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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Harvest-Time

Every day at this time of year, either morning or evening, I do some gardening, keeping back the riotous growth that excels in this season. If I didn't, many plants would simply take over the garden, crowding out some other favourite plants. Though these crowders may be near the end of their cycle, in their death they will still smother those that have great potential, as their time is arriving.  It's a hard time of year to keep on top of things, as the sun is so hot in our south-facing garden, and time is limited to mornings and evenings when we won't burn to a crisp or keel over from heat exhaustion. Jack in the Green is running riot, uncaring, reaching for the sun, drinking in the rain.

Yet if I want my irises and lilies to survive, I must release them from the choking hold of ground creepers/covers that threatens their existence.  I must carefully weed out and try to keep under control those plants whose vigorous growth would otherwise overwhelm others. In this, I feel a kinship to my ancestors, not only my recent ancestors whose work with plants runs in my blood, but also ancestors of this land who depended upon agriculture to survive. Both physically and metaphorically, this is the ideal time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Even as I hear the tractors and combine harvesters rumbling in the fields on the other side of the street, so too do I look both within and without to see what needs harvesting, and if the harvest has been good.  Getting out in the garden brings it all home, showing that if you take on the responsibility of growing things, of nourishing them, then you must do your job well in order for your harvest to be good.  Walking out in the fields after supper, running my hands over the tops of the wheat and barley that grow around here, I make my prayers for the harvest to go well, for the people to be nourished and for the land to be treated well. The time nears for when we give back in great gratitude as Lammas, Lughnasadh, Harvest-Time arrives.

 When you work with the land you establish a deep relationship with it, something that cannot be thought about but rather must be experienced.  Getting your hands dirty, watching things grow from seed, seeing how we work, relate and nourish each other is essential in my Druid path.  When you work with the land you feel her rhythms deeply, connecting with her on a soul level.  This is what the Druids call awen, divine inspiration: where two souls meet, and are inspired and nourished by each other through sacred and honourable relationship. 

In nature's cycles I take inspiration on how to live my life.  I work with the seasons and the cycles, both those of the wild landscapes and those of the carefully maintained agriculture in my home, rural landscape near the Suffolk coast. I learn to take my ease under the sunshine from the time spent out on the heathland and in the forest. I learn about hard work when walking through the fields to reach those wild lands.  I find a balance, learning to walk the knife's edge.  I learn about relationship.

I hear the great song, rising up from the land, reflected back from the heavens.  I get bitten by things as I work in my garden, and stung by nettles as I walk the wilds.  I commune with my goddess, Brighid, and I drive my car to the concert hall where I work.  I learn about what is important in life, and what isn't, and try to focus and act accordingly. 

Working between the tensions of the cycles of life, we see the sacred in the mundane and the mundane in the sacred. They become one, and our lives are enriched by the joy of it.  We realise that there is no separation, that we are always a part of a great cycle and in that knowing comes a deep peace. 

At this time of year, I work hard, both with the land and in my duties as a priest. It is the busiest time of year, filled with weddings and handfastings, festivals and more. My garden requires a lot of time, my vegetable and berry patch, tending to my flowers for the pollinating insects that adore it.  We are pulled every which way at this time of year, and it requires great focus to stay on track, to get it all done in time, to get our harvest in.

And when we do, we can take great pride in our accomplishments. Not the pride that feeds the ego, but the pride that we have worked as hard as we can, and we see what we have created in the world. We learn about things that don't work, and we give thanks, knowing that those seeds will not be planted in the future.  We sort out our lives, preparing for the darkness that we know is coming, where we will need to sort the wheat from the chaff, or else carry the whole mess with us throughout the long winter nights. We work bloody hard under the heat of the dog days of summer, and we smile as we work for we know that it is in the doing that real, sustainable relationship occurs.

May your harvest go well, may all your hard work pay off, and may the blessings of the season be with you.

Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid Priest and author of several books on Druidry, including The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid. She is co-founder and tutor at Druid College UK, and lives on the Suffolk Coast in the UK. To find out more visit 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.  

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