Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen
Author: Scott Cunningham
Published 2010 by Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN-10: 0738702269
ISBN-13: 978-0738702261
Paperback, 378 pages
List $17.95 (U.S.) $20.95 (Canada)
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Reviewer: Mike Gleason

I have reviewed two of Scott Cunningham's books (and a VHS Tape and DVD) over the years. Considering how highly regarded his work is in the Eclectic Wiccan community some might wonder why so few. I realize that what I am about to write may seem like heresy to many, but I am simply not that impressed with his work. Let me explain that statement before the lynch mobs start organizing.

Without a doubt, Scott made the Craft far more accessible than it was before he arrived on the scene. There are numerous individuals who would never have found their way without his guidance and clearly written, easily understood, books. But I am "old school." When I started my training (in the late 1960s) Eclectics were unheard of, and solitary practice was something to be avoided if at all possible. You HAD to get your training in person, as the few books on the topic had to be searched for diligently and (usually) mail-ordered. In my opinion, and that of many of my generation, Scott simply made it too easy and painless. Then along came the internet and things have changed completely.

Now, I don't want people to think that I don't like Scott's work. He definitely put a kinder, gentler face on the study of the Craft. Where others were stern and dogmatic, he was polite and flexible; where others expected their students to do things EXACTLY as they were taught, Scott said "Hey give it a try, then change it if you want to." I freely admit that there is a place for that in the Craft, I simply disagree with Scott's (and others who have followed his lead) placement of it - I feel that the experimentation should come after you have a thorough foundation, not while you are still learning the basics. In my opinion, he simply made things TOO easy for newcomers.

Okay, enough about my reservations regarding Scott's "Craft" books. What I have in front of me right now is a book which is less about theological topics, and more about practicality. One more caveat before I begin the actual review, however. If you are looking for a "Magical Cookbook" you will be disappointed by this book. It is, as the title says, an encyclopedia. There are a few recipes (less than 30), and some background on tools for cooking and serving food, but they form a small part of the overall book.

This is a good example of what Scott Cunningham was good at producing - an informative, easy-to-read book which is useful for a large segment of the population. It doesn't matter whether you are an omnivore, a vegetarian, or a hard-core vegan, there is information in this book that will be valuable for you.

Scott explains his position regarding what people eat (and why) without becoming dogmatic and doctrinaire about it. His goal is to provide information without distractions. He succeeds admirably. He provides citations where possible - sometimes, however, it is hard to remember where you picked up a certain piece of information. Ultimately, sources are less important than the fact that this information has been assembled and tested over decades of "real life" experiences.

He provides a lot of data, divided into (mostly) neatly compartmentalized categories. The chapters are: Breads and Grains; Cakes, Sweetened Breads, Cookies and Pies; Vegetables; Fruits; Spices and Herbs; Honey, Sugar, Cocolate, Carob and Maple Syrup; Nuts and Alleged Nuts; Salt, Vinegar, Soups and Noodles; Food from Sea and River; Beer Wine and Alcoholic Beverages; Tea and Coffee; The Mystic Egg; and From the Dairy. Each entry gives you common name, scientific name, planetary and elemental rulership, what type of energy it provides and basic lore. This is all provided in an easy to understand, fun to read style. What more can you ask of an encyclopedia.

Following this massive amount of information are chapters on Magical Food Diets - Love, Protection, Health and Healing,Money, Sex, Spirituality, Psychic Awareness, Peace and Happiness, Purification, Weight Loss, and Other Magical Food Diets.

Obviously, it is intended to be referred to, not read straight through, although with his style, Scott sometimes hooks you into an extended session of browsing. Go ahead and enjoy it.