Monday, January 22, 2018

Hedge Riding Series: What is Hedge Riding?

Hedge Riding Series: What is Hedge Riding?

This year I decided to cover hedge riding in an eleven part series in an attempt to clear up some misconceptions about hedgewitches while providing practical advice for novice witches or those seeking a new path. As a hedgewitch, hedge riding is a large part of my practice, as is working with my animal and spiritual guides. Not only does each ride give me valuable insight, but I often finish feeling invigorated and relaxed. Nothing quiet soothes my depression and anxiety like visiting my animal guides, Meka and Rocar. Because I have found these experiences so valuable to my practice, I felt compelled to tell my story in hopes of helping witches around the world. While many people will call themselves a hedgewitch, not all of them are 'true' hedgewitches in that they practice the main feature of hedge witchcraft, hedge riding. Most people are unfamiliar with the terminology hedge riding, but not the concept of traveling to other realms.

What is Hedge Riding?

The 'hedge' in 'hedgewitch' and 'hedge riding' has multiple meanings, the most prominent being the boundary separating the our world from the 'Otherworld.' The hedge also represents a physical and psychic protective boundary, thus separating spirit from human. Hedgewitches are said to hedge ride or 'ride the hedge (fly the hedge in my case),' meaning hedgewitches routinely cross the veil into the spirit otherworld. But what exactly is hedge riding?

Simply put, hedge riding is a spiritual journey into the otherworld realms, the collective unconscious. It is shamanic in nature, but with some stark differences to separate the three. Generally, hedge riding is solitary in nature, making it perfect for any witch who is unable to find others or doesn't wish to work with other witches. However, there are some hedgewitches that work in groups, using the opportunity to share stories and gather more insight into the meaning of their journeys. In fact, many traditional witch covens engage in such work, using the opportunity to travel to and from the Otherworld to perform group spells and rituals. While the journeys will likely vary, the intent remains the same. Furthermore, having a second set of 'eyes' on the subject can bring light to things you may not have considered before, especially when it comes to interpreting signs and messages received during your journey. While hedge riding also has many features in common with shamanism, unlike shamanic journeying, hedgewitches usually do not engage in psycho-pomp work, or the act of ferrying souls. Instead, hedge riding is used for healing, to search for knowledge, divination, or assistance in spell work. Furthermore, hedge riding is also very distinct from meditation and pathwalking. Unlike meditation or pathwalking, hedge riding is not controlled and you physically leave our realm to travel to others; you do not determine what will or will not happen on the journey, just as you don't control what does or does not happen on your drive to work. While you can control your personal actions, you cannot control the actions of the beings and abiotic factors (weather, day, night, etc) surrounding you. You can read more about the differences between meditation, pathwalking, and hedge riding in my other post Meditation, Pathwalking, and Hedge Riding: Making Sense of It All.

Simply put, hedge riding is a spiritual journey into the otherworld realms, the collective unconscious.

To hedge ride, the witch must enter an altered state of consciousness (ASC). This can be done using a variety of techniques, including drumming, dancing, chanting, flying ointments, or even mind-altering drugs. While I don't condone the use of mind-altering drugs, they certainly have a place among traditional hedge witches. Flying ointments, which can and often do contain entheogenic herbs, are thusly named because they allow you to enter an ASC and thus fly or hedge ride to other worlds. Historical recipes vary rather greatly and rely most heavily on the works of witch hunters. However, from these folk remedies, we can glean an understanding that they likely contained a sort of fat combined with mildly hallucinogenic plants. I'll discuss these in more detail later in the series.

While hedge riding is making a comeback, the practice itself is actually quite old. Originally, hedgewitches were the cunning people or wise folk who lived on the outskirts of town, by the hedge. There is no central dogma for hedgewitches, but much of what hedgewitches practice is based on historical texts with modern interpretations and adaptions. However, there is one text in particular that gives particular insight into hedge riding, The Havamal, The Words of Odin the High One.

There are multiple translations of verse 156 of The Havamal in the Poetic Edda of the 13th century that talk explicitly about hedge riding, or at least we interpret them to. Below are two such examples
I know this the tenth:
If I see the hedge-riders magically flying high,
I can make it so they go astray
Of their own skins, and of their own souls.
Nigel Pennick (Havamal, Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes, 2002)

A tenth I know, what time I see
House-riders flying on high;
So I can work, that wildly they go,
Showing their true shapes,
Hence to their own homes.
Henry Adams Bellows (Hovamol, verse 156, The Poetic Edda, 1936)
It is believed this passage is a charm and depending on the translation, determines what for. In the first case, it will call the hedge rider back into their own 'skin' while the second aids in separating the rider's spirit from their body. In Norse culture, women, known as volva, commonly participated in this otherworldly travel and magic known as seidhr. 

While meditation and pathwalking are safe practices, hedge riding is not. Because your spirit or soul physically leaves our realm to enter that of another, there are risks involved. Not every spirit or entity you meet is there to help you. Taking the proper precautions will ensure your safety. I'll cover how to safely travel later in the series. Because of this, hedge riding is not for the novice or anyone unable to focus their mind for long periods of time. However, you shouldn't fear hedge riding. It is wonderful to experience and will aid any witch in furthering their magical path. In the years I have been hedge riding, I have never been physically or spiritually harmed. However, I have made mistakes that have resulted in unwanted attachments, and from those mistakes, I have learned what not to do. Hopefully, I haven't scared you off, but instead piqued your interest! 


  1. I love this series! Can’t wait for more :)

  2. I'm glad! I am working on getting out the third part right now. Been really busy with my personal life and work for the past month and with testing season upon us it is only getting busier. This is probably the worst time of year for me. Haha! Keep an eye out for the third post, and thank you for reading!

  3. What a wonderful page. I look forward to spending time here and digging a little deeper

  4. These blogs are amazing. They have got to be some of the best information on hedge riding on the internet right now. In one of your posts could you include how to move from one realm to the next? Or how to create your door to the other?

    Sorry if you already planned on it. I'm itching to read more.

    1. Sure! I'll make sure to include how to travel between realms in a later post. Thank you for reading.

  5. Hello Willow,

    I always had intense and often lucid dreams, but recently I experienced something new and unnerving. I was laying in bed and being half asleep, when I suddenly felt myself sitting up, while my body was still laying in bed. Im my mind I left my house and followed a known path through the streets. Out of curiosity I did nothing to stop that experience. I was confused because I was clearly walking with purpose but didn't know where to exactly. I lost my orientation for a short moment but the imaginery quickly settled on the door to a pilgrim place of a local church: A very long staircase, akin to a tunnel leading upwards. I opened the door and followed the stairs upwards. At their end was a very big door (which is defintly not part of said church in real life). I uponed the door and stepped through a bright light into a big and bright hall, surrounded by pillars. In front of me was table and on top of it a book. I picked it up and opened it. On the blank pages was a single senctence: "Your time has ended." I got a fright and then I went dizzy. There was a black hole and I was afraid of drowning in it. It was all to much and I pulled myself back in my body. I had a nightmarish image in my head of myself creepily smiling at me, so I visualized rings of protection surrouding me.

    I never believed in witchcraft and I have not researched it, nor any kind of astral journey, before. I still do not believe in it, but I still feel a litte bit shaken.

    In retrorespect I do not worry to much about the writing in the book because I am undergoing a deep transformation in my life right now, and this seems to fit. but I steel feel bad about the unfolding of events at the end.

    I would be grateful if you could tell me what kind of experience you think this was. And if you think I could or should do anything to make the lingering bad feelings go away.

    1. Sounds like an intense experience! It sounds to me like you were experiencing astral projection, which is where your consciousness or soul (whatever you believe in) leaves your physical body behind to travel within our realm. Things can get a little tricky. While traveling within our realm, known as the Middle Realm, you can travel backwards and forwards through time, communicate with earthly spirits, and receive guidance and messages. Its good you were quick on your toes and were able to visualize rings of protection and find your way back to your body. Astral projection can be dangerous. As for the nightmarish image, there are a couple of ways you can interpret this. Based on what you are telling me, I have the feeling that whatever you encountered may not be very nice. The fact that you were sacred and dizzy speaks for itself.

      I do, however, believe your interpretation of the message was correct. If you are indeed experiencing a transformation, its possible this is a message that the old you is fading away, giving way to growth and change. Change is good and it may be the dread you are experiencing is because you are afraid of this change, at least subconsciously.

      Since you are still feeling lingering feelings of dread, I suggest you cleanse and ground yourself. You can do this by taking a shower or a bath and envisioning yourself filling with bright light. Say out loud that you wash away any negative feelings and that no negative entity may harm you. To ground, close your eyes and imagine your energy sinking into the earth. Feel the cool soil beneath you as you feel the earth's calm embrace wash over you. This should help. If all else fails, a cleansing smoke bundle of sage or cedar will also do the trick. Sprinkling salt in your bath or on yourself in your shower will also help protect you.

      I wish you the best of luck!

  6. I've been reading your hedge riding series. I am in love. I know that this is something I'm meant to do and your guides here are priceless. Can't thank you enough for being the witch you are and sharing yourself with the world. Much love and light, Aurora

    1. You're very welcome, Aurora! I wish you the best of luck on your hedge riding voyages!

  7. I didn't read the full article, not being a 'true' hedgewitch according to the author, the comment immediately made anything that came after it likely to be as indoctrinated to some new age version of a very old way as that initial throwaway and very judgemental comment that completely missed the old ways from where hedgewitches grew - ways that never included sharmanism. My mother was a hedge witch as was her mother, and her mother before that, although they never used the term. The whole subject of crossing boundaries came from the fact that natural healers, 'witches', were revealed and feared in equal measure and therefore forced to live on the boundary of settlements, usually shunned to the edge of their village, close enough to attend those who needed their remedies, but far enough away for those who did it understand to feel comfortable. They spent their time in the hedgerows, the edges of fields, woods and lakes, the fertile places the useful herbs and flowers grew in abundance. They were not aware of shamans, they did not incorporate or assimilate practices of indigenous people and countries they'd never heard of, they used what was in their local area to heal those within their community.

    1. Well that's a shame and you are entitled to disagree, but hedge riding is what separates hedgewitches from kitchen and green witches. It is based on historical practices, but has obviously been modernized because we can, in no way, replicate the practices of the past. We live in a different time period where many of those practices are no longer useful, socially acceptable, or known to us. I also put true in quotes for a reason. There is no such thing as a modern 'true' hedgewitch. Again, we cannot replicate the past practices, but astral travel through hedge riding is the defining feature of a modern hedgewitch. I wish you would have continued reading the article as well, because I do pull historical documents supporting the information I present. I am first a foremost a scholar, and prefer to pull from historical documents instead of just my experiences. Furthermore, I have an entire post discussing the historical context of hedgewitches, where I discuss the boundaries and historical practices. Communication with the Otherworld has always been apart of what hedgewitches did. They were healers, but it was believed they could communicate with the seidh to bring about this healing, good luck, curse breaking, etc. My reference to shamanism here is to give a modern reference point, but the practices of spirit communication through reaching an altered state of consciousness has been practiced by multiple cultures around the world, including many in Europe. Think of the Oracles of Delphi and the Seidhr in Norse traditions. These are all spiritual communicators who reached an altered state of consciousness to communicate with the Otherworld. Of course they didn't use the term shaman or appropriate cultures. They didn't have to. They had their own version of astral travel and spirit communication. Language has changed drastically overtime and we no longer use the term 'haegetessa' as modern English for this word is 'hedgewitch' or 'hedge rider.' I encourage you to read the rest of the series. I am sure you will enjoy it. I've written several articles on the topic that you can find throughout the blog. Thank you for your comment and I hope this clears up any misconceptions and hard feelings you may have.

  8. I’m really interested in hedge riding but do I have to be a witch in order to do it? Because I’m not..


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