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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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.

But there is more to hedge witchcraft than to simply work alone. Held deep within the tradition is the art of hedge riding, of walking between the worlds, of being able to find the liminal places and to traverse the paths that lead to deeper wisdom and knowledge. The boundaries between this world and the Otherworld are manifold; you only have to know where to look. Hedges, as liminal places, demarcating once place from another, from the homestead to the wilderness, were wonderful places that could be used for just such an endeavour. To go through the hedge was to travel into another world, to follow the heart into the wilds and to receive information to bring back into this world. It was to step outside of the known and into the unknown.

Hedge riding goes back hundreds of years. The German word, hagazissa, meant “hedge sitter”. This is one who straddles the boundaries of this world and the next, of time and space, the known and the unknown, the civilised and the wild. They could ride that boundary line into the Otherworld, to talk with spirits and the fey folk, to bring healing and other information back to their community. Working with hedges, and with trees, has long been a part of magical traditions the world over. Druidry is a Pagan tradition deeply connected to trees, as the word Druid means “wisdom of the oak”. The Hedge Witch operates in much the same function, but perhaps in a less formal way, not so much in the role of a priest as the Druids of old were, but in the cunning folk who cared in other ways for the community.

The art of hedge riding can still be seen today, in the traditional portrait of a witch riding her broom. The broom is the magical tree which takes her to other worlds, and in this work we will use trees, staffs, wands, brooms and more. It is a symbol of the World Tree, the axis mundi, that so many religious and spiritual traditions the world over use in their cosmology. Through this world tree, we find the roads leading to the faery realms, the realms of the ancestors, and the realms of the gods.

The shamanic nature of hedge riding appeals to many within the tradition who are aware of the hedge riding nature of this path. It is learning to access through journeys in the mind and spirit, as well as in the physical, information that can be useful in everyday life. It also re-enchants our world, allowing us to see the beauty that lies all around us, the magical and the wonderful, the awe-inspiring moments that transcend “normal”, mundane life. It can be compared to the Northern or Norse tradition of seith, an ancient trance-based oracular tradition that often uses communication with various beings while leaving your physical body and being between the worlds in an astral form.[1] While seith is usually a group working, hedge riding is a more solitary affair, though it may be used to benefit the community at large and not just the practitioner. It can be viewed as a form of astral travel, where the consciousness of the hedge witch travels to the Otherworld, but it can also be done on the physical as well, where we can use the real-life hedge or other liminal marker to move beyond this realm and into another (with all due precaution and skill). In either aspect, an altered form of consciousness helps us in the work.

With this information gained or gleaned from the Otherworld, we can then put it to good use in this world. We might indeed brew up a potion or have a new recipe for a healing tea or tincture. We might be able to locate that lost item now that we’ve had a little guidance from the Otherworld. We might be able to find out why we are always repeating the same mistakes, or what our local patch of land needs from us in order to be healthy and whole. The uses for hedge riding are limitless. That is not to say that it is a whim or on whimsy that we travel between the worlds, for this is indeed serious work, and we are committed to doing it with all honour and integrity.

So, the Hedge Witch might indeed live a rural life in the beautiful countryside, but also she (or he) might live in a city, working with the tides of humanity and society in a very different flow of energy. The practices in this book can be adapted for any lifestyle, with a little imagination and creativity. The art of hedge riding is available to all, to re-enchant your life with wisdom and magic that will sing to your soul.



[1] Saille, H. Hedge Riding (Moon Books, 2012) 3

Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid, Witch 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.  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 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.  

Comments

  • Lynn Hixson
    Lynn Hixson Monday, 19 November 2018

    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you!

  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven Tuesday, 20 November 2018

    You're most welcome :)

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