A Hedgewitch is a path within a tradition that is somewhat shamanic
for lack of a better term. There are many different titles that those
this inner tradition are called. This list provides a conceptual notion
of some of the the terms that are used to refer to those who tread upon
the boundaries of the hedge:
- Night Travelers
- Badbh (name of a Goddess as well as a title)
- Walkers on the Wind
These are the ones who engage in spirit flight, and journey into the Otherworld. It is this inner path
that utilizes such things as flying salves and potions in order to gain access to
the Otherworld. However, there are certain prerequisites that must be met before
one can learn this particular path.
A 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.
A bird of one kind or another is usually associated with the hedge path. Two of
the most commonly associated birds are the raven and the goose.
A mention should be made that the hedge signified the boundary of the village.
The fence or hedge represents the boundary that exists between this world and the
spiritual realm. Not all cultures had hedges, though. Some had stone wall, or
earthen works. Regardless, this term is adopted as a way to commonly identify these
It should be emphasized that not all Witches follow this specific path.
In regards to the hedge path, the most important aspect is that of
spirit-flight. In the twelfth century, a reference is made to a myrk-rida in
the C. E. Law of Vastgotaland:
"Woman, I saw you riding on a fence switch with loose hair and belt, in the
troll skin, at the time when day and night are equal."
This excerpt refers to a Hedgewitch. She is wearing a troll skin, or mask, as a
part of a ritual so that the inhabitants of the Otherworld will recognize her as their own. The
liminality of her position between the two worlds is further enhanced by the timing
of the ritual being held on an equinox meaning that the day and night are equal in length.
The Portuguese witch, the Bruxsa, ventures out during the night as a
large sinister night bird. In Germany, the night jar is called the hexe, and
is thought of in local folklore as being a shape-shifted witch who has gone out to
suck the milk from the goats at night.
Often, these Hedgewitches were seen as riding upon a broom or riding-pole and
flying through the air. In Old German, one of the words for a witch was
Gabelreiterinnen and meant pitchfork-rider.
The broomstick, or riding-pole, represented the phallus of the Horned God.
According to some traditions, the ends of these poles were carved to represent the
erect penis and were concealed by being bound in either birch twigs or straw. The
tops of these riding-poles often ended in two forked tines which represented the
horns of the Horned God. Later these riding poles developed into the more common wand.
To achieve the sensation of flying, poisonous compounds known as flying
ointments were used. These ointments contained strong alkaloids such as aconite,
belladonna, and hemlock. The result of such ointments produced physiological
effects such as mental confusion, impaired mobility, irregular heartbeat,
dizziness, and shortness of breath.
The purpose of achieving this spirit-flight ranged from speaking to the
ancestors, to healing those who were near death and "calling them back."
It is believed that on the Cross Quarter-Days (commonly known as: Samhain,
Imbolc, Beltaine, and Lughnasdah), the ancestral spirits traveled on invisible
lines that linked together burial places, graveyards, and mounds. Each culture had
its own name for these lines:
- Celtic - faery-roads
- Dutch - death-roads
- English - church-ways
- English - coffin-paths
- English - corpse-roads
- German - geisterweige
- Holland - dood wegan
- Saxon - daeda-waeg
During these times the boundaries between the two worlds are thought to be
lessened, and so communication is easier. At Samhain, however, the boundaries
between the two worlds are believed to be at their thinnest point, making
interaction between them much easier.