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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Sacred Spaces

Moonhenge, in Cambridgeshire, is a brilliant example of new Pagan sacred spaces being created.  With so much controversy over some of the megalithic stone circles and other sites around Britain, why should we not be creating more new spaces in which to celebrate, should we so wish?

Every Western Pagan knows about Stonehenge. They all know about the summer solstice celebration there.  A loud and rowdy affair in which the public join in, it is more a rave than a sacred celebration.  Though we cannot know for certain what the ancestors did in that ritual space, to me personally it just seems wrong to have people getting drunk and shouting loudly, climbing on stones and partying all night in a temple so closely linked to the dead as well as the sunrises throughout the year.  I may be entirely wrong.

However, it just seems like sacrilege when the spirits of place are not honoured in a respectful way.  To make something sacred is to honour and respect it – it is connected to such words as dedication, devotion and veneration, three things which most of the partygoers at the high point in summer are not terribly concerned with at Stonehenge.

The creation of sacred space is a key tenet of Druidry and many other Pagan religions.  It is an invasion to have people that you do not know enter your sacred space and act out of accordance with the intention of the rite or ritual being performed.  Out of hours access permits are available to those who wish to use the particular temple of Stonehenge for more private use, however, during the actual time of the sunrises and sunsets at various times of the year, this temple space must be shared with those who are not in tune with the intention.

Other sacred sites around the world do not seem to suffer as much from this intrusion.  We would not party in Chartres Cathedral, for instance, or rave all night in the Temple of Athena.

There are other issues as well, such as the litter left by those who are not considering this sacred ground, which those dedicated and devoted Pagans must clean up afterwards.  It can reflect badly upon the dedicated Pagans attending, as if they are contributing to the mess, when they might simply be there to do damage control, at the very least.  What I would posit is that they should not have to do any sort of damage control at all. Respect for the place should be inherent in the site itself, and the caretakers – for Stonehenge, it would be English Heritage.

This is not to say that all the Pagans attending the Stonehenge open access celebrations are upstanding members of the community.  There are some who have contributed to the litter, some who climb on the stones, some who get drunk in the temple alongside the secular people who are just there for a grand party and to say that “I was there at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice”.  There are also those Pagan who stayed behind to clean up everyone else's rubbish. I recently visited the Rollright Stones and spent the first twenty minutes of my visit picking up litter in the form of starry glitter, ribbons and party popper wrappers that some ritual group had used during a solstice ceremony.  Candles left in ancient barrows.  Flowers left as offerings, still wrapped in their shiny plastic, bought from Tesco’s.

So, what is a Druid to do, when wanting to celebrate with the ancestors at sacred sites during special times of year and yet not wanting to participate in the sort of celebration and, dare I say it, desecration of such sacred space?

Most would simply say “Get out into the forest and celebrate then”.  Yet, it should be every Pagan’s right to celebrate with the ancestors and their ancient monuments should they wish, right?

Maybe not.  I have been in stone circles such as Stonehenge, where the vibe is very much “Go Away”.  They hate being a tourist attraction, those stones.  Some ancient monuments may love it. It all depends on the spirits of place.  Out on the moors in Devon or in the wilds of the Lake District are stone circles that the nature spirits have taken over from the humans who originally built it. Their purpose has shifted.

So again, what is a Pagan to do? Well, inspiration can be found in Cambridgeshire, where a wooden henge, now called Moonhenge, was built.  This structure was built by a farmer on his private land in honour of his wife, who was a spiritual healer.  Though not open to the public, private access may be obtained for rituals and ceremonies.  Perhaps this is the way forward, to keep such spaces sacred and away from those who are not in tune with the intention of the place.

It is my opinion that we, as modern Pagans, need to build new temples like Moonhenge to worship or gather in, to celebrate the turning of the seasons.  Yet money is a big factor in this – the majority of Pagans are not financially wealthy, and just buying land can be expensive.  Yet it is not impossible – look at Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve – just a few acres and a couple of devoted and dedicated people, and a space that is filled with sanctuary and the sacredness of being is created.  Sinfield Trust Nature Reserve has incorporated holiday cottages on a part of their land, to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the nature reserve which nearly went bust. This site also hosts a treehenge and a turf labyrinth for those spiritual people who are in tune with the intention of the place and who respect it with every fibre of their being. It can be done.

It is my personal preference to head out into the woods myself, the heathland and the sea coast to celebrate the turning of the wheel. Yet I also feel a strong desire to build something in which Pagans from all areas and all traditions could gather to celebrate together, with respect, should they so wish.  Thoughts are stewing, looking for ways forward in this area.

In the meantime, I would encourage each and every one of you who share this viewpoint to see what can be created in your own community.

In peace.

Photo below from Stonehenge 2014.

Stonehenge 2014

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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.


  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Saturday, 19 July 2014

    Something similar happened in Sedona, Arizona in 1987 in "celebration" of the Harmonic Convergence. So many thousands of people of confusingly different vibrations swarmed over Bell Rock and the other vortex centers, that the psychic pollution took ten years to finally absorb into the red rocks and be dissipated. Some people were trying to access the ancient Native American holiness of the place, but many others expected "The Mother Ship" to hover over Bell Rock and beam the faithful up into the next dimension.

    This is why Wise Women like you and Danu Forest teach us that one of the best offerings we can bring to a nature site is a box of lawn and leaf bags, with which to clean up the trash. Do you know her, by the way?

    I support your desire to build more places like Moonhenge.

  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven Tuesday, 22 July 2014

    Hi Ted - many thanks for your kind words, though I'm not all that sure that I qualify as a Wise Woman :)

    Yes, I know Danu - she is a lovely lady who is utterly devoted to her path. A gentle and isnpiring soul who walks her talk. x

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