by Janine Donnellan
Hedgewitch is a term denoting a witch who neither belongs to a coven nor tradition but practices in a solitary fashion. The word “Hedgewitch” may come from the Saxon word for Witch, haegtessa, which translates to “hedge-rider”. The Old Norse lay Havamal refers to “hedge-riders, witching aloft”. Generally this person relies upon self-study, personal discernment, and intuition. Rarely does this person claim to be initiated. This person leads a life similar to the ancient village witch who was called upon for spells and healing potions by the local people. Spirituality in hedgewitches varies and depends on the individual; usually they look to their own heritage and ancestry. Most commonly hedgewitches today practice some form of neo-paganism and some people consider it an offshoot of the Pagan religion of Wicca. The daily spiritual practice of a Hedge witch will be adapted to his or her individual abilities, interests and life style.
Hedge craft is a spiritual path and is considered a form of European witchcraft and is loosely based on the old wise women (and men), cunning folk, herbalists, healers and witches throughout history. The older and more traditional practices of hedge witchery or hedge riding are shamanic in nature. Like the Shaman the hedgewitch is able to go into the Otherworld, and call back the souls of those who are about to die. They can, in this capacity, be very powerful healers. They are also able to speak with those who have passed beyond.
In ancient times in local villages, the hedge separated the town from the wilderness. Crossing the hedge was considered dangerous, because the forest was regarded as a place of uncanny happenings, including witchcraft. To the hedgewitch and witches alike, the hedge was not thought to be a physical boundary, but a mental barrier to be crossed in trance work. It is the line drawn between this world and the next; between reality and the dream world. From this perspective, if the hedge is the border between a village and the wilderness, the Hedgewitch walks the border with a foot in both worlds. The act of Shamanic Journey, Astral Travel, and Soul Flight is often referred to as “Walking the Hedge, “Crossing the Hedge” or “Riding the Hedge”.
The traditional Hedgewitch served her community in many ways including but not only; midwifery, healing, protection spells, house blessings, crop and livestock blessings, through the selling of magickal charms and even curses. The hedgewitch was respected, and often feared, because of these abilities, and because they had such a close relationship with nature and the magickal world.
Hedgewitches were known for using herbs and shamanic techniques in their daily practices, such as drumming and meditation, to induce altered states of consciousness. They work with familiar spirits, their ancestral dead, plant and animal totems to assist in their Otherworld work.
In modern times, a Hedgewitch is can be found inside and outside of the city, perhaps on an acreage or farm, or in a suburban block, often practicing by herself or perhaps within the family unit. They still work much as the old wise women of old, helping neighbours, friends and family with ailments, shamanic healing and even blessing the house or the occasional odd field.
Hedgewitches today are mostly solitaries and fringe dwellers and may refer themselves as a Gardenwitch, Greenwitch or Kitchenwitch. They may draw upon ancient healing techniques or they may incorporate modern healing methodologies such as kinesiology or Reiki etc into their practice. Although some still prefer to spend their time gathering herbs and such from the wild places others may grow their herbs in their cultivated suburban back yard gardens.