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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What Makes A Good Ritual?

Sometimes it can be helpful to question the very basics of our tradition. Today, I want to take a look at ritual. What is the point of ritual, and what does good ritual require?

Ritual helps us to mark time, celebrate moments in time and connect us to the greater cycles of life around us. They can also serve to help us change our consciousness, so that we can better see and feel these moments and cycles.  Ritual consists of words and actions that are designed to create an emotional/spiritual response, such as connection to the seasons, to nature, to the earth, to the gods, etc.

Ritual is rather pointless unless it moves us. True, sometimes we are just not our very best witchy/druid/pagan selves, and we sometimes go through the motions in order to keep up our practice. But for ritual that requires connection, the most important part of it is the feeling, the emotion. We must feel the actions that we perform, and the words that we say. A little drama in ritual – the good kind – performed without overdoing it can lead to a change in consciousness and a change in the self. Because isn’t that what you came to do in ritual in the first place?


Good ritual needs not only an emotional involvement, but also self-belief. If we don’t have self-belief, our rituals, our magic and our practice on the whole will fall flat. Self-belief is something that is so important, and yet something which can be corrupted into ego inflation so easily. We must learn to differentiate between self-belief and ego inflation. Some ego is necessary in ritual in order to create the drama or emotion in order for change to occur, but there is a difference between this and performing ritual to soothe our emotional pitfalls and insecurities.

When we are performing rituals to connect, it is the connection, not us that comes first. When we are performing devotional rituals, it is the gods, not us that comes first. When we are doing magical rituals, it is the magic that comes first, not us. Yes, the outcome for all of these might benefit us, but that is not the ultimate goal. The goal is the focus, on the connection, the devotion and our magical art rather than to feed our egos.

We need to know when we are falling into the trap of ego inflation. As soon as you start to feel that you are better than others, that’s a big red flag. If you start to think of yourself as The Grand Poobah Extraordinaire, you’re deep in the thick of ego inflation. If you lead a ritual for the summer solstice to help others in your community connect with the season and its greater meaning in our life’s cycles, then that’s not ego inflation. That’s service.

Service is not a bad thing. It’s not a life of servitude, but rather of serving nature, the gods, whatever. Putting nature before yourself is not a bad thing, for instance. If more people did, we wouldn’t be in this ecological mess we currently find ourselves in. If we realised that we are a part of a greater cycle, we wouldn’t be messing things up on such a global scale. We aren’t subservient; we are offering our gifts and talents to make the world a better place. Service can be freedom.

Service is freedom from ego inflation, and the antithesis to all work done out of insecurity and other elements that make up our individual and collective shadow.

Ritual requires us to not only believe in ourselves, but to also believe in what it is that we are trying to connect to. If you are calling in the elements in a ritual, you can’t just say the words: you have to actually feel the elements arriving and put emotion behind your words so that the elements can respond and come to the ritual. If you are calling them in without feeling, they are not very likely to show up. If you just think of them as an abstract, they most likely won’t show up. If you don’t really believe in them, again, they aren’t likely to appear.

Don’t allow mundane thoughts to interrupt your ritual. These can quite easily destroy your self-belief and your belief in the powers that you are trying to commune with in ritual. We all sometimes get a “what the hell am I doing here waving a wand at midnight on this beach when sane people are home in beds because they have to work tomorrow” kind of feeling when we are doing ritual, but we must learn to ignore them and put them aside. Suspend disbelief, at least for the ritual. For magic, it is essential that you can believe in what you are doing, otherwise your work will be for naught. Believe in what it is that you are trying to do, and believe in yourself, for you are of the earth, air, fire and water. They will respond in kind.

Good ritual also requires practice. It’s only when we truly know and understand the ins and outs of ritual: the mechanics, that we can then move forward in our craft and further develop our skills of connection. Putting knowledge into experience is what leads to wisdom.

These are just some thought on what makes good ritual. Do you have others? If so, please comment below and let’s continue the discussion!

Blessings to you.


Joanna van der Hoeven is the author 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. She has another book coming out in March 2025, entitled The Old Ways: A Hedge Witch's Guide to Living A Magical Life. Find out more through her website at www.joannavanderhoeven.com

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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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