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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Druid Priest: Behind the Robes

Coming onto this website, ready to copy and paste my words into a new blog for my channel, I see that fellow Druid priest Cat Treadwell has done something similar!  Brilliant post Cat! Thinking alike and all that...   At any rate, here I offer my words on working as a Druid priest. 

Most people see the outer face of the public Druid priest, working for her community. But what is it like behind the robes, so to speak?


At this time of year, the pull of the ancestors is very strong, from the blood ancestors, the ancestors of the land and also ancestors of tradition.  The beckoning call of our future ancestors also pulls me in another direction, and I feel the threads that weave it all together being pulled tightly, even as the leaves turn and fall from the trees, the smell of woodsmoke on the wind.  Sometimes the songs of the ancestors are so strong, that when walking through the land it can feel like walking through treacle. When sitting in meditation, the songs flow through my body, leaving my sense of self behind as I am swept up in the current of my bloodline, the songs of those who lived on this land before, and the wisdom whispered through the teachers.  It can be difficult, dealing with the parish council and social workers, or even holding a conversation with someone who works at the village shop.  Still, with the heady songs flowing through my veins and through the land I manage to get the day to day jobs done: the post mailed, the articles written, the class notes finished, the toilet scrubbed. 

It’s now mid-afternoon, and as I stand by the empty grave I see people starting to arrive. They wait by the edge of the graves, and then the hearse arrives, the long black car pulling along the dirt drive through the trees of the natural burial ground.  I feel the waves of emotion through the people as they see that vehicle of death arriving, and I feel a wave of memory flooding through me as well, of past deaths and loved ones arriving in the same fashion.  I take a deep breath of the autumn air and send love and compassion to my heart, and then extend that outwards to those who are waiting for the coffin to emerge, as I hold them, creating a sacred space for them to grieve, to feel this moment, to come to terms with their own mortality and the mortality of those that they love. The procession begins, and I continue to hold them all as they approach, with the strength of my ancestors flowing into me, through the blessings of the land around me.  I speak the words, and witness the words of others, my teachers’ strength flowing through me.  I see the spirit of the departed behind her daughter, holding her shoulders as she reads the last poem her mother wrote on her deathbed.  I am weeping on the inside, shrieking and keening like a banshee, but outwardly holding it all together for the sake of the daughter, who is tearing her hair out on the inside as well, a chorus of women throughout generations calling for their mother and a mother’s love. Deep breaths, sending my roots down, holding the space where there is so much grief, and sending love into that space with the knowledge that we are all manifestations of the universe, that energy cannot be destroyed but only transformed, I hold them all with my arms outstretched as I call to my Lady.  When it is over, and the people depart, I turn and walk into the trees past the graves of others, and allow the wellspring to finally flow forth, my own grief and that of countless generations even as I pray to the ancestors in the gloaming dusk.

The child is being held by her nine-year old sister, the mother standing beside them, as they await the magical bestowing of their new names.  The young girl is strong in the old ways; I can feel her potential.  The child in her arms is happy and content in the embrace of family.  I hold the mother’s hand and the hand of the child in her sister’s arms, and recite the blessing of nine waves upon the little one and her sister.  There is a light shining in the young girl’s eyes, mirrored in her mother’s gaze as she looks upon her descendants. The air is shimmering around us, and I smile and wink as the power flows through us.

She is lost in memories of the past, and is unable to turn to face the present moment, so strong are the ties that bind her.  Through the magic of email, I try to undo those bonds, encouraging and supporting her, affirming the strength of her experience together with the wisdom that she holds, waiting to burst forth like a bud on a tree branch.  I know she can do it, with the help of her muse, her ancestors and her connection to the land.

Waiting under the little grove of apple trees laden with mistletoe, they arrive from either side of the house to come together to walk down the aisle together.  Their love of the land and for each other shines in their faces as they prepare to take their vows, not far from where his daughter lies buried in the backyard.  Friends and family help hold the space, filling it with love. I feel tears burning in my eyes as they come together, and again when he sings his song for her and she sings for him.  Her voice falters, but all those gathered around take up the chorus and help her through, and we all ride the tide of love through to the other side. I surreptitiously wipe a tear from my eye.

The students have gathered around the willow tree, and full night has fallen.  It is our first ritual together, and we have drummed the energy into the ribbons to tie onto our staffs as we each declare our intention for the coming year.  I feel each soul in the circle, their deep and abiding love for the land, their courage to live their dreams.  As I step forward and state my intention, a falling star blazes across the sky.  It has been witnessed, even as I and the other priest holding the circle with me witnesses their words.

The petition lies before me, glowing in the dim light of the afternoon from the light of the screen. I type my name and postcode, and the message that I wish to send to this politician. I then write a letter to my MP to further express my views, and will later receive a response.

I slip into the bath, allowing the warm water to slide over me, caressing every inch of my body.  I swirl my hands in the water and honour the waters of the world, praying to my goddess.

I write this blog, hoping that my words will be well received, that the intention to share some aspects of life as a Druid priest creates an acorn of understanding in a forest of deepening shadows in the twilight of an autumn day.


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Tagged in: Druid Pagan Priest Samhain
 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.


  • John Reder
    John Reder Thursday, 03 December 2015

    What is it about humans that we have to dress up?

    I have always wondered when we stopped choosing our clothing for practicality and started dressing for style? I am sure sex had something tom do with as soon as someone realized you were more likely to get laid in a leopard skin than a bear skin.

    I suppose that was where the “power wardrobe” came in. Maybe a lion's head for a hat or something penis shaped … religious leaders seemed to like having penis hats and cod pieces. That actually came to me when as a little kid I saw JFK's inauguration and he was wearing a top hat and I thought he looked like some old schmuck.

    Whether its holy robes or a pinstripe suit with a red power tie doesn't it all come down to the Emperor's Clothing?

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