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Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Review: The Book Of Hedge Druidry by Joanna van der Hoeven

Book Review: The Book Of Hedge Druidry by Joanna van der Hoeven

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Let me start off by thanking Llewellyn Publications and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to review this book, and wow, what a book! I read a lot, and I do mean a lot, and not every book I read makes it to my blog for a review. In fact, I have read 14 books so far this year, well over my original goal of 12. The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker by Joanna van der Hoeven is one of the best books I have read all year, especially if you are a hedgewitch. While this book focuses on Druidry, I highly recommend it to my fellow hedgewitches, whether you are just starting out or have been practicing for a while.

Book Review: The Book Of Hedge Druidry by Joanna van der Hoeven

As the title suggests, this book is a druid approach to hedgecraft, but don't let that deter you if you are not interested in Druidry. van der Hoeven makes it very clear that this path is an individual one, and to use her book as a guide, not a Bible. The book has four parts: Theory, Practice, Study, and Skills and Technique. In the "Theory" section of the book, van der Hoeven covers the basics of Druidry, including Awen, the Three Realms, the Otherworld, the Wheel of the Year, and much more. I am not very familiar with Druidry, but van der Hoeven uses historical texts to back up her claims, citing them at the bottom of each page that has a reference. I would have liked to have seen more references, but I applaud her citing as much as she did, as this is a rarity in the pagan community. Furthermore, much of her tradition and belief is based on folklore, and she even mentions in the "Study" section on spell writing that you too should turn to folklore to write your own spells and rituals. I wholeheartedly agree with her and already turn to folklore in my own practice. Her descriptions of the sabbats are rooted in historical texts as well, and she accurately states that not all 8 sabbats were originally celebrated by our ancestors, that many of these holidays arose with Wicca in the last century. One of my favorite aspects of the "Theory" section is that she covers animism, which is rarely mentioned in other books I have read. In fact, it is a topic I have yet to cover here on the blog, but certainly, plan to remedy in the near future. Furthermore, she spends a lot of time encouraging her readers to get to know the spirits of place and the land around you. She notes how important this is to one's practice, as the magics in Great Britain and Ireland are very different from the magics found in other parts of the world.

The "Practice" section includes beautiful seasonal rituals, moon rituals, and even rituals for rites of passage, such as a handfasting. I can't begin to express how much I loved all the rituals I read. They were a breath of fresh air in a world full of Wiccan inspired rituals. I was truely inspired by the handfasting ritual, and should I marry again, I will definitely be using her ritual as a guide. In each ritual, she notes that you do not have to form a circle or set of sacred space, and offers alternatives for those of us, like myself, who do not include a deity in our practice. The inclusivity of the rituals shows that van der Hoeven took the time to recognize that hedgecraft is very individual and unique, which I greatly appreciated. "Study" includes information on herblore, Ogham, and spellcraft. They are by no means complete, but a nice little introduction to those interested in such things. Her Ogham chapter is particularly good, as she mentions that there are tons of different Oghams, and suggests other books for the reader to use to delve deeper into the study. I love that she mentioned Robert Graves in reference to the Tree Ogham, but did not claim he is the best source. I appreciate this because much of Graves work has been thus proven incorrect.

She ends the book discussing ethics, peace, and being a leader in the community. In the current political climate, this section is a great reminder that our actions must speak louder than our words. She encourages her readers to do what is best for everyone, without being judgie or hiding behind the Three-Fold Law seen in other texts. She also includes no mention of Karma, simply asking that you consider the consequences of your actions.

There are a couple of things I did not like about the book, however. First, her interpretation of hedge riding is a form of pathwalking. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and if that is your shared belief, then ignore me here. Personally, I believe hedge riding and pathwalking are very different. Pathwalking is guided, while hedge riding is not. However, pathwalking is still a great way to meet with spirits and beings of the Otherworld should that be your chosen form of travel, but I believe it is different from hedge riding. Furthermore, I would have loved to have seen more written about the Otherworld and hedge riding than what was included in the book. It was mentioned on and off as an underlying theme of hedge Druidry, but there was not a whole lot of explanation or practice involving hedge riding and spirit work in the book. This was rather disappointing to me because I really love reading about how other people experience the Otherworld. Much of what she does talk about regarding the Otherworld is centered around working with the Fair Folk, and there is so much more to hedge riding and the Otherworld than the Fae. Despite this, I strongly recommend the book to all my readers, giving it a 5 out of 5! If you are looking for something new, whether you are into Druidry or not, The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker by Joanna van der Hoeven is a great place to start! The book is currently available for pre-order and is set to release on July 8, 2019.


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