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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Personal Evolution of a Hedge Witch

Enchant your world. That is what Witchcraft does, each and every day. It brings magic to the mundane, and allows you to open yourself to the wonders that the natural world holds all around you. 

I have been a Witch for as long as I can remember. I have always been enchanted by the sound of the wind through the pine trees, or the last rays of the setting sun illuminating the sky. I have a special rapport with animals, and often have prophetic dreams. I feel the rhythms of nature flowing around me and through me, and have always honoured the cycles and the seasons, though I may not have always had a name, ritual form or tradition to describe it fully.

I found the gentle form of Wicca in my late teens, and followed that path for many years. Since then, I have studied many other traditions, such as Druidry, Heathenry (Northern/Norse Tradition) and Buddhism. Moving to East Anglia, I became interested in the local traditions of this area of England, where the secretive Society of Horsemen worked, Toadmen and Toadwomen had special powers, and ancient witches cast spells from high platforms amongst the fens. I learned about the local Witchcraft of the area, and studied Witchcraft and Paganism more broadly throughout Britain and Europe, bringing in all these elements into my own spiritual path. I was reclaiming the path of the Witch for myself, for self-empowerment and learning from my own local patch. I found my own Hedge Witch path.

Outwardly, much of my practice has been Druid-based. I run Druid College UK, and have written many books on the subject. Druidry is a wonderful path, and also a language to express a Celtic worldview in today’s society, filled with magic and wonder. I view Druidry as an outward reflection of service: to the gods, the ancestors and the community, very much in a priestly fashion. I also studied Buddhism and Zen Buddhism in particular, among other spiritual traditions. All of this learning has been incorporated into my own practice. But inwardly, I consider myself a Hedge Witch, dancing under the moon and laughing with the incoming tide. My path of Witchcraft is something that is extremely personal, and something that is really “just for me”. Though I share ritual and am part of several Pagan organisations, my daily path is filled with the magic of Witchcraft, and my own Hedge Witchcraft tradition.

While I may have started out my Pagan journeys as a Wiccan, I feel more comfortable with the term Witchcraft, for it does not denote a specific form of practice. I love the fact that Witchcraft incorporates what works for the individual, and so you may find a Witch calling on Christian saints while chanting over herbal potions, or using other techniques such as working with the chakras, with bushcrafting or a myriad other forms that all have relevance to the individual. And this is where the stress must be emphasised – Witchcraft is for the individual. The relevance is for the person doing the work. They do not need to conform to anyone else’s ideas of what is and isn’t acceptable, what is or isn’t right. They have their own morals and ethics, and they think hard and long on these things. They work with the earth and the seasons, the moon and the tides, and they know where they stand in their own ecosystem. They cannot be labelled into one specific tradition, which has rules and regulations. They are simply Witches, or followers of the Old Ways, or those who are part of the Nameless Tradition. They might call themselves Hedge Witches, but again, all these terms cover a broad spectrum of practices and people, and aren’t restrictive in any sense.

As well, labels have always been too restrictive. When so much of Paganism stems from the same Indo European roots, we can find similarities across the board that reflect not just this heritage, but also the shared human experience. For some, to craft a label onto their path gives them a solid footing, and allows them to define in certain terms who they are. For others, it is too confining, and so they may apply more than one label, and wear more than one hat. Religion, spiritual paths and philosophy have always fascinated me, from all over the world, and they influence me in everything that I do. I have always loved hats, and so I have and wear many.

I love the freedom of Hedge Witchery. I am at my freest when I’m out in nature, alone, communing with the nature spirits and the Fair Folk, the gods and goddesses that walk this land. When I am watching a herd of deer running through the wood, or I hear the clarion cry of a hawk circling overhead, I know that I am home. This is what has always run through my veins, the song that has always been sung deep within my soul. I know that there is magic all around me, and I have always known.

And now I can express that enchantment, each and every day.

So may it be.

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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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