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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Riding the tides of Samhain (No sh*t, no flowers)


"I can make whatever choices I want in my life, and I will live with the consequences of those choices. But if I want to live a life close to my deepest desires, I have to risk knowing who I really am and have always been. Knowing this, then I can choose."

 Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Invitation


We live in a culture and a world of avoidance.  Television, social media, alcohol and drugs are just a few escape routes we have to avoid truly knowing who we really are.  At this time of year, when Samhain is fast approaching we cannot avoid the very real fact that we will die, that death is unavoidable, though we may try.  Looking at death straight in the eye can reveal some very hard truths about ourselves, about how we live in the world, and what our responsibility and duty is to the ancestors, not only ancestors of the past but perhaps more importantly, ancestors of the future.  

For it is these ancestors that who will inherit our legacy.  If we cannot even own our own sh*t, why should they have to suffer from it?  Instead of fearing ourselves, instead of fearing death, it is our duty to look deeply into the nature of our existence and the natural cycles, otherwise, why be Pagan? Why follow an earth-based tradition if we are going to live in avoidance of the very real nature of existence, the natural cycles of nature? 

Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote a beautiful book called No Mud, No Lotus. Within those pages is the deep wisdom that life and death are wrapped into one, and that the rotting yet life giving mulch that the rose blooms from is within the rose, and the rose is within the rotting mulch.  The lotus is contained within the stinky, smelly mud at the bottom of the pond, and the mud is within the lotus.  There is no separation, no distinct line between the two, where one emerges and one recedes. It's given me a wonderful mantra for my life.  When I have to face things head on, my motto is "No sh*t, no flowers." 

It's hard to look at the crap.  But this time of year is the perfect time to really come to terms with all the crap in our lives.  Within the darkness we find suffering, and in that suffering we share a common humanity.  What we often don't realise is that we also share a common way out of that suffering, which is compassion and fully being present.  Compassion is looking deeply into the heart of suffering, and being kind to that suffering.  Being present allows us to put our suffering into context within the wider world. At Samhain, we can look deeply not only into the heart of suffering, but into the heart of death, and be kind and present to the reality of death.  

It may sound like an odd thing to do, but we follow the cycles of nature, and cannot simply avoid it.  Just as we cannot avoid unpleasantness in our lives (much though we may try) we are afforded the opportunity each year to really take a long, hard look at death and see how we can transform the suffering in our lives not only for our own personal benefit, but also for the benefit of our ancestors of the future.  It is they who will live with our legacy - let's make it one that will cause the least amount of suffering. Let's make it one that they will be proud of. It's not an easy thing to do, looking at all the crap in our lives, looking at our own mortality.  However, the easiest route is one that will leave that crap for others to deal with. Let's not do that. Let us take care and responsibility for our own lives. Equally, we also have a care of duty towards others.  Once we own our sh*t, we can move forward in our lives with eyes and hearts wide open.  

We always have a choice.  Let's use this choice wisely.  

Let us not avoid ourselves, nor avoid death.  Let us gather up our lives and our messes and work it out. Let us prepare for our own death right now. Ride the tides of Samhain to their fullest. Let us make the ancestors proud.


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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.  


  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Monday, 12 October 2015

    No sh*t, no flowers; I love it. It is hard to look at the crap. I haven't talked myself into the mindset of those folks who wear skulls on all their clothing and jewelry, but my wife and I did appreciate our parents' thoughtfulness in pre-planning (and paying for) their own funeral arrangements. We were so grateful for the difference it made when we had to go through those difficult times, that we went right out and made our own pre-arrangements for those who will survive us. That is a very real and substantial way to clean up our crap and relieve the suffering of the ancestors who come after. Having made a good start, we are looking for further ways to continue that service.

  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven Tuesday, 13 October 2015

    Hi Ted! Yes, at this time of year I go over my Will, closets, mind and attachments, etc and have a really good clean out. It's best for everyone lol! Thank you for your comment. x

  • Agnes Toews-Andrews
    Agnes Toews-Andrews Friday, 16 October 2015

    Not true, we do not have to die. We have created a death hormone over the eons. We can bust that death hormone. I know because about 30 years ago I decided I am immortal; Since the galactic realignment in Dec 22, 2012; the earths resonance has speeded up and I am different, more often 4th & 5th Dimensional. Recently I had an immortal vision. I KNOW I AM IMMORTAL and await the rapture.

  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven Sunday, 18 October 2015

    I see death as I see birth - it's an event that happens in our lives, but it is not a start nor an ending to life. Death is not the opposite of life - birth is the opposite of death. Life has no opposite. As we are made of energy, energy cannot be annihilated, it cannot be destroyed, only changed in form. Impermanence in everything, we are a reflection and a part of nature's soul :)

  • Agnes Toews-Andrews
    Agnes Toews-Andrews Sunday, 18 October 2015

    This Metaphysician feels you are not understanding immortality, of course the soul--that part of us that is a God spark, lives on and cannot under most circumstances, be destroyed, . . .under some circumstances though the Soul with all its memory can be destroyed and brought back to the Creator; and that is another topic. But we were created as immortal beings; who, at one time did not have a physical body. When we are of a certain vibration, consciousness, frequency; we simply shed the physical, it falls off us like dust . . the physical was a rescue attempt to house the soul. When we acknowledge we are immortal, and do not have to die to continue life, we take all the other auric fields with us and ascend to the level of the 5th Dimension. It's different then dying because one is old, or ill, . . . and the body cannot function to contain the soul. The physical body is just fine, just we do not need it any longer. There is no matter, everything is a frequency, which equates to a consciousness. So raise your frequency . . .and you can ascend. If we boil it down we see everything that exists is simply consciousness. Hope this is to your understanding Joanna.

  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven Monday, 19 October 2015

    Hi Anges - I understand your perspective, and find it fascinating - though it vastly differs from mine. I don't believe in a Creator, only perpetual creation, without the needs for a single vast consciousness to bring it about into form - I'm thinking more pantheistically with a dash of polytheism :) However, they're all just theories! x

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