Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Book Review: The Path of the Hedge Witch by Joanna van der Hoeven

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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. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Despite not blogging much lately, I have been reading some new and upcoming occult books. Joanna van der Hoeven wrote one of my favorite books on druidism and hedgecraft a couple years ago titled The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker which is included on my hedgecraft resources list. I highly recommend this book to novice hedge witches because it breaks down hedge riding in easy, relatable terms. When I saw she had another book coming out titled The Path of the Hedge Witch, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Unfortunately, I did not feel this book was as good as The Book of Hedge Druidry, but it did offer some valuable insight into hedgecraft if you are new to it. I took a ton of notes on this book, so buckle up!

The Path of the Hedge Witch is broken down into four parts: Defining the Terms & Looking at History, Learning Through Nature, Ritual & the Art of Hedge Riding, and Lore. The first part is very brief and offers a very neopagan/Wiccan view of witchcraft history. In fact, van der Hoeven reiterates Rae Beth's version of a hedge witch, which is just solitary Wicca. This is disappointing as I did not feel she wrote from a Wiccan perspective in her last book, but it's obvious Beth's works played an influential role throughout this book, and are cited multiple times in the bibliography. She also makes the mistake of equating Satanism with worshipping Satan, which is a gross misconception and oversight by the editors. It's disappointing that with our unlimited access to knowledge authorities in witchcraft are still making this mistake. Part 2 introduces deities and basic correspondences of the moon, sun, elements, and fae folk. Honestly, I could have done without much of Part 1 and 2 and if you are a seasoned witch, I would suggest skimming these chapters. She does offer some nuggets of valuable information and suggestions in these sections, but this information is found in basically every single book on witchcraft. 

Despite my encouragement to skim these sections, I did love her perspective on deity work. As a person that doesn't necessarily believe in any deities, it was nice to see my views represented in this chapter. van der Hoeven mentions that some witches believe deities are the forces of nature and therefore do not feel the need to personify them. This is probably the closest someone has gotten to my beliefs on the matter. It's important to note that not all witches believe, worship, or include deities in their practice and this is valid. Furthermore, van der Hoeven makes a wonderful distinction between the Horned God and Antlered God. While the duality of the God and Goddess is heavily Wiccan, I appreciated the distinction between a horned god like Pan that does not lose their horns, versus an antlered god like Cerennous that would lose their antlers. These distinctions are not only scientifically accurate but also more representative of the nature of these deities and their aspects. This part also discusses the different sabbats and I love that she mentions that these festivals are largely a modern invention that pulled holidays from multiple different regions, practices, and cultures and smushed them all together. She encourages her readers to make their craft personal and move sabbats, elements, etc to fit their needs.

While I wasn't a huge fan of Parts 1 and 2, I did enjoy Parts 3 and 4. Part three does an amazing job combining ritual with hedge riding. She offers multiple ways to hedge ride, including using a stang, meditation, and liminal spaces as portals. She includes several personal stories throughout to give her readers an idea of what to expect, which I love. I need concrete examples to fully comprehend what it is I am supposed to be doing, and based on the emails and comments I get, I know many of you require the same examples to be successful. Just be mindful that your practice and hedge riding experiences will likely look very different from that of van der Hoeven and me, and that is normal. The hedge riding section is rather comprehensive, and this part alone is worth the purchase of the book, even if you are experienced in the art of hedge riding. She offers a variety of new and old techniques, including Hallowing the Compass for casting circles, a "roots and branches" meditation that is now my favorite grounding and centering method, treading the mill, how to hedge ride on the physical plane, and even a solo ritual to draw down the moon. van der Hoeven does not, however, support the use of 'drugs' to reach an altered state of consciousness which was traditionally used by hedge witches. I advise against it in most cases as well, but if you are working with another witch, have purchased flying ointments or smoking blends from a reputable herbalist, and have taken the correct precautions and protection measures, I fully support the use of such herbal methods.

The book ends with "Lore" which covers the basics of spellcraft, herbcraft, and countryside lore. This section contains very basic correspondences and how to create your own spells, but she does support the Wiccan idea of harming none. I encourage you to decide for yourself what you deem ethical or not. There are some very basic spells included, as well as a list of commonly used herbs and plants. Each plant has a list of its magical and medicinal uses as well as some recipes, but please be mindful that there is no dosage information and some of the scientific names are incorrectly formatted. I also did not like that this section was not in alphabetical order, which would make it difficult for you to find the plant you are looking for if you wish to quickly reference this book.

Each chapter ends with a little story about a hedge witch. She does use "she" to describe this witch, but I am assuming she is using herself as the witch in the story, and not speaking in general terms. I could be wrong in this, and if I am, please be mindful that men, women, and nonbinary folks engage in witchcraft.

Overall, this book was okay. It wasn't amazing, but it wasn't terrible either. If you are interested in hedge riding or looking for some new information on the topic, I recommend adding this book to your collection. If you are looking for an introduction to hedgecraft or witchcraft in general, I suggest reading some of the other books in my Resources list. The Path of the Hedge Witch by Joanna van der Hoeven is available now.

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  1. Hello Willow! I am so glad to have found your blog. In the midst of being sick I was rummaging around online and found you--allow me to say that it is immensely helpful to have someone be so verbal about these things--this new world and universe for some--and to share so many thought-out insights and resources. Thank you for sharing! I look forward to learning from you :)

    1. Thank you so much for reading and supporting!


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