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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Beltane, Midsummer, Samhain, Why Is The Veil Thinner?

There are special times when it is said that the veil between the worlds is thinner than usual. These three “spirit nights” are Beltane, Midsummer and Samhain. Beltane and Samhain are Celtic festivals that celebrate the start of the summer and winter seasons, as the ancient Celts only had two seasons instead of four. The whole shift occurring in nature at these times was reflected in the lives of those who lived by the seasons. At Beltane, the cattle would be taken to their summer pastures, and driven between two large bonfires, we assume for purification, blessings, and possibly to make any nasty ticks and other bugs drop off either by the smoke or the heat. At Samhain, the cattle returned to their winter fold, and those that couldn’t be kept over winter were slaughtered. Huge feasts celebrated the ancestors and the mighty dead, and care was taken to avert the restless dead or the Sluagh na marbh. At any rate, the lives of those who lived with their cattle were very much changed and shifted during these times of the year.

The summer solstice marks the time of the greatest light, when all nature seems to be reaching its peak. As such, this too was seen as a liminal time, and very much connected to the Fair Folk, or faeries. Not just in Celtic lands, but especially in Germanic and Scandinavian countries Midsummer was a huge festival and celebration. As summer arrives later in these countries, it has a similar feel to the Celtic Beltane. Like at Beltane, here a large pole similar to the Maypole was erected and danced around. Plants were at their highest powers, and so collecting the herbs that you needed was especially important at this time. Midsummer is still one of the biggest celebrations in countries like Sweden, where there is lots of food, singing and games. Though it has been overlaid with Christian mythology the nativity of St John the Baptist, it is still more a giant party than anything else. And why not?

By why are these especially liminal times? Well, when one season switches over to the next, we can often feel like we are in an in-between time.

Times when it’s not quite winter, but not yet spring, such as right now in Quebec where I grew up. Yesterday they had over 30cm of snow, and in a few days it will be 15 degrees Celsius. It’s a time that seems to struggle for power, to move into a new phase, and perhaps in that struggle is when things can slip past and move across with very little notice.

The worlds are said to come close to each other at these times, perhaps because of the attention that we are paying to them. When we are awake and aware to what nature is trying to tell us, what the spirit realms, the ancestors or the deities are saying, then we see that the veil is thinned at these festivals. But so many of us only see it during these times, when we Hedge Witches, Hedge Druids and Hedge Riders know that there are places everywhere, all the time, that host the power of the liminal and therefore are able to cross over at will.

Indeed, in modern Witchcraft in general, the simple creation of the magic circle/sacred space is often with the intention of creating a space apart, a liminal space. So every time a circle is cast, the veils are perhaps thinned between the worlds and allows for easier and more direct access to those whom we are working with in our Craft.

The liminal spaces such as where the sea meets the shore, a high hilltop where the earth meets the sky, or even the flame in the darkness are all points that can take us through the veil between the worlds. Is the veil particularly thin at these places? Many would say yes, because they are already in-between two states of reality. It’s not an either/or situation, but a both/and. This is what the hedge riding is all about, and ability to hold more than one reality at the same time.

When we can hold this liminal mentality in our minds, perhaps we can walk between the worlds in our everyday lives, and not just at the ancient celebrated times of Beltane, Samhain or Midsummer. That is at the heart of the craft of the Hedge Witch, the Hedge Druid, the Hedge Rider.

 All that being said, there is also a collective power, when many people are celebrating the same thing at the same time.  We can tap into that energy. Samhain especially for modern Pagans everywhere, is perhaps the biggest energy boost that we can tap into and participate in for whatever it is that we wish to achieve. That energy itself may bring both worlds closer to each other, allowing the veil to thin more than usual.

So as a true Hedge Rider, I believe in both aspects. I believe that there are liminal place all around us, and with a good relationship with the spirits of the land, the ancestors, and the deities we can easily access the Otherworld at any particular time. I also believe that the collective energy and the power of the three great spirit nights are wonderful times to ride that energy, and perhaps take us even deeper into realms we never even dreamt of in our Craft.

For me, it’s never an either/or situation. I have two hands, so that I can hold two different things to me at the same time.


Joanna van der Hoeven is the author of best-selling 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 along with many other titles. Find out more 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.


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