Hedge Riding: The Art of the Hedge Witch

Bringing the Hedge back into Hedge Witchcraft, working with liminal spaces and the Otherworld

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Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

  Joanna van der Hoeven is a Hedge Witch, Druid, and a best-selling author. She has been working in Pagan traditions for over 20 years. She is the Director of Druid College UK, helping to re-weave the connection to the land and teaching a modern interpretation of the ancient Celtic religion.  

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Faeries and Liminal Places

So, apologies for being so long since my last blog post! I’ve been burning the midnight oil, with my new book being launched on 8 July. Now I can take a step back, as I’ve done all I can, and wait to see how the book is received. It’s an anxious time, but also an exciting time for most authors, an in-between time. These liminal times seem to be a recurring theme in my life. And not least to do with the denizens of the Otherworld.

There are certain times of the year when I feel closest to the Fair Folk, the Faeries, the Twlwyth Teg, the Sidhe, however you wish to call them. Beltane and Samhain are the usual portals when the veils between this world and the Otherworld are at their thinnest, but the time around Summer Solstice and high summer also holds a great and powerful bridge that spans across to take us into the most enchanted of places. The long twilight nights are ideal for communing with the Otherworld, and it’s lovely and warm enough on a summer evening.

As a Hedge Druid and a Hedge Witch, I have found several places around where I live where I feel a certain magical quality exists, one that is most definitely fey.

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The Solar Path - The Sabbats for the Hedge Witch (Part Two)

Samhain

We all know of the modern-day Hallowe’en that falls on the 31st October, but few outside of the Craft know of the origins of this festival. Samhain is a Celtic festival that celebrates the time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thin, and we can connect more easily with the unseen, both in the form of the Fair Folk (faeries) as well as the ancestors. The Celts reckoned their days from sunset to sunset, and so Samhain would run from sunset on the 31st October to sunset on the 1st November. The Celts divided the year into two halves, the dark half and the light half, and we see this reflected in much of Modern Witchcraft today. How this is divided depends on the tradition. If you are following on from the Celtic lore, the dark half of the year begins at Samhain, and ends at Beltane, when the light half of the year begins. This is the Celtic beginning of Winter and Summer, for they only considered two seasons in their worldview. Samhain means “summer’s end”. Other traditions of Witchcraft see the dark and light halves of the year commencing at the solstices, with the myth of the Oak King and the Holly King. We will explore this later when we look at the solstices.

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The Solar Path - The Sabbats for the Hedge Witch (Part One)

Just as the Hedge Witch follows the tides of the moon, so too does she follow the cycles of the sun.  She pays attention to the length of days, and knows where it rises and sets in her local area throughout the year through careful observation. She has spent many mornings and evening watching the sunrise and sunset from the same vantage point, so that she can pull all her solar knowledge into her Craft, and make it applicable to her work.

The tides of the sun are reflected in the eight Sabbats found in modern Witchcraft and Wicca. Not all Witches follow all eight, as some prefer to follow only the Celtic Fire Festivals which mark agricultural times, rather than solar phenomena. However, we know that our megalithic ancestors followed the solstices and equinoxes with the building of their temples and stone circles, and so today many in Modern Paganism and Witchcraft follow all eight festivals. So, we follow the path of the sun in the two equinoxes and solstices, as well as the four Fire Festivals which mark important timings in the agricultural year, as dictated by the sun’s gifts and the local weather.

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Ostara

Here is a little video that I made regarding the upcoming Sabbat of Ostara. Blessings of the Spring Equinox to you all!

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The Moon Path Part Two

Last month I began to write about the relationship between the moon and the witch. Let's continue the discussion here. 

There are many different names for the various moons throughout the yearly cycle, and perhaps the most famous of all is the Coligny Calendar, a Gallic lunar calendar dating back to the 2nd century. Indeed, we derive the word “month” from the word “moon”, and so to follow a lunar calendar in our Craft makes perfect sense. In the Coligny calendar, the moons start from the sixth night of the waxing moon, and are described as thus: 

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The Moon Path Part One

The moon is perhaps the most magical draw to the path of Witchcraft. By its silvery light, the world is changed, is made mysterious and beautiful with darkness around its edges. The moon is utterly enchanting, as we watch it move through its phases, from dark to full and back to dark again. Within the cycle of the moon, we can see the cycle of our lives.

Yet, like all things on this planet, the moon does not operate independently. Its light is a reflection of the sun, and it is held in place by the earth’s gravitational pull. The moon pulls as well, causing the high and low tides, and swelling the world’s seas and oceans with its magnetic draw. So too are we pulled by the energy of the moon, from high to low, from dark to light, dancing in its energy.

Witches have always been associated with the moon. They were said to gather under the light of the full moon for their Sabbaths, or honour moon goddesses with devotional rites. The play of darkness and light with the moon’s energy appeals to many a Witch, who honours both the light and the dark in her or his life. There are many deities associated with the moon, and many cycles from various cultures around the world follow a lunar-based schedule, whether it is for planting or reaping crops, or creating a calendar that honours each of the 13 moons in a year’s cycle.

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What is Hedge Witchcraft?

So what is hedge witchcraft? Hedge witchcraft is often seen today as a solitary pursuit, crafting one’s life in a magical way that reflects the talents and abilities of the practitioner. The term hedge witch was coined by the author Rae Beth in her book, Hedge Witch: A Guide to Solitary Witchcraft (1992). She took the term “hedge” from “hedge priest”, one who preached from the hedgerow, and who had no physical place for a congregation. A renegade, a solitary, a priest who didn’t follow the rules. This still appeals to many today, myself included.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    You're most welcome
  • Lynn Hixson
    Lynn Hixson says #
    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you!

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