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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Working with Power

While writing up my notes on an "Ethical Leadership" presentation for our next weekend of Druid College, I've mused over issues regarding power and working with others. Unless you are a solitary hermit, you will have to work with others. There will be a barrage of egos, wounded or whole, with which to interact. Fragile or strong, dealing with other human beings is not necessarily the easiest of tasks. Even though we may speak the same language, we might not be able to communicate with them at all, whereas we may not speak "cat", but can understand what a cat is trying to tell us. When working with others, we have to let go of notions of "power over", as activist and author Starhawk has written about, and instead work on "power with". In her book, Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery, she distinguishes three types of power: “power-over,” referring to domination and control; “power-from-within,” meaning personal ability and spiritual integrity; and “power-with,” pertaining to social power or influence among equals.

Power-over is all about control. It is firmly rooted in a wounded ego, that seeks to dominate another in order to feel better. For whatever reason, and there are many, many reasons why people behave the way they do, this seems to be the standard view of power in the Western world. In our capitalist society, in our dog-eat-dog world, we seek power-over another in order to get our way. What we need to desperately do is extract ourselves from this way of thinking, and into a more holistic view where we are not only looking to benefit ourselves, but to benefit the whole, the entirety.

To do this, we use power-from-within. This is how we use our knowledge and ability, coupled with our ethical and moral codes to work from a place where ego and wounding has no bearing on the present moment. Though we are created from our past experiences, when we find power-from-within we have personal sovereignty from which to work. 

Power-with is how we work with others, how we inspire others into action, how we use the awen to solve a problem. The ancient Druids were holders of great power, advising and influencing Kings and Queens. Though we may not have that influence any longer, we can look to how we do influence people, and consider the ethical implications therein. The key to using influence ethically comes from a sense of equality. When we work from a place where we don't assume or think that we are better, we are able to respond better, to increase our ability to respond, our responsibility. As soon as we think we are better, our pride is speaking, and tainting the entire situation with judgement and false perception.  Though it is better to want to create a world where the environment comes first and foremost, to think that we are better because we hold this point of view simply exacerbates the situation, and allows our pride to create an Us and Them mentality. When we have this point of view, it creates a huge divide between people, which is often very hard to overcome. We have stopped trying to communicate, and simply declared them "wrong" while we are "right". The lines of communication are broken, and when we cannot communicate in any form, we cannot relate, therefore we have no relationship.

Druidry is all about creating relationship, and therefore we need to communicate, responsibly and with clear intention. It means working with concepts of power with honour and integrity, working as equals to create a shared power for the benefit of the whole in order to manifest change. It requires us to look deeply within, to confront our own egos and work with the shadow aspects of ourselves, transforming the energy into something of great potential. We must use our wits and intelligence, to be the awen, to be the inspiration. 


Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid and author of several books, including the best-seller The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid and her most recent release, Zen for Druids: A Further Guide to Integration, Compassion and Harmony with the Natural World. Find out more 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 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 Saturday, 10 December 2016

    Wow, thank you Joanna. What a great and useful distillation of Starhawk. Both of you should be required reading for everyone aspiring to public office - especially in the Western world!

    Have you read her novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing? Should have been made into a movie years ago.

  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven Sunday, 11 December 2016

    Thank you, Ted, for your kind words and support! I haven't had the chance to read Fifth Sacred Thing - it's on my huge list! I do hope the movie does come to fruition soon :)

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