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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Anarchy and the End of Submission

Following an earth-based tradition such as Druidry is wonderfully empowering, and also beneficent to the whole, if we move beyond our self-centredness and work towards a life in service to our environment, the gods, the ancestors, the spirits of place. With such a tradition, there is no requirement for a belief in anything.  There is no supernatural. There is only nature, glorious nature, right in front of our eyes. What we see, what we interpret with our senses, requires no belief, only a willingness to experience, to learn, to think and to create truly deep, inspiring relationships.  

This sort of tradition, this sort of thinking, means that Druidry is different for each individual.  What that also means is that we accept the experience of others within the tradition, and there is no right or wrong, per se, only interpretation and experience. There is no liturgy within Druidry. Yet we find it rooted in a landscape and in a culture, to which we can honour and learn from while making it work for us in an individual sense. Coming from a standpoint of no agreed standpoint, this can seem confusing and bewildering to some in the Druid tradition, and a source of great freedom for others.  

The gods in Druidry are the gods of nature, both the natural world and of human nature (and beyond). They are forces of nature that without due respect, can kill, injure or destroy.  Love, lust, rain, storm, wind, sun, snow, ice, war, birth, death: all of these are gods.  Yet they are not gods to whom we bow down in some religious hierarchy. The gods of nature are those that we work with, together, in order to function properly in an ecosystem.  There is no hierarchy in nature either; the concept of a food chain is a purely human invention to make humans feel superior, and therefore able to exploit, all life forms beneath them.  The shark that swims with you in the ocean has another point of view on this so-called food chain. So does the flesh-eating virus, or the wildfire. 

If we believe in some hierarchy, then we need to submit to an authority. The Druid knows that there is no authority in some uber-being above us. There are only the forces of nature that we work with, that we create relationship with, which we try to understand so that we may move through life in greater awareness and with more ease.  If we submit to the forces of nature, we will perish. If we submit to the ocean, as my teacher Bobcat used to say, we will drown. There is no room for this sort of attitude within Druidry. It's all about relationship.  

Do the gods care for us? I have no idea. I've argued the case on both sides, and come to realise this year that I just don't know anymore. And in that not knowing is glorious freedom. All I do know is that the rain falls, the sun shines, the moon orbit around the earth and pulls the seas with its circuit. Do any of these care? Does it matter if they do, or if they don't?  If it doesn't matter, if we don't need them to care, then we can just get on with the basic act of living. If we need them to care, then are we are searching for something outside of ourselves, for some sort of assurance that everything will be alright?  As if seeking some form of parental nourishment, we may want someone to hold us, to take our hand, to fight the bad things and take them away. Or are we simply working with another force that has a holistic worldview, one that we aspire to, and seeks to work with us to create such a world? To give it yet another perspective, we might also want an authority to tell us what to do.  In this regard, at least, the Druid knows differently.

     We might pray or talk to the gods in order to try to understand a situation, but we know that they aren't going to solve all our problems for us.  We might work with the powers of earth, air, fire and water, or the realms of land, sea and sky to find out how we can re-enchant our lives with deeper meaning, but in the end how we live our lives is where the real magic and power of transformation lies, not with some external authority.  Even if there is a benevolent source or deity watching after us, who cares about humanity, we can still do all that we can to make our own lives better with our own skills and experience first and foremost. We cannot leave it all up to some external force outside ourselves, for in doing so we release all sense of accountability and responsibility for our actions. We certainly don't need more of that in the world today.  

Anarchy is often seen as chaos, as a lack of organisation or structure. When we apply it to deep relationship with the world around us, however, the very basis of that relationship transforms the word into liberation from illusion.  No longer are we held back by believing in a superior force, whether it is deity, the government or your boss at work. Instead, through real relationship we see how we work and live with these to create an ecosystem that is hopefully functional and sustainable. We do not seek authority in anything, but co-operation.  Nature is our greatest teacher, and one to be respected, but not something to submit to in any sense.  

We have to look to our own self-governance, governance of our very own self.  We have to take personal responsibility for our actions, our thoughts, our words and our deeds. When we become aware of these things, we can then extend that self-governance to see how we can work in our own ecosystems without a hierarchal sense of authority, without judgement or power struggles. But we must first come to be at ease with our selves, to loosen the constraints of our own egos before we take it out into the wider world. Otherwise everything will still be about an assumed power, or level of authority that is not/cannot be questioned.  We must question everything, first about ourselves, our beliefs, our attitudes, our lives and then about the rest of the world. In this, we become active members of an ecosystem, rather than passive passengers simply along for the ride. We work in co-operation with all other beings, for the benefit of the whole.  

Anarchy requires us to think.  

We may require or be in a position of leadership from time to time, and we understand that leadership is not equated to hierarchy. The flock of starlings move together, seeming as one, based upon the actions of one individual starling, dancing their mesmerising dance across the sky, showing off their skill, practicing their acrobatics against predation, revelling in the joy of being alive. The flock of geese is led by an individual at the front of the formation, but this position of leadership is always changing, allowing rest and an opportunity for others to take the lead. Where one goose becomes ill or injured, others will drop out of the flock to stay behind with it, until it either recovers or dies, and then re-join the flock as soon as it can. This is leadership without hierarchy, without authority. It is doing what needs to be done, without the games of power and control. 

We know that not all sources of perceived power in this world share the same moral or ethical framework as we do. But if we take personal responsibility for our own selves, we can work for change and transformation on a personal and fundamental level over which we have absolute control. I will reiterate: personal responsibility.  Not as a nation, not as a race, not as a species. We cannot dictate to others one way to do things, that our way is right, but rather accept responsibility for our own individual actions, our own time on this planet. We cannot simply follow unquestioningly what others say and do, think or behave, because we are intelligent, free-thinking individuals.  There is no one way to do things, no one authority that we must submit to, no "one size fits all". We honour the soul of every creature that we meet, and in doing so we also deeply learn the real value of co-operation, being active rather than passive. We learn to listen, to work with others, the art of compassion. We understand that cultural and societal influences may differ with regards to ethics and morality, and all that we can do is to work on being the best that we can personally be, living our truth and letting that be the example that needs to be set in the world today. Over that, and that only, do we have control.  

Therein lies the true power of anarchy, and the end of submission.


Joanna van der Hoeven is the author of several books on Druidry, including the bestseller The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid. You can find out more at her website, 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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