Hedge Riding: The Art of the Hedge Witch

Walking the Path of the Hedge Witch and the Hedge Druid, Learning the Craft and the Art of Hedge Riding

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Lammas: Don't Fear the Reaper

The grain harvest is being collected in the fields around my home. The usually still and silent evening air is filled with the sound of combine harvesters, accentuated every now and then with the hoot of a tawny owl. Lammas is upon us.

Standing on a footpath that divides two large fields, one side filled with barley just reaped, the other with wheat standing pale golden in the sun, I raise my hands to the blue sky and give my thanks for all that nourishes us. I walk a ways into the cut field, the harsh stubs of barley amid the dry, sandy earth and place my hands upon the soil. Thank you for your blessing, may the land be nourished even as it nourishes us. Hail and thanks be to the goddess. I then move to stand on the edge of the wheat field, allowing its song of potential to flow through me. I brush the bent heads filled with seed and say another prayer of thanks. 

This is a wonderful time of year, when the songs of the ancestors flow through the rural heartlands of Britain.  Though the way we harvest is different, still there is that cycle of growth, of planting and harvesting. After the long hot days of midsummer, the lengthening evenings are welcome, bringing cooler air. Though the dog days may still lie ahead of us, there is something different in the air at this time of year.  The scents have changed, the leaves are dark green and heavy, the foliage beginning to choke out and fall back.

I love this time of year. The birds have fledged, and the muntjac deer are at the end of their mating season. The stag barks occasionally for his hind on the other side of the hedge, and this year's badger family come to visit every night to eat the fallen birdseed from our table and the peanuts that we put out. The sidhe are active at their special spots, over by the burial mound as they are at each of the fire festivals. It is a time of celebration, though there is still much work to be done.

With the harvest going into full swing, thoughts turn to death and sacrifice as we begin the descent into the dark half of the year. And yet, as a Druid and a Buddhist I know that there is no such thing as death, or birth; only manifestation. When conditions are right, things will manifest as they are. When conditions are insufficient, they will fall back.  When I look at my garden, and see the beautiful flowers there I know that they are alive and well. In the winter, when I look at the same garden, though the flowers are not visible, they are still there, waiting for the right conditions to manifest. There is no birth, no death, only a cycle of manifestation and falling away, the perpetually spinning Wheel of the Year.

When I see the flowers are still there, even in the middle of winter, I know that to fear death is not the right frame of mind.  The grain is harvested in the fields, but it does not fear the reaper. It will come again.  This wonderful existence is a blessing. We need not fear annihilation, for there is no such thing. When we "die", the conditions are simply insufficient. We will come back when those conditions are right. We change our material form, melting into the soil, coming into the plants and the water, evaporating into the air, falling again as rain.  Our spirit may manifest again in human body, and we become our own descendants.  The acorn that falls from the tree is still a part of the tree. When the parent tree begins to descend into decay, it is still there, in the acorns and in the soil, in the air and in our hearts.

I honour John Barleycorn, the Grain God, who falls beneath the sickle of the goddess of the land, not fearing but knowing that he will be reborn again in the spring.

Hoof and horn, hoof and horn,

All that dies shall be reborn.

Corn and grain, corn and grain,

All that falls shall rise again.


b2ap3_thumbnail_cover-high-res.jpg Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid and author of the best-selling The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid. She lives in Suffolk near the coast of the North sea with her husband and two cats. To find out more, please visit her website at www.joannavanderhoeven.com

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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 30 years. She has written many books, including The Path of the Hedge Witch: Simple, Natural Magic and the Art of Hedge Riding, as well as The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker. Find her channels on social media at YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.


  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Thursday, 04 August 2016

    Thank you, Joanna. This is beautifully expressed. I really like your statement, expressed in other writings, that death is not the opposite of life; it is only the opposite of birth.

  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven Friday, 05 August 2016

    Hi Ted - thank you for your continued support. Yes, birth and death are an action, an event. Life is simply a constant flow of manifestation, in all its forms! Energy cannot be destroyed, but can become matter. Matter cannot be destroyed, but become energy. There is no annihilation, only change and impermanence. When we see that, then there is no fear :)

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