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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The Wild Gods

The Wild Gods I love the word wilderness.  It conjures up images of windswept moors and heathland, dark tangling forests and craggy mountaintops.  That spirit of the untamed, the uncivilised, that spark that humanity cannot touch, much in the same way as deity is traditionally viewed.  For many Druids, that wilderness is deity – it has the power to give or sustain life or the power to kill.  It has not and, in many places, cannot be touched by human hands, existing without any human interference.  I like to think that same dark spark exists within our own human souls as well, offering us the sanctity of the wilderness within.

The concept of the “untouched” wilderness is an interesting one.  I rather wonder if it has anything to do with secular religious views that have crept into our culture predominantly for the last thousand years or so.  The concept of the virgin forest, the virgin wilderness – I have to say, I really dislike the term.  It is nice to think that there are places in the world where humans have never been – but still, it’s the terminology that is rather uncomfortable.  I have been to places where humans have lived with the landscape, and who live there no more – the wilderness has returned.  Where stone buildings once stood, nature has reclaimed it, slowly destroying it until nothing remains but the songs on the wind.  Virginity cannot ever be reclaimed – and in this regard, I find the term does not work within the context of the natural world.  As it works in cycles, what happened once can be undone.

As wilderness flows with the cycles, it shows that it cares little about anything else. It exists to exist – there is no other.  It follows its own song, and will continue to do so.  Humans may interfere with the existing wilderness, “taming” it if you will, but it will continue to carry on attempting to restore itself to its original state.  It is that spirit, that sense of soul song reclaiming itself again and again that I find so fascinating.  The weeds will continue to sprout in the garden, whether we are farming organically or not (I really hope that all reading this do!).  The wind will continue to blow regardless of skyscrapers, bridges, mountaintops or 500 year old yew trees.

This could be seen a thoughtless – and, when examining it closer, it is.  Nature does not think – it simply does.  The rose blooms because that is what it does, the fox destroys the hen house because that it what it does.  When we humans enter (albeit very briefly) a state of grace where thoughts are pushed aside and we simply do (giving birth, for example) we experience this whole other realm of existence.  I believe that when we enter this state, we very much come close to our gods.

For, in my personal views, the gods don’t care.  They exist to exist – nothing else matters.  Prayers to them are for establishing a relationship, not to make them care more about our personal lives.  And so the gods of the wilderness are truly wild.

How we treat the wilderness both within and without should be made with respect to the gods of the wild places.  If wilderness is viewed as deity, then our whole perception of it is changed.  We may leave it alone – as deity can kill. We may work to protect it, fighting fiercely for it like one of our own.  However, any way we look at it, we look at it with new respect.  We honour its song.

My personal treatment of these wild places is to leave no trace of my human passing, should I venture into an area of wilderness.  Taking a pedantic view, no area will ever be the same – our footprints tread on beetle under leaves, our passage destroying the spider’s web spanning from branch to branch.  However, nothing is every the same – life is continually happening, being born, being created, living and dying all around us.  My aim in life is to honour this cycle, most apparent in the wilderness of the landscapes around me, as well as the wilderness in my own soul.  You don’t mess with the gods.  You don’t sublimate to them either, but still you don’t mess with them.  We may seek to understand, to establish communication, a relationship with them, but we should not interfere in their song in these places where it is so strong, so precious.  For it is in these places where we see clearly the divinity within nature, and so seeing the nature of the divine.

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Tagged in: deity Druid god Pagan wild
  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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