Hedge-riding

I thought people might be interested to read this blog post I wrote some time ago about my own experiences of the (both literal and metaphorical) hedge.

 

As I was meditating, knitting and listening to music last night, working my way through the insomnia brought on by discontinuation syndrome from the last lot of failed seizure meds, the term hedgerider came to me as a description for myself. (And I found, upon researching all this, that other witches – mostly those with an English magic or Heathen background – are using the term for themselves.)

I was immediately reminded of friends and colleagues who describe their magical practice and their lives as edgewalking – a term which I’ve felt some identification with but which has never sat comfortably enough for me to claim it for myself. Because of my body and my history and my brain and my inclinations our culture places me in many liminal spaces, some of which I do not identify with and some of which I feel very deeply as mine. In a trance early in my magical practice, perhaps fifteen years ago, I learned that I am meant to be “a go-between”, a role I have embodied in many ways over the years. But even though I may live in or move in and out of or between liminal spaces, that image of edgewalking never felt like my own.

Perhaps it has something to do with one of my disabilities. Being deaf/HoH, I have balance problems. I can’t reliably walk in a straight line down the street. I could never walk on balance beams in Gym at school. To walk the knife’s edge…that’s not a metaphor I can feel in my bones. I don’t know what that feels like, to walk straight on that shining edge.

Riding, though: that I can do. I was put on ponies from the time I was a toddler, grew up riding. Riding the night, the storm, with the hunt: ancient images that speak to my soul.

And I grew up in a land of hedgerows, many of them 700 year old remnants of medieval field patterns. There have been hedgerows in my land since the Neolithic, and they have come and gone since: ancient hedges uprooted for the manorial field system, then returning the coming of the Enclosure Acts only to vanish again in the face of modern agriculture with its vast open fields. Ours were ancient: hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose; holly and elder and the guelder rose that marks truly old hedges, grown through with straggles of brambles. They marked the turning year: the first hazy spring green of the edible bread-and-cheese hawthorn buds, foaming white with may blossom in the early summer, drooping with blackberries come autumn, and in winter bare dark bones between the faded fields.

I used to watch the hedging, learned the ancient words: the snedding, pleachers, brush and heatherings of true South of England style hedgelaying. I always wanted to learn it myself, though now I’ve moved to this hedgeless land I suppose I never will. That is the kind of work I could do happily with my hands, like the coppicing and clearing work I did over the summers, midge-stung and sunburned and rained upon.

And hedgerows aren’t simply a substitute for a fence; they are, as the UK Government advisors on nature conservation, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, point out: “the most significant wildlife habitat over large stretches of lowland UK and are an essential refuge for a great many woodland and farmland plants and animals.” The English Hedgerow Trust tells us that,

Hedgerows are the principal habitat for around 50 existing species of conservation concern in the UK, including 13 globally threatened or rapidly declining species (more than for most other key habitats). They are particularly important for butterflies and moths, farmland birds, bats and dormice… Over 600 plant species, 1500 insects, 65 birds and 20 mammals have been recorded at some time living or feeding in hedgerows. Over 100 species of invertebrates can be found in a typical 20-metre section of hedgerow… Hedgerows also act as wildlife corridors for many species, including reptiles and amphibians, allowing movement between other habitats.”<

They are communities, pathways, focii of the land. And they are boundaries: my field from yours, farmland from lanes, the domestic from the wild. The root of the word means enclosure; the hedge is the boundary between the known and the unknown. Like the hedgerow itself, natural growth shaped by human hands, it is a meeting of nature and culture, self and other: a marker of the line between this world and another. And unlike a wall, the hedge is not absolute: it is a permeable membrane through which things both animal and otherworldly pass.

Since at least the 16th century CE it has been associated with the outcast, the poor, the mean, the unwanted. And, of course, it has been associated with witches. Our word hag comes from an Old English term that has been argued to mean “hedge-rider”. (And I found, upon researching all this, that other witches – mostly those with an English magic or Heathen background – are using the term for themselves.) Associated with witches and ghosts, we may note as well in the perhaps-related Norwegian word tysja (fairy, crippled woman) a perceived link between the otherworldy and another class of being relegated by mainstream culture to the realm of the mean and vile: those of us who are disabled.

Like the bent pleachers of the hedge, meanings knot and twist together, grow into a living, thriving thing of many parts. And if we have the knowledge, we can straddle it with one foot in this world and one foot in that, ride it through the twilight in the smell of hawthorn and wet leaves. It’s not a comfortable ride. The twilight is not necessarily a comfortable place, and the hedge is knotted with thorns, with nettles, with the briar of the rose. But for those who have learned to be a part of the tangled community of the place between, it’s home, and it is beautiful. Unlike the knife’s sharp edge, it may prickle and sting but it will not cut your feet; those of us who cannot walk with balance may still ride, moving together with something growing, changing, and perpetually alive.

Mandrakes

Mandrakes

Mandrakes belong to a large family of the plants known as the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. There are several different species within the mandragora genus, though the one most commonly used within witchcraft is Mandragora Officinarum.  They have oval shaped leaves, small flowers that vary in colour from species to species (the autumnalis variety has quite lovely purple flowers), and fruit that resemble tomatoes (another Solanaceae).

Great swathes of folklore surround the mandrake, as far back as Ancient Egypt where a myth recounts the goddess Sekhmet going on a great rampage against humanity. The gods were unable to reason with her, so they gave her wine with boiled mandrake root which knocked her out. The roots will often be split into two giving them a humanoid appearance (this led to stories of the roots looking like people) and it is said that anyone who hears the mandrake scream when it is uprooted will die. This led to elaborate rituals involving dogs pulling up the plant or loud instruments, such as horns, being played at the moment of uprooting (I will admit my slight disappointment when I uprooted my first mandrake when it didn’t even wail).

Another key feature of the mandrake’s appearances in folklore is its uses in the flying ointments of witches. Mandrake roots- like many of the nightshade plants- contain chemicals called alkaloids, the main ones being scopolamine, atropine and hyoscyamine. These are what give the plant its mind altering effects. Interestingly (or at least I find it interesting…) atropine was named after Atropos, the fate who severed the thread of life, yet it is on the World Health Organization’s list of necessary drugs for its use in anaesthesia and as an antidote to organophosphate poisoning (think pesticides like DDT and Parathion).

In the past mandrakes were often valued for their medicinal properties as well, generally as anaesthetics (remember that myth with Sekhmet?). They are mentioned in the Egyptian medical papyri and the Greek physician, Dioscorides, recommended giving mandrake wine to a patient before surgery. Both Pliny the Elder and Galen recorded the effectiveness of mandrakes in medicine, though Galen warned of the dangers of overdose.

During the Middle Ages mandrake roots grew so valuable that conmen shaped the roots of white bryony plants and sold them on as mandrakes to gullible customers (this is probably why recipes for sleep drugs like dwale list white bryony in their ingredients). Carrying a root will bring the bearer good luck and prosperity and the human-like shape of the root made it a common ingredient in love spells.

Growing mandrakes can be difficult as they take an absolute age to germinate (do not be surprised if it takes months). Most sources will recommend soaking the seeds (stick them in a small mesh bag in a small box of water in the fridge and change the water daily- just in case I always label the box TOXIC). I personally soak mine for around two weeks to a month (though some sources recommend soaking for up to six months) and then plant them, two to a small flower pot. Once the seedlings get to a height of a couple of inches repot them into larger pots that give them more root space (the root is the important bit and they need a lot of space). The soil needs to be aerated and kept fairly moist- not too wet and not too dry. Mine is currently sulking as I let the soil in its pot get too damp so it dropped its leaves and went dormant. Don’t worry too much if that happens- check the root, definitely, but if all seems in order replant and leave it to grow back. After a month or so you ought to see new leaves.  As plants native to the Mediterranean they are quite happy in shady to fairly sunny areas.

 

A warning:

If you choose to use mandrake in flying ointments etc. be aware that these plants are highly toxic and deserve your utmost respect. Do not overdose; a small amount will do plenty. The alkaloids can cause more than just hallucinations- they can cause malfunctions in your autonomic nervous system as well as give you serious diarrhoea. To translate: they can cause problems with both your breathing and heart rate and you probably already know the last one. I have heard of people who took datura (also a nightshade) and ended up having to consciously control their own breathing until the effects subsided- datura contains the same chemicals as mandrakes so it’s not too much of a leap to assume that similar symptoms might arise from mandrake overdose.

Plus, and I really hope that this bit’s unnecessary, please don’t use it at all if you are pregnant. Even if we ignore the stuff about the nervous system and what it can do to f***up your digestive system, it may lead to birth defects.

An Exhaustive List of Books for the Advancing Witch

Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashions: Essays in Comparative Religions by Mircea Eliade

Evolutionary Witchcraft by T. Thorn Coyle

Advanced Witchcraft: Go Deeper, Reach Further, Fly Higher by Edain McCoy

Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English

The Veil’s Edge: Exploring the Boundaries of Magic by Willow Polson

Deepening Witchcraft: Advancing Skills & Knowledge by Grey Cat

Kissing the Limitless by Thorn Coyle

The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune

The Training & Work of an Initiate by Dion Fortune

The Second Circle: Tools for the Advancing Pagan by Venecia Rauls

The Otherside of Virtue by Brendan Myers

Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune

Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World by John G. Gager

Wicca 333: Advanced Topics in Wiccan Belief by Kaatryn MacMorgan

The Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water & Earth in the Wiccan Circle by Deborah Lipp

777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley: Including Gematria & Sepher Sephiroth by Aleister Crowley

Treading the Mill: Practical Craft Working in Modern Traditional Witchcraft by Nigel G. Pearson

Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson

The Call of the Horned Piper by Nigel Aldcroft Jackson

Masks of Misrule: The Horned God & His Cult in Europe by Nigel Jackson

The Pillars of Tubal Cain by Nigel Jackson

The Roebuck in the Thicket: An Anthology of the Robert Cochrane Witchcraft Tradition by Evan John Jones

The Robert Cochrane Letters: An Insight into Modern Traditional Witchcraft by Robert Cochrane

Secrets of East Anglian Magic by Nigel Pennick

Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals by Luisah Teish

The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts by Judika Illes

HEKATE: Keys to the Crossroads – A collection of personal essays, invocations, rituals, recipes and artwork from modern Witches, Priestesses and Priests by Sorita D’Este

The Satanic Witch by Anton Szandor LAVey

Advanced Wicca: Exploring Deeper Levels of Spiritual Skills and Masterful Magick by Patricia Telesco

The Meaning of Witchcraft by Gerald Brosseau Gardner

The Study of Witchcraft: A Guidebook to Advanced Wicca by Deborah Lipp

Progressive Witchcraft by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone
*
The Crossroads in Folklore and Myth by Martin Puhvel

When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm by Layne Redmond

The Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries by Anne Tedeschi

A Razor for a Goat: Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism by Elliot Rose

Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath by Carlo Ginzburg

Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context by Karen Louise Jolly

The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind by Claude Lecouteux

Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth by Graham Harvey

Athenian Popular Religion by Jon D. Mikalson

Greek Folk Religion by Martin P. Nilsson

Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth by Walter Burkert

The Greek Way of Death by Robert Garland

The Odyssey by Homer

The Iliad by Homer

Theogony, Works and Days by Hesiod

The Histories, Revised by Herodotus

Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History by Owen Davies

Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions by Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson

The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture by Paul C. Bauschatz

Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael

Greek and Roman Necromancy by Daniel Ogden

Rotting Goddess: The Origins of the Witch in Classical Antiquity by Jacob Rabinowitz

The Silver Bough by F. Marian MacNeil

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion by James Frazer

The White Goddess by Robert Graves

Myth and Sexuality by Jamake Highwater

The Homeric Hymns by Homer

The Wisdom of the Outlaw by Joseph Falaky Nagy

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon

Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain by Rachel Bromwich

Lady With A Mead Cup by Michael Enright

Women’s Religions in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook by Ross Shepard Kraemer

Auraicept na n-Éces: The Scholars Primer by George Calder, ed.

A Guide to Early Irish Law by Fergus Kelly

The Tain by tr. by Thomas Kinsella

The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger by Patricia Lysaght

Sex and Marriage in Ancient Ireland by Patrick C. Power

The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries by W. Y. Evans Wentz

The Secret Commonwealth and the Fairy Belief Complex by Brian Walsh

Beyond Celts, Germans, and Scythians by Peter S. Wells

Tales of the Elders of Ireland by Ann Dooley and Harry Roe, trans.

The Celtic Heroic Age by John T. Koch and John Carey, eds.

The Poetic Edda

The Prose Edda

Society and Politics in Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla by Sverre Bagge

Feud in the Icelandic Saga by Jesse L. Byock

The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies by Andrew Lang

The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates

The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages by Brian Bates

Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus by Alain Danielou

Pagan Dream Of Rennaissance by Joscelyn Godwin
*
Spiritual Mentoring: A Pagan Guide by Judy Harrow

Loneliness & Revelation by Brendan Myers

The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over by Starhawk

A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism by John Michael Greer

Exploring the Pagan Path: Wisdom from the Elders by Kristin Madden, Starhawk, Raven Grimassi, and Dorothy Morrison

Between the Worlds edited by Sian Reid
*
The Gaelic Otherworld by John Gregorson Campbell, ed. by Ronald Black

The Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Shamanism and Witchcraft in Seventeenth-century Scotland by Emma Wilby

Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary Between Wilderness and Civilization by Hans Peter Duerr

The Underworld Initiation: A journey towards psychic transformation by R. J. Stewart

Power Within the Land: The Roots of Celtic and Underworld Traditions Awakening the Sleepers and Regenerating the Earth by R. J. Stewart

The Tree of Enchantment: Ancient Wisdom and Magic Practices of the Faery Tradition by Orion Foxwood

The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine by Barbara Tedlock

Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy by Mircea Eliade

Walkers Between the Worlds: The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus by Caitlin Matthews

Plant Spirit Wisdom: Shamans and Sin eaters, Celtic Techniques for Healing the Soul by Ross Heaven

The Wiccan Mystic by Ben Gruagach

To Fly by Night edited by Veronica Cummer

Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism by Jenny Blain

Cunning-Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby

Sacred Mask Sacred Dance by Evan John Jones
*
Circles, Groves and Sanctuaries by Dan and Pauline Campanelli

Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure by Catherine Yronwode

Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo & Conjuring with Herbs by Stephanie Rose Bird

Mastering Herbalism: A Practical Guide by Paul Huson

Encyclopedia of Natural Magic by John Michael Greer

The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology by Robert Bringhurst

Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healingby Stephen Pollington

Learning Their Language: Intuitive Communication with Animals and Nature by Marta Williams

The Meaning of Herbs: Myth, Language & Lore by G. & Field, A. Scoble

The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth by Stephen Buhner

The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety by Simon Mills, Kerry Bone
*
By Standing Stone and Elder Tree: Ritual and the Unconscious by William G. Gray also known as Rollright Stone and Elder Tree

Magical Ritual Methods by William G. Gray

The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircea Eliade

Hekate Liminal Rites: A Study of the rituals, magic and symbols of the torch-bearing Triple Goddess of the Crossroads by David Rankine

Circles of Power: Ritual Magic in the Western Tradition by John Michael Greer

Building Your Inner Sacred Space

I long for the day when I will be guardian of a bit of land again. Guardian because, of course, one does not own land. I feel that land, especially forested or wild lands, are entrusted to our care by the Elder Kin.

I think about this piece of land often. I see it shaded by mature trees, holding a little meadow, chased around by a burbling stream, hiding a secret sacred glade. I will know it when I find it. It will call to me.

Alas, I am not there yet. It may be a number of years before I am there at last. I don’t mind living in the town where I live but I do mind not having the access to a sacred glade, a place to walk and talk to the elders or just sit and meditate. A place that will remain undisturbed by outsiders.

A long time ago I began to create my inner sacred space. It’s now a kind of new-agey catch-phrase to “go to your happy place” but few seem to realize the power inherent in having such an “inner space.” It is a place not only to rest and heal but a place where you can perform deep magic that is unavailable to you here in the plane of Ordinary Reality.

Think about it. Say you would really like to communicate with Odin. You would love to have a sacred space dedicated solely to him, a place where you could leave offerings and perform a Blot without worrying about interruption. But you live in a tiny apartment, or are sharing your living space with nosy relatives or roommates.

You can have that sacred space, and perform any rituals you like. You need only yourself and the depths of your mind. You can create this sacred space and you can visit freely, whenever you choose. Stay as long as you like or just pop in and leave a quick offering.

Oh, and here’s the true power of creating your sacred space. Once created and filled with your own personal energy and magic…sacred spaces tend to take on a life of their own. They grow and adapt independent of you.

My first attempt at inner sacred space was a circle of stone monoliths. For obvious reasons, not something I could create here in our version of Ordinary Reality. At least, not yet. But I visualized the stone circle with its worn stones, reminiscent of henges and such I had seen in photos. Every time I visited the circle it felt more real and I noticed more details about it.

And then…one day, as I was walking the path (in my mind) to visit the circle, I noticed a path branching off of it. A path I had not created, but yet there it was. Intrigued, I followed it and found myself in the wood.

Over time I have found more unexplored areas of this space. An open meadow, a little cottage…all created without conscious thought on my part. Yet they are now part of my own inner sacred space.

In another article I will try to explain a bit about Ordinary and Non-ordinary Reality and about the Mystery of deep dreaming and the shamanic state. But such a knowledge is not necessary to begin building your inner sacred space. You need only to be able to picture it.

Being able to meditate helps in creating your sacred space, but it is not necessary. I have not yet mastered being able to “clear my mind” in a meditative fashion. But what will be necessary is your ability to picture something in your mind and to hold that picture until it becomes as vivid as if it were real for you.

If you find this difficult, know that it becomes easier with practice. You do not need to be able to lose yourself for hours at a time in the beginning.

Many of us already have an idea of what our ideal sacred space would be like. If that is true for you, then you are already halfway there. If not, spend the next few days just thinking, on and off, “What does my ideal sacred space look like?”

This is not concentrated thinking. What you are trying to do is to kind of “catch yourself” in an unaware state. Ask yourself the question, and see what the first image is that pops into your mind. Maybe it is trees, or a brook. Make a note of it and then go on to whatever you were doing. After a few days you should have a handful of images to work with.

When you are ready to begin creating your space, set aside some time where you will be undisturbed. I like to burn incense when I do so. You may choose to listen to certain music or nothing at all. Be aware that if you do use music or incense or something like that, it may become a sort of a “trigger” for you in the future. Smelling that particular incense or listening to that music will ease you into a meditative state quicker, so do not use music you will hear every day or on the radio!

Get comfortable. You may want to lie down. You may just want to sit comfortably. If you choose to lie down, be careful that you are not over tired or you may fall asleep too soon.

Decide which of your images you are going to use. Let’s say it is “trees.” Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths, and picture these trees. Picture them in your mind as if you are standing next to them or within their presence. Take the time to look at them. How tall are they? How many are there? Do you know what kind they are? What sort of a day is it there? Or is it night? Can you smell or hear anything? Do not “force” anything…do not think that “a forest should smell like such and such.” Just be quiet and see what it does smell like. What you are aiming for is not a static image, but a kind of “movie in your head”…only you are participating in the movie, not just watching it.

If you find your concentration wandering off to mundane matters, try performing an action there in your vision. Walk up to a tree. Touch it. Sit down beneath it. Walk around the glade and see what it looks like from all sides. Know as you do this that this is your space, that you can return here at any time you choose. If you feel like it, pile up some stones or something to mark this space, knowing that they will remain until you return.

The first few times you should not spend an overlong amount of time at it. Ten or fifteen minutes is a long time at such an endeavor. If you only manage it for a few minutes it is still a success.

If you find your concentration just will not hold any longer, it is time to take your leave. Thank the spirits of the place and promise that you will return. Picture yourself making an exit from this place, whether it is laying down a path, hopping in a boat, or whatever suits you. When you are ready to return, you can follow the path or travel in your boat to get back.

Always remember this is Non-ordinary Reality–YOU are shaping it. If you want a path, you do not have to picture yourself hauling dirt and building it by hand. Just think of a nice level dirt path…and there it is. Want to ride off on horseback? Look…there is your horse tethered to a tree, just as you thought he would be. You are the Creator in this little space, and anything you can think of you can Create.

Once you have your sacred space created, you can begin to dedicate it and use it. You can use any methods that would use in a “physical” sacred space, like cleansing, smudging, or purifying with salt. Simply relax, visit your space and perform whatever ceremony you feel is needed.

The fun part here again is that you are creating this in your mind, so money and “reality” are no object. If you’ve always wanted a big two-handed sword to use in your sacred space, you’ve got one. If you want to plant flowers that will stay alive throughout the year, go for it. Build altars, stone circles, fire pits…whatever you desire.

After your space is cleansed you may want to invite the Elder Kin to join you there. You can perform a formal ritual there, with the best mead or wine that you can imagine. Or you may just want to sit in your space quietly and ask if there are any Elders who would like to join you there, and wait to see what kind of a response you get. I would also make an offering of some kind to the land spirits or wights of the place. Even though this space is not “physical” in this reality it does sit in its own “reality” and there are spirits of the place there.

When you are inviting Elder Kin into your space, be patient and be open to what might happen. Do not have any expectations of what such contact will be like, if it happens. The Elder Kin may feel the need to watch you for a while, to gauge the sincerity of your intentions. They may appear to you in an animal form such as a hawk or a deer. Greet any visitors with respect and offer them a gift–you have a limitless supply of gifts and food available. Remember always to show respect to any who choose to enter your space, the same respect you would show an older, wiser person who has something to teach you.

Do not be disappointed if they choose not to speak to you. You may only receive a thought or a feeling. Pay attention to these. It is not polite to ask the name of any who visit you. If they choose to give you a name to call them by they will offer one.

For some people the process is easier than for others. Some seem to be born with the ability to “walk between the worlds.” In ancient times this would have been recognized and valued, and these people would have become shamans or medicine men or the prophetesses at Delphi. In these times you are more likely to spend your growing up years wondering why you see things others can’t and wondering if you will end your days in the loony bin. But no matter your level of inherent ability, anyone can learn to be receptive to Non-Ordinary Reality. Learning to trust yourself and accept the validity of your experiences is the hardest part in this.

A Brief History of the Term Hedgewitch

Hedge Witchery

Hedge is a Teutonic term originally meaning any fence, boundary or enclosure, later meaning a specific type of living thicket planted to act as a fence, enclosure or boundary.

 

Old High German (language used roughly from 500 to 1050 C.E): hegga, hecka

Old Dutch (600 to 1150 C.E.): heggehn

Old Saxon or Old Low German (800 to 1200 C.E) : haeg

Anglo-Saxon or Old English (550 C.E to 1250C.E): hecg, hegge, haga, hecge or hege

Middle English (11th century and about 1470 C.E): hedge, hegge, hedgen, heggen

Suffolk dialect (at least 1300 C.E. to present day): hetch

Modern English (1550 C.E to modern day): hedge

 

Middle English hagathorn meaning “hedge thorn” becomes the modern hawthorn

Old Teutonic stem haja- meaning “behind the hedge” gives rise to the Old English haja, Middle English heye, haye and thus the English hay. Behind the hedge lays the hay field.

The old words for hedge also gave rise to the words hawk (hedge-bird), haggard, edge and hag (witch).

Old English for hedgerow is heggeræw.

 

Saxon haegtessa and the Old English haegtesse, roughly translates to hedge-rider, hag-rider, witch and witch-fury.

 

In a 13th century Icelandic text called the Poetic Edda, we find a long poem called Hávamál, and in that poem the god Odin recites a list of Rune-spells he has learned while hanging upon the World Tree (axis mundi). This part of the Hávamál has come to be called the Song of Spells (by grell). The tenth of these spells particularly interests and inspires Hedgewitches. There are many translations of this verse; here are four of them.

 

For the tenth I know,
if I see troll-wives
sporting in air,
I can so operate
that they will forsake
their own forms,
and their own minds.

~ Benjamin Thorpe

A tenth I know: when at night the witches
ride and sport in the air,
such spells I weave that they wander home
out of skins and wits bewildered.

~ Olive Bray

If I see the hedge-riders magically flying high,
I can make it so they go astray
Of their own skins, and of their own souls.
~ Nigel Pennick

A tenth I know, what time I see
House-riders* flying on high;
So can I work, that wildly they go,
Showing their true shapes,
Hence to their own homes.

~ Henry Adams Bellows

* House-riders: witches, who ride by night on the roofs of houses, generally in the form of wild beasts.

From these translations we can infer that a Hedgewitch or Hedgerider is thus a person with some shamanic qualities. They can ‘ride’, as in travel through and over, the boundary of this world and into the Otherworld. They can leave the “enclosure” or “hedge” of their own body, experience soul-flight and send their spirits to wander in the night. It would also seem that Odin has the power to confuse their spirit flight and to return them back to their own bodies.

One thing we must take into account is that many scholars see the usage of haegtessa or hedgerider etc in the Song of Spells to be mistranslated. Here is the tenth rune spell in Icelandic, as you can see, the word haegtessa does not appear. However, many books written about witchcraft in the modern age use the tenth rune spell as an example of Hedgewitchery and cite the word haegtessa. I should also note that the Song of Spell is written in Icelandic, and haegtessa is Saxon.

 Þat kann ek it tíunda
ef ek sé túnriðir
leika lopti á
ek svá vinnk
at þeir villir fara
sinna heimhama
sinna heimhuga

 

During the Middle Ages hedge begins to be used prefixed with other words to denote something that is born in, or belonging to, the outlying hedges or woods. Something or someone mean, base, low, odd, outlandish, an outsider. Such as hedge-priest, hedge-press, hedge-vicar.

The Raubritter or the robber barons in Germany during the late Middle Ages were sometimes called hedge-knights and even referred to themselves as hedge-riders. They were no doubt referring to the fact that they rode on horses amongst the hedgerows. These knights would descend from their fortified homes and prey upon the peasant class, raiding their cattle, robbing them and even holding people for ransom.

Ernest F. Henderson in “A Short History of Germany” writes: “The knights themselves only saw the humorous side of the matter, and gloried in such names as “hedge-rider”, “highwayman,” “bush-clapper,” “pocket-beater,” and “snap-cock.” “

 

Now we must fast forward to the surge of interest in solitary Wicca, Paganism and Witchcraft takes off in the 1980s and sky rockets, we see more and more books and classes available on the subject as the years go by. The introduction of the internet insures that solitary practice is here to stay.

 

Ronald Hutton in his “The Triumph of the Moon” writes: “Alongside coven-based pagan witchcraft there appeared at the end of the 1980s a formally constituted strain which catered for the solitary practitioner. It was largely given identity by the West Country writer Rae Beth, who standardized for people the delightful term of ‘hedge witch’.”

 

It would seem the people who began to use the term Hedgewitch as a solitary Wiccan practitioner were looking at the usage of hedge from the Middle Ages. They were inspired by such terms as hedge-preacher but had not gone even further back in the history of the word.

During all this we also see a burgeoning interest in home based practice, as well as the nature oriented Witchcraft movement. Terms such as Kitchenwitch, Hearthwitch, Cottagewitch, Greenwitch all start gaining popularity. By the early 1990 you begin to see more and more fictional character called Hedgewitches in fantasy and other genres. In 1994, the now defunct Association of Solitary Hedgewitches (ASH) was established as a contact organisation for solitary Witches to network.

In the 1990s an interest in shamanic traditions also begins to grow tremendously within the Pagan and Witchcraft communities. We also begin to see more and more references to shamanic practices as a part of Hedgewitchery. Even Llewellyn Publications jumps on the bandwagon, adding to its “Witchcraft Today” series a book by Chas Clifton called “Shamanism and Witchcraft Today” wherein the Hedgewitch and Hedge-rider make appearances. Once we reach the year 2000 the term Hedgewitch has grown to mean not only a solitary witch but also one who practices shamanism, herbalism and who is typically found in wild and rural areas.

 

In the year 2000 Eileen Holland writes in “The Wicca Handbook”: “Hedgewitch: a walker-between-worlds, a non-Wiccan witch with a shamanistic path.”

In “Being a pagan: Druids, wiccans, and witches today” by Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond, written in the year 2001, a self proclaimed Hedgewitch named Deborah Ann Light speaks about her practice: “A Hedge Witch is a Witch who lives in the country. We collect things. We wander the roads and byways and gather what we find caught in brambles and under rock and in the roots of trees.”

 

At this point Traditional Witchcraft and other Non-Wiccan forms of Witchcraft had begun to gain popularity. Once reclusive, more and more Traditional Witches write books and create websites, stepping into the limelight for the first time. These Witches lay claim to the word Hedgewitch, saying that it has always meant a shamanic practitioner of folk magick. That it is a Path within Traditional Witchcraft, and the usage of the term for a solitary Wiccan to be incorrect. Proving the claim that Hedgewitch was used by Traditional Witches prior to Rae Beth’s writing in 1990 is impossible unfortunately, due to the very fact that there is no written evidence. Traditional Witchcraft is secretive and the practitioners often oath bound into silence.

What we do know however is that the voices of the Traditional Witchcraft community were heard and the usage of the term Hedgewitch began to sift back into a definition more in keeping with what we find in the Havamal.

 

In a Chapter titled “Dancing on the Edge: Shamanism in Modern Britain” written by Gordon MacLellan from the 2003 work “Shamanism: a reader” edited by Graham Harvey we find: “But we do not have an extant shamanic tradition to draw upon. There are claims for surviving hedge-witch practices, some of the old covens have lasted down the centuries and there are tantalising echoes of still fuller traditions fading with our older generations. Descriptions of the Highland seers sound very like those of entranced shamans. Folk tradition is full of spirit-catchers and witch-bottles and the proper ways of living with the spirit world of Faerie.”

 

By this time even Rae Beth was correcting and adjusting her original definition of “Hedgewitch” stating that at the time of writing that famous book she had not properly done her research into the history of the word. Her spirits had spoken this word to her and she had applied it to her practice at the time without understanding. Today she is encouraging the growing trend of using “Hedgewitch” to mean a spirit walker, one who knows, a shamanic practitioner of Witchcraft. In an interview in the DruidCast Podcast Episode 38 she makes such a statement.

 

“HedgeWitche’s cores practice is centered around the Underworld journey and therefore, around the invoking of trance. There is NO WAY you can enter the Underworld without the alteration of your consciousness, for you will have to experience the inner to access the Underworld. That alteration is done by trance – it is the experience of the inner – without the key of trance, the door will stay fully locked. And so if you want to be a Hedgewitch you need to know how to invoke trance.” From “Hedge-Rider: Witches and the Underworld” by Eric De Vries in 2008

 

From all this we have the modern English word Hedgewitch. There can be variations in the spelling of this term, such as “Hedgewytch”, some may use all lowercase lettering as well. There are also a few related terms, such as Hedge-Riders, Night Travelers, Myrk-Riders (“myrk” being the old spelling for “murky”, or a kind of darkness), Gandreidh (wand-rider). The old term of Cunning Folk is sometimes used, and also Walkers on the Wind.

Today its exact usage is still being shaped and taking form. The simplest definition would be a Witch whose practice is earth-based, involves the use and study of folk traditions, the practice of spirit work and divination, and is shamanic in nature.

 

What is a Hedgewitch?

 Hedgewitchery, or Hedgecraft, is a kind of combination of Witchcraft and Shamanism. For the most part, this path comes from the Traditional Witchcraft and Cunning Folk traditions of Europe from ancient to modern times. It is something of an eclectic or syncretic tradition, but just how much so depends on each individual practitioner.

 

The basic modern definition of Hedgewitch is comparable to older definitions of wisewoman, cunning man, medicine man, shaman and seer, seid workers and völur, herb healer or folk healer. It is loosely based on such traditions from throughout history. Hedgewitches are involved with herbalism and healing, along with a deep love for and understanding of Nature added to the mix. If you think “Hedgewitch” and picture the strange old lady who sold herbs and magickal charms, acted as midwife and healer in the ancient times, you are not far off. Nor are you far off if you picture the wise sage who would cast bones to divine the future or journey in the Otherworlds to heal members of his community.

 

Throughout history, shamanic, wise-woman and cunning-man traditions have risen and fallen all over the world. These kinds of traditions have never truly died out. In recent years, more and more people within the Western world are turning to them and adapting them to modern times. Modern Hedgecraft is the study, adaptation and practice of these ancient nature-based, spiritual, shamanic and healing traditions in our modern lives.

 

Hedgewitches can come from any cultural background, but the majority of Hedgewitches seem to come from European ancestry. This means that most Hedgewitches will practice based on the folklore and traditions of the ancient Celts, Vikings, Romans, Greeks, Slavs, Anglo-Saxons and so forth.

 

Most Hedgewitches look to their own heritage to find inspiration and lore. Yet some are drawn to the traditions of other cultures. Some may seek to learn from other cultures to gain a better understanding of their own heritage, as well as a greater respect for others. Hedgewitches are not opposed to the study of modern tradition as well, for they strive to bridge the gap between old and new. To blend old traditions with a modern lifestyle in a workable and practical manner is a hallmark of Hedgecraft.

 

The shamanic aspect is the most important of all in Hedgecraft, for to call oneself a Hedgewitch is to call oneself a shaman, prophet, oracle, spirit worker or seer. A shaman is a person who traverses the axis mundi and who enters the Otherworlds to commune with ancestors, gods and spirits for many purposes and using many different techniques (by james). The word “shaman” comes originally from the Turkic word “šamán” and translates as “one who knows”. This word has been used by peoples of the Turkic-Mongol and Tungus cultures of Siberia for many centuries. It was introduced to Europe from Siberia to Russia and then into Germany.

 

Later, white colonists coming to the New World and Africa applied the words “medicine man” and “witch doctor” to the healers and holy people of tribal cultures. These titles were eventually replaced by “shaman”. This is why people of European decent are often told by “shamans”” of other races and cultures they should not call themselves “medicine men” or “shamans”. Those of us who have white skin need not borrow words from other cultures for such practices. For we do have our own traditions and words, and names, for such people, and we can (and should) use them with pride.

 

“Hedgewitch” comes from the Saxon word “haegtessa” and the Old English “hægtesse”, which can roughly translate to “hedge-rider”, with “haeg” meaning a “hedge””, “fence” or “enclosure”.However “hægtesse”, and the shortened “haeg”, not only translates to “hedge-rider” and “hedge” but can also be translated as “hag”, “witch” and “fury””. From this we have the modern English word “Hedgewitch”. Since we take the name for this form of Witchcraft from the word “hedge”,let us take a look at what a hedge means to the Hedgewitch.

 

The concept of a boundary hedge in a spiritual and magickal sense stems from the tradition of hedgelaying, or growing hedgerows. Hedgerows are carefully landscaped intricate layers of plant-life. The European landscape has been crisscrossed by hedgerows since the time of the Roman occupations and possibly before. The Anglo-Saxons also used hedgerows extensively, and many of these ancient hedgerows still exist today. The early European colonists in the New World put up hedgerows, though often with different species of plants. In Europe the most common species growing in hedgerows are the hawthorn and blackthorn, whereas in North America cedar and juniper hedges are more common.

 

These often-large rows of shrub, herb and tree are boundaries for farmsteads, pastures, villages, ditches and roads. In ancient times, at the very edge of a human settlement, there was a sturdy hedgerow keeping the wilderness and wildlife out of field, pasture and garden. Crossing a hedge means crossing a boundary of some sort, such as walking into the wild, going from wheat field to cow pasture, or entering another person’s property.

 

A hedgerow is not just a boundary, but is also a protective home and shelter to all kinds of wildlife, such as rabbits and birds. They provide shade and act as a windbreak. The hedgerow is also a place where foxes and hares being hunted may hide and where hunters will send their hounds to flush game. Hedgerows were also very important in keeping the herds in and the predators out.

 

Berry and fruit bearing trees and shrubs are grown in hedgerows, making them a source of food for both animals and humans alike. They may also have both healing as well as baneful herbs and plants growing within them. While beautiful, these hedgerows will typically sport thorn bushes and other plant life that can be hazardous if you are not respectful of the hedge and what grows and lives within.

 

For the Hedgewitch, “the Hedge” is not just a physical boundary but also a metaphor for the line drawn between this world and the next, between reality and dreamscape. It represents the threshold between the many Worlds. In short, the Hedge is what many Pagans refer to as the Veil. It is also the boundary between civilization and the wild, the place where the wildwoods and the urban jungle meet.

 

The more one learns of the tradition of laying hedgerows, as well as about hedges themselves, the more the use of “hedge” for this Craft becomes clearly appropriate.

 

In a 13th century Icelandic text called the Poetic Edda, we find a long poem called Hávamál, and in that poem the god Odin recites a list of Rune-spells he has learned while hanging upon the World Tree (axis mundi). This part of theHávamál has come to be called the Song of Spells. The tenth of these spells particularly interests and inspires Hedgewitches. There are many translations of this verse; here are four of them.



For the tenth I know,
if I see troll-wives
sporting in air,
I can so operate
that they will forsake
their own forms,
and their own minds.

~ Benjamin Thorpe

 

A tenth I know: when at night the witches
ride and sport in the air,
such spells I weave that they wander home
out of skins and wits bewildered.

~ Olive Bray

If I see the hedge-riders magically flying high,
I can make it so they go astray
Of their own skins, and of their own souls.
~ Nigel Pennick

A tenth I know, what time I see
House-riders* flying on high;
So can I work, that wildly they go,
Showing their true shapes,
Hence to their own homes.

~ Henry Adams Bellows

* House-riders: witches, who ride by night on the roofs of houses, generally in the form of wild beasts.

 

A Hedgewitch is thus a person with some shamanic qualities. They can ‘ride’, as in travel through and over, the boundary of this world and into the Otherworld. They can leave the “enclosure” or “hedge” of their own body, experience soul-flight and send their spirits to wander in the night. It also appears that at least one god knows how to confuse their shamanic travels and send them packing back home!

 

The true origin of the term “Hedgewitch” may never be known. It is a modern English term, likely to have originated in Great Britain within the last century. Yet a word does not have to be old to be legitimate. English is still a young language; it is changing and growing all the time. Our ancestors had their own names, in their own languages, for such traditions. “Hedgewitch” is for our culture, in our language. There can be variations in its spelling, such as “Hedgewytch”, and a few related terms, such as Hedge-Riders, Night Travelers, Myrk-Riders (“myrk” being the old spelling for “murky”, or a kind of darkness), Gandreidh (wand-rider). Cunning Folk is sometimes used, and also Walkers on the Wind.

 

Throughout history and in many cultures the Hedgewitch (wisewoman, cunning man, shaman, etc) lived at the edge of the community, often amongst or just beyond the outlying hedgerows. Hedgewitches in history were typically folks who lived somewhat on the fringes of society, not just by actually physically living beyond the township, but often by being outspoken women and men who did not follow societal norms.  Just as shamans in other cultures often live somewhat apart from the people they serve, so did many of the folk healers, seers, spirit workers and such folk in Europe and its colonies. For one of the causes that these shamanic-type practitioners take up is to speak the truth, even when the truth is ugly. Also they will do what is needed for people, even if it goes against the grain or wins them no popularity in the community at large.

 

A wonderful example of this is Biddy Early, a folk healer who lived in Ireland from 1798 to 1874. Biddy served her community not only with herbalism but also by using her intuition and utilizing magical charms. She had a bottle containing a mysterious dark liquid which she would peer through. By some sort of scrying method with this bottle, she would divine the necessary cures for her clients. This bottle went everywhere with her and was on her person when she died. Biddy was outspoken and would often speak strongly against the abuses that the peasant folk around her endured. She was also known to have many unkind words for the Catholic Church and its parish priests as well. In 1865 Biddy was accused of witchcraft and taken to court. Despite her reputation as a troublesome and strange woman, few people were willing to testify against her and she was released. Biddy died of old age some nine years later.

 

These folk healers, spirit workers, and “Hedgewitches” served the community in many ways. They earned a living through such means as divination and prophecy, midwifery, healing, protection spells, house blessings, crop and livestock blessings, herbalism or wortcunning and understanding nature. One of the most common practices was the selling of magickal charms and spells of protection from curses and bad luck.

 

A Hedgewitch might sell one member of her community a small curse or ill-wish one day, and then charge its victim a fee to break the curse the next. Therefore, people who followed such traditions were respected and likely a little feared because of these abilities. They were also looked upon as a little strange because they had such a close relationship with both the natural and spiritual worlds.

 

In modern times, a Hedgewitch is usually (but not always) found outside the city, perhaps on an acreage or farm, often practicing by herself or within the family. They work much as the cunning folk of old, helping neighbors, friends and family with ailments, shamanic healings, and even blessing the odd field.  Hedgewitches will work in cultivated gardens and farmsteads, but often prefer time spent in the woods and other wild areas. They may very well be the only modern Witches you can find tromping through ditches and vacant lots or even climbing out of a stinking culvert.

 

A Cottagewitch, Hearthwitch, Greenwitch or Kitchenwitch works mostly in her garden and in her home. A Hedgewitch will practice largely in the home as well, but will likely spend more of her time gathering her herbs and practicing her craft in rural or wild places than many other Witches. A Cottage or Hearth witch, Greenwitch or Kitchenwitch may use some trance or shamanic techniques in her practice, but has probably not received the call to Shamanize. To Shamanize is to be called by your spirits or the gods to become a shaman, to serve your community, spirits and gods as a Hedge-rider. A Hedgewitch has the “fire in the head” also commonly known in this Path as the Cunning Fire. A Hedgewitch is “one who knows”.

 

Although many of the traditions that a Hedgewitch draws from have changed – after all, lore is lost and knowledge changes over the centuries – you will find most Hedgewitches prefer to practice as close to traditionally as possible. Yet still in a manner practical for these modern times. Hedgewitches are very adaptable. You may find a Hedgewitch casting a spell on a modern tractor that comes right out of a book on Cornish folklore, for an example.  Another Hedgewitch might play a drumming CD on his stereo while he performs a traditional rite to bring about a much needed weather change.

 

Often the typical deities of a Hedgewitch (should she have any at all) will be the Witch Queen and the Master of the Craft from within the cultural context they are working in. Not exactly the Wiccan Lord and Lady but close enough that many Wiccans feel comfortable taking up the work of a Hedgewitch. Working with the Mighty Dead and their own ancestors is also a very important part of this Path. They will also work with familiar spirits, land and nature spirits, Totems, their Fetch and the like, all to assist in their work. Hedgewitches look to these spirits to provide bits of lost lore and also for inspiration and aid.

 

Hedgewitches use herbal concoctions known as flying ointments, as well as shamanic techniques such as drumming and meditation, to induce altered states of consciousness. This is not something that Hedgewitches take lightly, nor do they use such techniques and ointments as a short-cut to the Mysteries. They understand very well the dangers of this practice and enter into such rites and workings with eyes wide open. They will experiment with their ointments and techniques, often for years. They increase the potency gradually, rather than simply “jumping in to the deep end”. Many foolish young Pagans have done that, and then learned the hard way the consequences of such actions.

 

Hedgewitches often refer to shamanic journeys as “Walking the Hedge,” “Riding the Hedge,” “Oot and Aboot,” or “Crossing/Jumping the Hedge.” They also have a tendency to spend much of their lives with one foot on either side of the Hedge, which makes them eccentric to say the least. It is said that being called to become a Hedgewitch and then answering that call can make you a shaman, a poet or a madman, or some mixture of all of the above. Hedgewitches are known to be outspoken and to be less interested in fitting-in. They also will often see and experience things whilst Walking the Hedge that changes the way they perceive the ordinary world around them. Giving them different and often opposing views on everything from politics, to social rules to fashion sense.

 

A Hedgewitch walks freely into caol ait, Gaelic for the “thin places” between one world and another. They learn not only to find such places, but how to use them effectively. More experienced Hedgewitches can open them even when the Hedge is at its thickest between the Hallowed Feasts. The Hallowed Feasts are the holy days that fall between the solstices and equinoxes, and are often called High Days by modern Pagans. The most well known of these days would be Samhain, or Halloween.

 

Spirituality in Hedgewitches varies and depends on the individual; usually they look to their own heritage and ancestry. The only tradition Hedgewitches typically follow is a reverence for nature, though some may come from a more formal Pagan path originally.

Hedgewitches commonly do practice some form of Paganism, but many make no claim to any practice but that of Hedgecraft or Hedgeriding. It seems rather a lot of Hedgewitches practice a form of Traditional Witchcraft, such as that which is based on the work of Robert Cochrane.  More and more Wiccans are also taking up the work of a Hedgewitch, perhaps because Traditional Wicca lacks a strong shamanic element. Many (in fact possibly most) Hedgewitch look to historical accounts of witchcraft, magick, healing and religion for inspiration and as a basis of their magickal and spiritual Paths.

 

The main distinction between Hedgewitchery and other forms of Witchcraft is that Hedgewitches often have less interest in the heavily scripted and ceremonial aspects of some types of modern Paganism and Witchcraft. For they have a highly individual and often unique way of relating to life, spirituality, magick and Creation.  A Hedgewitch prefers the freedom and joyfulness of spontaneous workings that come from the heart. For the Hedgewitch there is no separation between normal life and their magickal one, for their normal life is magickal. The Craft they practice strongly reflects this belief.

 

Hedgewitches do whatever comes naturally to them; they follow their instincts, and their heart. This does however charge the Hedgewitch with the need to know themselves and their own hearts well. It also does not free them from the need to properly research and study. Rather it means each Hedgewitch must work to achieve a balance of intuition and research, instinct and study, spontaneity and script.

 

Most Hedgewitches do not cast circles in a Wiccan sense.  They may either have other methods to mark sacred space, or not bother at all. After all, Hedgewitches believe that all space is sacred. Some Hedgewitches may do such things as Lay a Compass Rose or Plough the Bloody Furrow in their practice. But whether they do or not, and how exactly they go about it, will vary. With these methods Hedgewitches attempt to “dig down” into the magickal, natural forces and energies of the Otherworlds and draw them into their working space. The center, usually marked by some symbol of the axis mundi, is the focal point and other directions lain out ritually. At the center a gap in the Hedge is created so that Hedgewitches can interact with, or enter into, the Otherworlds.

 

These Witches do not typically follow one particular moral code, but rather their own personal ethics and often some version of the credo to “do what is needed” and to “Know Thyself”. Until they can face who they truly are and who they wish to become, they cannot create a functional magickal and spiritual practice. Hedgewitches do not take up the Wiccan Rede of “harm none” for they understand that sometimes in order to heal one must do harm, and sometimes to harm is to heal.

 

Hedgewitches walk the Crooked Path, the Path that winds and twists its way between the right-hand and left-hand Paths, between right and wrong, between light and dark. Hedgewitches walk all borders and prefer the grey areas, having little interest in all black or all white magick or spiritual workings. The Crooked Path also refers to a Path that twists and turns within a landscape, not a road that cuts straight through it and thus damages that very landscape.

 

Most Hedgewitches use few synthetic objects in their spells and rituals. Their tools are typically very practical, such as a walking stick.  Often they will use a stang, even pruning shears, and their tools are handmade by them as much as possible. Most Hedgewitches use only what is needed, meaning they do not clutter an altar (if they should use an altar at all) with items that will not be actively used during a working or rite. They also are practical enough to utilize what is on hand or readily available. Substitutions are acceptable when given thought.

 

Hedgewitches usually study herbalism, wildcrafting, rootwork and wortcunning with gusto. They seek knowledge and understanding of the ways of Nature, such as the cycle of the seasons and the wildlife and plant-life in their area. Hedgewitches may know how to grow herbs in a garden, but are more likely to study where and how they grow in the wild and how to gather them. They usually have a great deal of lore on trees and plant life, animals, and the wilderness in general.

 

Hedgewitches tailor their Path to suit themselves. Some may focus on wortcunning, while others study midwifery, or focus on animal husbandry.  Others may be well versed in healing with crystals. Many Hedgewitches choose to be a jack of many trades, but a master of none or few. This means that a Hedgewitch must learn wherein their own talents and abilities lay, also to accept their own limitations and not take on more than they can handle. Here again we find the need to apply the axiom “Know Thyself”. Hedgewitches are called to serve their communities, whatever shape that community may take, and will use their natural talents and the knowledge they have gained to do so.

 

While Hedgewitchery is something of a solitary path, this is not always so. Some of their practices, especially the shamanic ones, require a trusted friend or group to watch over their body while their soul is elsewhere. Even the most hermit-like Hedgewitch can still be found at the local Pagan event now and then. Some may have friends or domestic partners who follow another Pagan, Heathen or Witchcraft path, and they will often happily join in any ritual or activity if invited. Yet most Hedgewitches may just be rebels and rabble-rousers; this is after all, an Outsider Path.

 

The daily spiritual practice of a Hedgewitch will be adapted to her individual abilities, interests, and lifestyle. One Hedgewitch may start his mornings offering up prayers of thanksgiving as he collects eggs from the chicken coop. Another Hedgewitch may spend her mornings in quiet meditation on her patio; sipping tea and watching the deer graze in her lawn. A third Hedgewitch may say a quick prayer at the household shrine before racing off to work. And when it is needed, each Hedgewitch will spend a day fasting and preparing for a night of ritual work or Hedge Crossing.

 

So what the heck is a Hedgewitch anyways?

 

You may prefer rural or wild settings and may be a little wild yourself. You might be looking for a tradition that is adaptable and practical, one that combines “old school” Witchcraft and a modern life. You may be seeking tradition that adds a focus on European-based shamanism and the practical application of folklore to the mix.

 

Are you looking for a tradition that leans heavily on natural magic, understanding the land and the practice of healing lore? Do you want a tradition that focuses on personal experience, experimentation and doing-it-yourself? Perhaps you wish to blaze your own Path, like the Witches of old? You might just have that Cunning Fire burning in your head, heart and soul.

 

You may just be a Hedgewitch.

 

The tenth Rune-spell I do know

Is to gaze deep into the murky night

And spy the Hedgewitches flying high,

Sending their spirits far and wide

I see their true forms

I can confuse their wandering souls

Then turn them ‘round and send them home

Back into their bodies, back within their own skins