Hedge Riding: The Art of the Hedge Witch

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Samhain and the Ancestors

What with the rage of the storm St Jude passing over our area on Monday morning, we were without power for a couple of days (as well as being without land line phones -mobile masts were also out).  At this time of year, when the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in, the change can be quite dramatic, especially when you are living without power.

The weather had turned cold in the evenings, but luckily we have a fireplace, so the evenings were spent gathered around the hearth, with the darkness all around just outside the circle of candle and firelight, and the wind howling outside. Pretty much confined to one room in the light and warmth, we took the time to simply be – to sit together and watch the flames dancing in the darkness. 

Preparations had to be made before the light began to fail.  Food was prepared in the daylight, and the candles and fire readied for when darkness fell.  There’s nothing worse than being caught out in pitch blackness, looking for a match or a torch and stumbling in the darkness.  Time was very much in the forefront of my mind – I had to make sure things were ready.  The days and nights seemed to stretch in length, without the distraction of any media to divert our attention away from the inky blackness outside our windows. 

Outside, when it was safe enough to go out, we looked up and saw even more stars than we can usually see.  Living as we do in a rural area near the coast of the North Sea, we have a pretty amazing night sky as it is, without very much light pollution. These last few nights were something really special. We also noticed just how many planes were in the sky as well – an alarming number, all things considered.

At this time of year, the ancestors are often in my thoughts – in Druidry, we have the ancestors of blood, of place and of tradition to work with.  I felt even more connected to the ancestors of the past, without any electricity, filling my days with manual work and enjoying relaxing by the fire in the evenings.  My blood ancestors hummed in my veins as I watched the flames in the fireplace, seeing lines stretching off into the darkness of the past and stretching to include hundreds, thousands of people who have gone before.  The ancestors of place were all around me, and the very real notion that the living are walking, working, living and loving on the bodies on the dead was very real to me.  The bodies of all flora and fauna who have gone before provided this very land upon which we live, and at this time of year when it appears that everything is slowly dying to the coming winter, it really hit home.  Every morning I was also reminded of the life amidst the world of the dead, as the stags were calling to their does, and the rutting season beginning here upon the heathland.  The ancestors of tradition opened up my mind to all that was occurring around me, allowing me to see and experience the mysteries firsthand. I wondered what the future ancestors would experience from our legacy.

When our power did finally come back on, in the early hours of the morning a few days later, I physically felt it.  Fast asleep, I awoke in the darkness that was not quite so dark, wondering why I had just sat up in bed. I felt a buzzing in my body, as if everything around me was humming. Looking out the window, I saw that our neighbours across the street had their outside light come on, and that the darkness was not so thick, both inside and out.  I could feel the electricity come back on.  The heating then came on, and I listened to the sounds of the furnace firing up, and the house creaking under the sudden change in temperature. I was a bit saddened by the return of electricity – it meant that deadlines were now due, that work awaited me when all I wanted to do was retreat into hibernation mode.  It meant that we would have to make a special effort not to sink back into the luxury that is electricity, and to not take it for granted. (I was, however, very much looking forward to a hot bath in the morning).

I welcome the darkness, with the rest after a long and busy summer that it brings.  I look forward to the shortening days until the winter solstice, when the evenings stretch into hours of sacred time and sacred space. I will fill these hours with meditation, with ritual, with remembrance, instead of ignoring the darkness with the buzzing of electricity and the drone of the media.  I will remember our days spent closer to the ancestors, and will welcome the connection to them in the growing darkness.

(artwork by Pumpkin Photography, http://pumpkinphotography.deviantart.com/art/Samhain-VVS-260315698)

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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 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.


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