Hedge Witchery

The word hedgewitch comes from the Saxon word haegtessa meaning ‘hedge-rider’. The hedge in hedge witchery is not a fence of shrubs and wildlife, but instead represents the border between our material world and the otherworld – the unknown. In trance-work (also called journey-work, journeying or just “travelling”) the hedgewitch crosses this border in order to contact spirits on the other side to learn from them and bring back knowledge to the material world. A hedgewitch may also use this ability to enter trance in healing rituals, both physical and mental, and also to perform divination. These practices are very shamanistic in nature. Shamans from around the world would talk to spirits and ancestors through trancework in order to learn about specific chants and herbs for healing. Illnesses were sometimes thought to be caused by evil spirits and it was the shaman’s job, along with the help of their spirit guides, to drive out the evil spirits from the afflicted person. These practices can be linked from the fairy doctors of the UK to the halaait of British Columbia. The hedgewitch is essentially a witch doctor with the difference being that their practices are usually based on European witchcraft most likely stemming from the spaewives, völvas, seiðkona, and fairy doctors of our pagan ancestors.

Hedgewitches use various methods to enter into trance including: entheogens (hallucinogens), meditation, breathing exercises, dancing, drumming, visualization, and others. Usually hedge witchery is not a path on its own, but instead is part of the practices of a cultural or traditional witch. The practices of contacting ancestors (both ancient and recently deceased family members), spirit guides (familiar spirits), the good folk, and others are all a part of traditional witchcraft practices. The use of entheogens is always controversial. There is evidence along with recipes for the use of hallucinogens by witches in the Middle Ages and later, one example being the use of flying ointments. Before then, psychoactive plants may have been used by our pagan ancestors in their religious rituals and ceremonies. (Note: Do NOT attempt to make and use a flying ointment unless guided by a professional herbalist or a very experienced practitioner, many of the ingredients are poisonous and harmful even just to the touch)

Disambiguation

The use of Hedge Witchery in this entry is not to be confused with the definition presented in Rae Beth‘s books, which is more akin to green witchcraft and Wicca.

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  1. Pombagira says:

    i am enjoying these teaching pieces, especially the resource book lists.. mmm.. could make my reading pile much hight.. *grins*..

    good food for thought though, which is always a bonus..

    *smiles*

  2. Sarah says:

    Thanks Polly! I always love contributing to people’s book piles, lol!

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