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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Ancestors and Integration

I learned something fascinating this weekend.  I learned that as women, when we are in our mother's womb, we already have all the ovum (eggs) that we will release during our fertile years. So, to put that into context, when my mother was in my grandmother's womb, I was also there, partly, as one of the eggs that would be fertilised by my father.  This link only occurs in women, and it just blew my mind.  I was in my grandmother's womb.

Our lines of ancestry can be glorious and transformational journeys of discovery. Not only in a historical sense, exploring records and genealogy, but also connecting spiritually with our ancestors.  As the darkness creeps in and the days get shorter, in the cooling air with the harvest being taken in the fields all around me, my thoughts turn to my ancestors and to the self, releasing into the approaching autumn and finding great comfort and joy in the letting go.

In order to release that sense of self, however, we must first come to know our self.  Exploring who we are, where we came from, what makes us "us" is key to this work.  Understanding circumstances, experiences, lines of ancestry can enrich our lives and help us to uncover depths of our own soul that may have previously escaped our notice.

I first worked with the ancestors when I was taking Bobcat's Living Druidry course with her and eleven other students in the beautiful setting of the Cotswolds. (There is now a simplified free online course available on The Druid Network, entitled A Perennial Course in Living Druidry.)  She led us through a guided ancestor meditation, reaching back into our bloodlines, to connect with the ancestors and our own sense of self, to heal and to understand, to go deeper into our work and exploration with darkness.  It was a journey of transformation, one of many that really began my work on the Druid path.

Exploring our human ancestors, and coming to know them and their glorious victories, their horrendous downfalls, can create a sense of deep soul-healing through acceptance.  When we accept who we are, when we accept our ancestors, we can heal and face issues that may have previously held us back. By not wanting to confront certain issues we may never actually progress and be free. As human beings, we are all ultimately seeking freedom, the freedom to be, to engage, to inspire and be inspired. In that freedom is the ultimate joy.

Standing on the edge of the barley field, awaiting the combine harvester that will approach any day now, I think of the ancestors of this land, working with it, trying to understand, living with the very real understanding of life and death. I also see the non-human ancestors of this land, animal, mineral and vegetable, and how they are manifested in different ways.  Watching the harvest, I know that death is not obliteration or annihilation, but simply a change in manifestation.  Death is not the opposite of life. Death is simply an occurrence in our life, and is the opposite of birth. Life itself has no opposite.  We are simply changing our form upon death, being released into the soil and the wind, constantly changing, reflecting the impermanence of the world.

Understanding our ancestry is crucial if we are to let go of that sense of self in order to deeply integrate with the natural world around us.  As a Druid, I seek that release in order to not only better understand the world around me, but to become the world around me.  Exploring human and non-human ancestry, I can see my mother and father in me. I can see the sun in me, and the stars even when hidden by daylight. I can see the granite rocks and sandy soil within me, the bacteria and little creepy-crawlies. I see the hawk and the otter, the salmon and the rain, the wind and the moonlight within me.  With all these things within me, I know that I am more than my mind, more than the concept of Joanna van der Hoeven.  I am the world and the world is me.  In the approaching twilight of autumn, I release myself into my environment, honouring my ancestors and filled with awen.

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  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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