Hedgewitchery or Hedgecraft is a combination of Witchcraft and Shamanism. This Path is, for the most part, descended from the Traditional Witchcraft and Cunning Folk traditions of Europe from ancient to modern times. It is something of an “eclectic” tradition, but just how much so depends on each individual practitioner.
The shamanic aspect being the most important of all, in fact to call oneself a Hedgewitch is to call oneself a Shamanistic Witch. With herbalism, healing, along with a deep love for and understanding of Nature added to the mix.
Hedgecraft is loosely based on the old wise women, cunning folk, herbalists, healers and actual witches throughout history. If you think “Hedgewitch” and picture the strange old lady who sold herbs and magickal charms, acted as midwife and healer in the ancient times, you are not far off. Nor are you far off if you picture the wise sage who would cast stones to divine the future or journey in the Otherworld to heal members of the community and villiages.
Throughout history “medicine woman” or “wise woman” type traditions have risen and fallen all over the world. These kinds of traditions have never truly died out, and in recent years, more and more people within the Western world are turning to them and adapting them to modern times. Modern Hedgecraft is the study, adaptation and practice of these ancient nature-based, spiritual, shamanic and healing traditions in our modern lives.
Many Hedgewitches look to their own heritage to find inspiration and lore. Hedgewitches can come from any background, but the majority of Hedgewitches seem to come from a European ancestry. Meaning that most Hedgewitches will practice based on the folklore and traditions of the ancient Celts, Stregha, Romans, Greeks, Slavs and so forth.
While most study the traditions of their own ancestry, some may be drawn to the traditions of other cultures. Or they may seek to learn from other cultures to gain a better understanding of their own heritage, as well as a greater respect for others. Hedgewitches are not opposed to the study of modern tradition as well, for they strive to bridge the gap between old and new. To blend old traditions with a modern lifestyle in a workable and practical manner is a hallmark of Hedgecraft.
The word “hedgewitch” true origin may never be known, it likely comes from Great Britain and may have started to be used in its English form only within the last century. It is, as far as we can tell, a modern Anglo-Saxon word if there can be such a thing. Although Hedgewitch might be a modern word it is not illegitimate, for a word does not have to be old to be legitimate. English is still a young language; it is changing and growing all the time. Our ancestors had their own names, in their own languages, for such traditions.
“Hedgewitch” most likely comes from the Saxon word haegtessa, which roughly translates to “hedge-rider”, coming from the old word for hag or witch. The Havamal refers to “hedge-riders, witching aloft”.
The basic definition of Hedgewitch would be comparable to ancient culture’s definition of wisewoman, cunning woman, medicine woman, shaman, herb or magickal faith healer etc.
There is a fair bit of variation in spelling, such as “hedgewytch”. A few other names often associate with this Craft are Hedge-Riders, Night Travelers, Myrk-Riders, Gandreidh (wand-rider), Cunning Folk, and Walkers on the Wind.
For the Hedgewitch, “the Hedge” is a metaphor for the line drawn between this world and the next; between reality and dreamscape, the threshold between the many Worlds. In short, the Hedge is what many Witches refer to as the Veil. It is also simply the boundary between civilization and the wild, the place where the wildwoods and the urban jungle meet.
This concept of a boundary hedge in a spiritual and magickal sense is from the European tradition of hedgelaying. Going back even to the Iron Age, the European landscape has been crisscrossed by hedgerows. Hedgerows are carefully landscaped intricate layers of plant-life. These often-large rows of shrub, herb and tree were boundaries for farmsteads, pastures, villages, ditches and roads. Often times, at the very edge of a human settlement was a sturdy hedgerow keeping the wilderness and wildlife out of field, pasture and garden. Crossing a hedge often meant crossing a boundary of some sort, such as walking into the wild, going from wheat field to cow pasture, or entering another person’s property.
A hedgerow is not just a boundary but is also a protective home and shelter to all kinds of wildlife, such as rabbits and birds, as well as providing shade and acting as a windbreak. Hedgerows were also very important in keeping the herds in and the predators out, as well as marking the territorial boundaries of human settlements.
Often berry and fruit bearing trees and shrubs are grown in hedgerows, making them a source of food for both animals and humans alike. They also often have both healing as well as baneful herbs and plants growing within them. While beautiful these hedgerows will typically sport thorn bushes and other plant life that can be hazardous of you are not respectful of the hedge and what grows and lives within. The hedgerow is also a place where foxes and hares being hunted may hide.
The more one learns of the tradition of laying hedgerows, as well as about hedges themselves, the more the use of “hedge” for this Craft becomes clearly appropriate.
Throughout history and in many cultures the “Hedgewitch” (wisewoman, cunning woman, shaman etc) lived at the edge of the community, often amongst or just beyond the outlying hedgerows. They served the community in many ways, thus earning a living through such means as; midwifery, healing, protection spells, house blessings, crop and animal blessings, herbalism or wortcunning, understanding nature, prophecy and divination as well as through the selling of magickal charms and even curses.
A “Hedgewitch” might sell one member of her community a small curse or ill-wish one day, and then charge its victim a fee to break the curse the next. Therefore, people who followed such traditions were respected, and likely a little feared, because of these abilities, and because they had such a close relationship with both the natural and spiritual worlds.
Hedgewitches in history were typically magickal folks who lived somewhat on the fringes of society, not just by actually physically living beyond the township, but often by being outspoken women who did not follow societal norms.
In modern times, a Hedgewitch is usually (but not always) found outside the city, perhaps on an acreage with plentiful gardens, often practicing by herself or within the family. They work much as the Cunning Folk of old, helping neighbours, friends and family with ailments, shamanic healings and blessing the fields.
Hedgewitches will work in cultivated gardens and homesteads, but often prefer time spent in the woods and other wild areas. They may very well be the only modern Witches you can find tromping through ditches and vacant lots or even climbing out of a culvert.
A Cottage/Hearthwitch, Greenwitch devotes herself to her gardens and in her home and like the Hedgewitch will likely spend much of her time gathering her herbs and practicing her craft in rural or wild places, more than many other Witches. A Cottage/Hearthwitch, Greenwitch or Kitchenwitch may use many trance or shamanic techniques in her practice, but some may not not have received the call from her spirits to Shamanize. A Hedgewitch has the “fire in the head” also commonly known in this Path as the Cunning Fire.
Although many of the traditions that a Hedgewitch draws from have changed, after some lore is lost and knowledge changes over the centuries, you will find most Hedgewitches prefer to practice as close to traditionally as possible but still in a manner practical for these modern times. Hedgewitches are very adaptable. You may find a Hedgewitch casting an spell on a modern tractor that comes right out of a book on Cornish folklore, for an example.
The typical deities of a Hedgewitch will be the Witch Queen and the Goddesses of the Craft. Not exactly the Wiccan Lord and Lady but close enough that many Wiccans feel comfortable taking up the work of a Hedgewitch. Working with the Mighty Dead and their own ancestors is also a very important part of this Path, Hedgewitches look to these spirits to provide bits of lost lore and also for inspiration. They will also work with familiar spirits, plants and animals, Totems, their Fetch and the like, to assist in their Otherworld work.
Hedgewitches use herbal concoctions known as flying ointments, as well as shamanic techniques such as drumming and meditation, to induce altered states of consciousness. This is not something that Hedgewitches take lightly, nor do they use such techniques and ointments as a short-cut to the Mysteries. They understand very well the dangers of such practice and enter into such rites and workings with eyes wide open. They will experiment with their ointments and techniques often for years, gradually over time increasing the potency rather than simply “jumping in to the deep end” as many foolish young Pagans have…and then learned the hard way the consequences of such actions.
Hedgewitches often refer to shamanic journeys as “Walking the Hedge”, “Riding the Hedge”, “Oot and Aboot” or “Crossing/Jumping the Hedge”. They also have a tendency to spend much of their lives with one foot on either side of the Hedge, which makes them eccentric to say the least.
A Hedgewitch walks freely into caol ait (Gaelic), the “thin places” between one world and another. More experienced Hedgewitches learn not only to find such places, but how to use them effectively and how to open them even when the Hedge, or Veil, is at its thickest between the Hallowed Feasts or what modern Pagans call the High Days.
Spirituality in Hedgewitches varies and depends on the individual; usually they look to their own heritage and ancestry. The tradition Hedgewitches typically follow is a reverence for Nature as sacred divine, magickal, living spirit consciousness, though some may come from a more formal Pagan path originally.
The majority Hedgewitches will also practice a form of ancient Traditional Witchcraft. While more and more Wiccans are also taking up the work of a Hedgewitch. Hedgewitches commonly do practice some form of Paganism, but some make no claim to any practice but that of Hedgecraft or Hedgeriding.
The main distinction between Hedgewitchery and other forms of Witchcraft is that Hedgewitches often have less interest in the heavily scripted and ceremonial aspects of neo-paganism, having an highly individual and often richly unique way of relating to life, spirituality, magick, nature, Goddess.
A Hedgewitch prefers the freedom and joyfulness of spontaneous workings that come from the heart. For the Hedgewitch there is no separation between normal life and their magickal one, for their normal life is magickal. The Craft they practice strongly reflects this belief. Hedgewitches do what ever comes natural to them; they follow their instincts, and their heart.
Most Hedgewitches do not cast Circles in a Wiccan sense, and may either have other methods to mark sacred space, or not bother at all. After all, Hedgewitches believe that all space is sacred. Some Hedgewitches may lay a Compass Rose or other ways of honouring specific sacred space during their rituals and practice, but whether they do or not and how exactly they go about it will vary from each practitioner, Coven, Hive, Grove ... or family.
They do not typically follow one particular moral code, but rather their own personal ethics and often some version of the credo to “do only what is needed” and to “Know Thyself”. Hedgewitches understand that sometimes in order to heal one must do harm, and sometimes to harm is to heal.
Hedgewitches walk the Crooked Path, the Path that winds and twists its way between the right-hand and left-hand Paths, between accepted ethics, between light and dark. Hedgewitches walk all borders, and the grey areas, having little interest in all black or all white magick in spiritual workings. The Crooked Path also refers to a Path that twists and turns within a landscape, not a road that mindlessly cuts straight through it and thus damages the beauty and health of that very landscape.
Most Hedgewitches never use synthetic objects in their spells and rituals etc. Their tools are typically very practical, such as a walking stick, often they will use a stang, or even pruning shears, and their tools are hand made by them as much as possible. Most Hedgewitches use only what is needed, meaning they do not clutter an altar items that will not be actively used during a working or rite. (if they should use an altar at all, every place in nature is a sacred Altar to them.)
Hedgewitches usually study herbalism, wildcrafting and wortcunning with gusto, as well as seeking knowledge and understanding of the ways of Nature and Goddess. Such as the cycle of the seasons and the wildlife and plant-life in their area. Hedgewitches know how to grow herbs in their gardens, and are devoted to studying where and how they grow in the wild and how to gather them. They usually have a great deal of lore on trees and plant life, animals and the wilderness.
Hedgewitches tailor their Path to suit themselves, many may focus more on wortcunning, others study midwifery, they may focus on animals, and others may be well versed in healing with crystals. Many Hedgewitches choose to be a jack of many trades. Hedgewitches are called to serve their communities, whatever shape that community may take, and will use their natural talents and the knowledge they have gained to do so.
While Hedgewitchery is something of a solitary path, this is not always so. Some of their practices, especially the shamanic ones, require a trusted friend or group to watch over their body while their soul is elsewhere. Even the most hermit-like Hedgewitch can still be found at the local Pagan event. While others may even belong to a Coven, Hive or Grove. Some may have friends or domestic partners who follow another Pagan path, and they will often happily join in any ritual or activity if so invited. However, Hedgewitches know that theirs is after all, an "Outsider Path."
The daily spiritual practice of a Hedgewitch will be adapted to her individual abilities, interests and lifestyle. One Hedgewitch may start her mornings with a candle magick spell or offering up prayers of thanksgiving as she collects her herbs and roots and veggies and fruits. Another Hedgewitch may spend her mornings in quiet meditation on her patio; sipping herbal tea and watching the deer graze around her cottage. A third Hedgewitch may say offer devotion at the household Goddess shrine before racing off to work. And a forth Hedgewitch spends her day fasting and preparing for a trip across the Hedge that night.
So Who Are The Witches Seeking To Be A Hedgewitch?
Some Witches may prefer rural and/or wild settings and be a little wild themselves. They may be looking for a tradition that is adaptable, and of the woodlands, one that combines “olde school” Witchcraft and a bit of modern life, a tradition that adds a focus on European, Celtic, Green Shamanism and the magickal application of folklore to the mix.
They may be looking for a tradition that leans heavily on natural magick, understanding the Land and the practice of herbs and healing lore. They may want a tradition that focuses on personal experience, experimentation and doing-it-yourself. They may wish to blaze their own Path, like the Witches of Olde. They have that Cunning Fire burning in their head, heart and spirit.
~~~ They may just be ‘Hedgewitches’ ~~~
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