Monday, January 11, 2021

Reader Question: How Do I Know If My Journeys Are Real?

hedge riding, hedgeriding, hedgewitch, hedge witch, meditation, pathwalking, guided mediation, witch, witchcraft, pagan, neopagan, wicca, wiccan, astral travel, astral projection, witchy

"How do I know if my hedge riding journeys are real?"

This is a fairly common question I am asked as a hedgewitch in regards to hedge riding. Hedge riding is the act of reaching an altered state of consciousness to travel to the Otherworld to work magic, perform healing rituals, complete soul work, divine the future, and communicate/mediate with spirits. During this process, our senses are flooded with images, information, sounds, and smells, and it's not surprising that some people, especially the skeptical, feel as if it were all just in their head, that none of it was real. It is perfectly okay to question your journeys; in fact, I encourage you too. It is through critical analysis of our experiences that we are able to decode the messages the Universe is sending us and evolve spiritually. 

So how exactly do you know if your journey is real versus an active imagination? There are a couple of things that separate hedge riding journies from visualization, pathwalking, and meditation. First, you lose control of the journey. During the beginning of hedge riding, while you are attempting to reach that altered state of consciousness, you have control over the visualization. However, once you pass over into an altered state of consciousness and enter into the Otherworld, the visualization is no longer in your control. You are unable to control the actions of others and how the surroundings respond to you, just like you don't control other entities within our plane of existence. For example, I have encountered a number of spirits in the Otherworld, each vastly different from the next. When I encounter these spirits, they act of their own free will. What they say and do is completely beyond my control. When something disturbing happens within the Otherworld, I can't simply will it away like in my nightmares. I cannot change a scary beast into a fluffy bunny. I also cannot control how the environment behaves. I cannot will it to be day time or night time; I cannot will the rain to stop and for the sun to beam down, just like I can't on Earth either. This loss of control of the narrative is the key difference between hedge riding and an active imagination. If you believe you are hedge riding and you find yourself in control of forces outside of yourself, that's an indicator that you are not in fact hedge riding. However, as I mentioned before, you have control in the beginning, as you enter into the Otherworld and reach an altered state of consciousness. I always have control of the beginning of my journey, but when I 'pop' through to the Otherworld, that control vanishes.

Second, time does not behave the same way it does within our realm. Sure during visualizations and pathwalking you can speed up events, but that's the key here; you are doing the speeding up. Within the Otherworld, time behaves however it sees fit, completely beyond your control. Sometimes it slows down, dragging similar to the way 2020 lasted 50 years. Other times it speeds up, with you able to live several lifetimes in a matter of minutes. I have had experiences last hours in the Otherworld, only to come out of my journey 20 minutes later in our world. I have to say, the lifetimes spent within the Otherworld are some of the most powerful journeys, ones I have been unable to achieve through mediation or pathwalking. So, if you have control over the flow of time in your journey, then it is unlikely you are hedge riding.

The last sign that your journey may or may not be real is more difficult to explain. It's based on how you feel afterward and everyone always feels different. So for this, I can only speak from my experience and you will have to determine what differentiates hedge riding journeys from mediation and pathwalking for you. First, when I meditate, visualize, or pathwalk I am often feeling light and relaxed afterward. The only time I ever feel particularly tired after such work is if I was already tired. All the meditation did was relax me further. After hedge riding, however, I often feel very, very different. Sometimes I am utterly exhausted. My muscles ache, my body is stiff, and I am out of breath. Other times I am exhilarated, my heart, and mind racing. Very rarely do I come out of a journey relaxed and at ease. Of course, this is just me, so you need to find your difference.

I have to say though, the biggest question isn't always, "Was my journey real?" but "What did I learn?" Maybe you didn't technically hedge ride, but did you find the answers you were seeking? Isn't that really what matters in the end? One of my favorite interactions from Harry Potter, apart from the Always scene, of course, is the conversation between Harry and Dumbledore at King's Cross Station purgatory. Harry asks Dumbledore, "Professor? Is this all real, or is it just happening in my head?" to which Dumbledore responds, "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry! Why should that mean that it's not real?" This is how I try to live my life as a hedgewitch. Even if it is all just in my head, it is very, very real to me and that's all that matters. Just because someone else doesn't believe it is, has no impact on how my hedge riding journeys have affected me. The same applies to you. It's hard to let go of our ego and our need for approval from others, but part of our spiritual journey is to do just that. I promise you it will open you up to so much more.

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  1. I often think of that same quote when it comes to these topics. Well said!

  2. Reviewing things with a dose of self-reflection and skepticism is healthy, I think, regardless of what topic you're discussing. I always appreciate that you emphasize the importance of critical thinking in our craft.

    1. Of course! I strongly believe critical thinking is an important part of living in an ever changing world. <3

  3. Superb post and points. I too feel that the distinct sensation after a journey beyond our realm is one of the most telltale signs that what one experienced wasn't "just" a dream or product of our imagination. I also find there is a bit of a decompression period. I've never done any deep scuba diving (so can't speak firsthand to that experience), but my mind likens this period to that of gradually return to the surface involved with diving so as to safely re-enter our visible world once more.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

  4. This: "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry! Why should that mean that it's not real?" was the first thing I thought about when I read the intro. Also, starting to fantasize if meditation doesn't work, is a good way to get into the flow :)


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