Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: Hedge Witch by Rae Beth

Book Review: Hedge Witch by Rae Beth

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I have decided to add a new series to the blog: book reviews. Each of these reviews will be summarized in my Knowing Thy Craft post, but here you will find a more in-depth review of each pagan book I have read recently. Wednesday, I finished reading Rea Beth's Hedge Witch: A Guide to Solitary Witchcraft. I give this book 3.5 stars. I went back and forth between 3 and 4 because there are some really beautiful rituals and visualization exercises, but there are some very obvious errors as well. Let's start with the bad.

Book Review: Hedge Witch by Rae BethThis book is written as a series of letters from an experienced witch to her two apprentices, although part II of the book is written entirely to Tessa, her female apprentice. At first, this was difficult to get used to. This is by no means set up as a normal guide, and you are going to need a pen and some sticky notes to help organize the book if you plan on using it later. I marked each section that was important to me, such as each Sabbat ritual and some of the visualization or as she calls it "trance" exercises. If you are looking for an easy guide, this is not it. It claims to be written for beginners, but it is not. The rituals are complicated and very formal. There is no explanation as to why certain things are done, nor are there lists of supplies needed at the beginning of each ritual. The rituals are for intermediate to skilled practitioners, not beginners. Furthermore, this book is about Wicca, not hedgecraft. A hedgewitch is not a solitary Wiccan and Wiccans are not the only witches as Beth seems to believe. Furthermore, hedgewitches are not overly formal and do not create and execute formal rituals like the ones found in this book. Rituals, if performed, are simple and honor the Earth, deities (if you believe in them), nature, and the changing seasons. One thing she does get right about hedgecraft and hedgewitches is that the tradition is based on the old wise woman or man who lived on the edge of town, by the hedgerows. They were healers and earth lovers who worked magic out of their home and gardens. The book claims to contain spells and herbalism, but the only spell is a love spell, which let's be honest, it typically found in juvenile witchcraft books.

On to the good. The rituals are very beautiful, although after reading them you are going to have to plan them out yourself. As I mentioned, there are no lists of supplies or outline of what you will be doing beforehand. She simply jumps right into it. The little bit of history at the beginning was informative and well written. It provided me with some new information. She also has a letter dedicated to dealing with the questions from non-witches. They are wonderful suggestions! I plan on using some of them in the future. However, the best part of this book is the visualization or trance exercises. She gives a very beautiful guide to follow to initiate yourself as a witch, meet your spiritual familiar, meet the Triple Goddess and the Horned God, and how to ask questions, heal yourself and others, and seal your aura. If you need help with visualization or are unsure how to do it, this is a great book to read.

As I said, I give it 3.5 stars out of 5 because the rituals and visualization exercises are wonderful, but the format and misinformation were unhelpful, not to mention it was not a book about hedgecraft


  1. I just finished reading this myself yesterday and completely agree with this review. Couldn't have said it better myself

  2. I wonder if some of of the issues you are having with the usage of hedgewitch in this book has to do with the passage of time. This book was published much,much earlier than the other books you recommend that have the word hedgewitch in their title so it could be the term hedgewitch has evolved since this book was published.

    In the book Witches: An Encyclopedia of Paganism and Magic, which was first published in 1996, hedgewitch is described as " [a] term achieving popularity in the UK in the 1990s for a practioner of the craft (see WICCA) who elects to follow an independent, solitary root, does not belong to a COVEN and has not been initiated. One of the foremost proponents of the Craft of the solitary witch in England is the PAGAN author Rae Beth who injects strong feminine principles into this style of Craft, particularly with respect to healing and regeneration." The paragraph goes on to describe that what both Sybil Leek and Scott Cunningham did was similar but they did not use the term hedgewitch. So here we have that in the 1990s in England hedgewitch meant a solitary Wiccan. In 2015 when you wrote this review hedgewitch may not mean a solitary Wiccan but over 20 years ago when the term started to become popular it could.

    1. Maybe, but if we look at the history of words, we find that hedge rider/hedgewitch shows up in early Anglo-Saxon as haegtessa which literally translates to hedge rider. There are a number of poems and descriptions of hedge riders throughout history. One of the most famous of these is verse 156 of The Havamal in the Poetic Edda of the 13th century which documents a charm referring to hedge riding.

      I truly believe the term hedgewitch was used to make Wicca seem more authentic and older than it actually is/was, to validate it if you will. With the resurgence of traditional witchcraft and what not, more and more people are looking to our past to inform our modern day witchcraft. We can by no means recreate the past in modern times, but we can reclaim words and practices.

      Thanks for your insightful comment! I appreciate the discourse.


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