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 Songs of Imbolc

Imbolc approaches on silent, padded footsteps. A time of quiet rejoicing, where here in the UK the festival and time signifies the start of Spring. Though for many in North America, the equinox is when the celebrations for Spring begin, here in the warmer climes of these isles hugged by the gulf stream we already begin to see the changing of the seasons reflected in the green and growing things, as well as the birthing of new lambs.  Just today, as I went outside to meditate, the songs of the birds had changed, and the robin and blackbird were singing their first songs of courtship, even as the blue tits chirped their appreciation of the sunlight. The slender green shoots of crocuses are beginning to appear, alongside a wash of green from the grape hyacinth shoots. Living so close to the sea, our south-facing garden is always ahead of the season it seems, and at this time of year, it's most welcome.

It's been a difficult winter for many, and the signs for the future can seem bleak. But as followers of an earth-based tradition, we know that we can look to nature for guidance, for inspiration, for sanctuary and for blessing. Our relationship with the land, sea and sky helps us through the darkest of times, with the gods and ancestors breathing their ancient breath into our bodies, inspiring us to carry on, to create change, to go with the flow. Nothing is permanent.

Imbolc is a gentle holiday and holy day. My celebration begins on 31st January, at sunset much as our Celtic ancestors began their celebrations. This is a special holy day for me as well, for as a devotee of Brighid, this is Her time to literally shine. I say prayers the night before, watching the sun set and feeling the darkness surround me. I get up early and watch the sun rise, perhaps going to the beach if the weather isn't too wild, to watch the sun's fiery red/orange disc rise over the horizon of the North Sea. Returning home, I kneel at my shrine to Brighid, next to the hearth, and light the candle as I do every morning, saying prayers and honouring my lady. Offerings are made, of bread and honey, of almond milk and song. I then go outside and pray, letting the light of my lady further enter my soul, illuminating all the shadowy corners where delusion and deception may hide, lifting the veils of illusion so that I can birth my authentic self into the songs of Spring.

This is a quiet holy day for me, often spent alone with my lady. Walking the land, listening to the awakening songs of birds and beast, of children coming out to play, I feel the energy rising. Years ago, I felt the serpent energy of these lands rising beneath me, the white serpent of Brighid that flows through this land along its currents, washing and imbuing me with both power and awen, inspiration. I shall never forget that initial contact with the serpent energy, and I shall always respect it.

I shall not molest the serpent

Nor will the serpent molest me

-          - Carmina Gadelica

My lady Brighid sings softly yet powerfully. Her voice is the voice of this land, and everything within the realms of land, sea and sky. It is a chorus of song, a choir of voices that demonstrate that there is more to bind us together than there is to tear us apart. We are each a part of each other, a part of an ecosystem, a part of this world. We must allow our songs to both be inspired and inspire in return. We must look towards the changing of the seasons, to the wonder that the time brings, when we see the changes and know the beauty of impermanence.

Only then will we be free.

b2ap3_thumbnail_cover-high-res.jpg b2ap3_thumbnail_zen-for-druids.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_Front-cover.jpg Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid Priestess, co-founder of Druid College UK and author of several books, including the best-selling The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid and Zen for Druids: A Further Guide to Integration, Compassion and Harmony with Nature. Her latest book, The Crane Bag: A Druid's Guide to Ritual Tools and Practices will be out this summer, and is now available for pre-order. For more information, please see 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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