what the difference is and how to use this book, I want to tell you a few things relating to the author that may help your understanding.
The manuscript for this book had been "lost" among boxes of Scott Cunningham's writings since his death in 1993. His original proposed title was "American Traditionalist Book of Shadows." Due to events over the last quarter century, we felt that the word " Traditionalist" was no longer appropriate philosophically in association with the subject of Wicca.
Make no mistake, Scott Cunningham considered himself a Traditionalist in the original concept of that word: A deep respect for tradition, especially for cultural or religious practice. But our dictionary also offers an alternative definition: The idea that all knowledge comes from divine revelation and is passed on by tradition. It is this latter definition that gives us some difficulty.
Wicca is not "revealed knowledge" stemming from a single source that becomes established as theologically sacrosanct, but is instead a living tradition that is personally experienced and integrated into your life.
Wicca does not have a fixed theology administered and taught by a "Council of Elders" similar to historic authoritarian religions. There are a number of Wiccan churches established to administer to the needs of their membership for such purposes as marriage, funerals, personal counseling, etc., and there are many small covens bringing people together, but most practitioners of Wicca are "solitaries" who see themselves not separated from others by belief and lifestyle but fully integrated into the larger community while finding their spiritual strength from within.
It was mostly for these individuals that Scott wrote his books. It's important to our understanding of how to use a Book of Shadows to clearly separate Scott Cunningham's writings from the anti-modernism and rigid fundamentalism characterized by that alternative definition of " Traditionalist." It is also important to understand that Cunningham's book is distinctly American, not Celtic or European.
Witchcraft is as old as the hills and is basically perceived as a system of nature-based magic and shamanism. Wicca is a modern nature-based religion that absorbed some practices and beliefs from traditional British Witchcraft. Yes, those beliefs and practices are mostly age-old, but they are also universal and readily adapted to the culture in which the practitioners are residents.
Cunningham's Book of Shadows: The Path of An American Traditionalist by Scott Cunningham (c) 2009 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989. All rights reserved, used by permission.
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