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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Weaving a Stronger Web

Taking time to become aware of the self is a large part of the modern Pagan movement.  In the last twenty years, exploring the psychological aspect in many of the traditions has been as important as the metaphysical and the spiritual work.  Many have done this, as part of a training course or in their own deep learning, but perhaps subsequently allowing it to fall by the wayside; once it’s been studied, that’s it, let’s move on.  Being aware of your emotions and behaviour is a never-ending quest in self-awareness.  In order to live as Pagans it should be a lifelong exercise, in order to ensure that we are living honourably and respectfully within nature and the natural cycle.

Indeed, it is our responsibility to be aware of what we put out into the world, emotionally and physically, as Pagans.  We know that we are a part of a greater web, therefore when one strand is tugged, all the others shiver all the way down to the core.  We need to be able to see when we have failed to act with honour, in our human relationships, in our relationships with the natural world, in our relationship with the gods and the ancestors.  And in doing so, we can work to make amends, to reweave those threads that have been pulled apart.

Sometimes the damage is so great that we need to start again, and that is perfectly acceptable.  When there is no possibility of working with another without losing that sense of honour, where there is no respect, then we can walk away calmly and begin again, focusing our energy on creating the world we wish to live in that benefits the whole.  We can still try to understand the situation, working with compassion, but we don’t have to participate in it any longer, especially when it becomes abusive.

We face many challenges in our modern world, some of which we shared with our ancestors, some not.  Alienation, isolation, war, climate change, technology: all these we have shared previously with those who have gone before. How we respond to it makes all the difference. Emma Restall Orr, on the Patheos website as part of her article on the environmental crisis and how to respond gracefully as a Pagan, states:  

 “Primarily, allowing nature to be our teacher, we must be wakeful to our human nature: to the surges and floods of our emotions, their forces, drives, and weight, and to the beliefs that are hidden in the shadows of awareness. Only then can we learn how to ride the emotional energies, using their power positively instead of letting them batter and break us. Many traditions are slack in this teaching, even though playing in our own emotional mess is essentially selfish, often leading us to antagonize others and cause unnecessary harm. Yet the luxury of emotional indiscipline becomes less available as the reality of crisis increases.”

As Pagans, with our modern teachings we are gifted with the opportunity to explore our emotions and behaviour, to really find some insight into the workings of our mind.  We have the luxury of this in our modern lives, and we should use that time wisely. This is time that our ancestors perhaps did not have, as they were too busy simply trying to survive. I see it as our duty to be aware of how we are in the world, how we are able to respond and our own personal responsibility. Allowing our emotions to rule us, resulting in bad behaviour, war, genocide and environmental obliteration (to name a few) will only hasten the process of our own self-destruction.  We live at a time when perhaps things have gone too far, but we can still do damage control. It is our duty towards our ancestors of the future. If we allow fear, apathy or other emotions to control us, we will never achieve what we want to achieve.

Though the word may seem wishy-washy, in reality there is a great power in kindness. If we take the concept of kindness into our daily lives, with every interaction that we make, whether that is with a co-worker or the ants in our garden, then we will work more honourably and with an emotional respect for other creatures.  Again, this doesn’t mean we have to stay in abusive relationships, but we can be kind to ourselves, to our friends and family by getting out of any such situation, and then by being kind to others we meet on the path. We needn’t shut down emotionally; we must simply choose the threads that we use to weave our web that will provide us with the strongest structure upon which to live our lives. When these webs are connected, a beautiful and strong pattern will emerge that has strength and integrity and which inspires all.


Joanna van der Hoeven has written several books on Druidry, including the best-selling The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid. 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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