Friday, April 28, 2023

5 Deities to Aid in Hedge Riding and Astral Travel

Hedge riding is the act of purposely entering an altered state of consciousness and traveling to the Otherworld to seek wisdom, work with spirits, and perform magic. It's the defining characteristic of the hedge witch, and this form of astral travel has been performed across multiple cultures for centuries. For some, it can be difficult to cross the hedge, the boundary that separates our reality from the Otherworld. Invoking the aid of a deity may help lessen the burden of travel and open the doors to new opportunities, wisdom, and magical lessons. But who can you call on for aid? Below are five deities that can aid you in your travels to the Otherworld and beyond!

Freya & Odin

Yes, these are two deities, but they are both equal masters of seiðr, a form of Nordic shamanism used to divine the future, shape fate, and traverse the Otherworld, much like modern hedge riding and hedgecraft. Seiðr was historically a highly gendered practice so Odin acted as a model for men and Freya for women, although some texts suggest it was 'unmanly' for men to practice as it was considered 'woman's work.' Odin defied these gender norms by learning seiðr from his wife, Freya/Freyja, and engaging in the practice to learn the magic of the runes, divine the future, and engage in spirit communication. Both Freya and Odin can be called upon to aid in hedge riding, by men, women, and nonbinary folks alike. I suggest including a distaff in your work, the tool most often used in seiðr to connect with the World Tree.


Hekate is the goddess of witches, magic, necromancy, and otherworldly travel. It was Hekate, along with Hermes, who led the search through the Underworld for Persephone, her torch lighting the way through the darkness. As such, she is deeply associated with traversing the Otherworld, safe travels, and crossroads, and is said to be easily found in liminal places, such as the hedge. Call upon Hekate to lend you her torchlight and guide you on your way through the Otherworld safely. 


Brigid may seem like an odd choice, but understanding her history sheds light on her liminal nature. Brigid is traditionally associated with Imbolc, the time between winter and spring. Furthermore, she walked between worlds, both fairy and mortal, and later was the bridge between Celtic paganism and Christianity. Her liminal nature, and her willingness to cross between realms, make her an excellent guide and travel partner for those engaging in hedge riding. 


Áine's history is riddled with contradictory folklore, but one thing is for certain, she was assaulted by Ailill Aulom, King of Munster, and bit off his ear during the assault, rendering him unfit to be a king. As the goddess of sovereignty, Áine holds the ability the grant and remove someone's power to rule. However, it's her association with Midsummer and lakes that are of particular interest to the modern hedge witch. Midsummer is believed to be a liminal time for the fae who actively cross between realms during this time to celebrate the Sun. Lakes, like hedges, are also liminal places, acting as portals to the Otherworld. Áine is just one of many Lady of the Lakes found throughout the United Kingdom and was said to emerge each Midsummer to bask upon her favorite spot. Her power is particularly potent on and around Midsummer, and the modern hedge witch can call upon her services to guide them safely through watery portals.

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga is among the most infamous witches found in Slavic folklore. According to legend, Baba Yaga engages in nightly flights in her mortar, using her pestle to guide her along her way. She shares many traits with Hekate, sometimes being viewed as a triple aspect, while other times being represented by the matronly crone. No matter how you view her, Baba Yaga often extends a helping hand to those who seek her out, although she is often harsh in her tone and words. Call upon her to guide your way through the darkness and into the Otherworld, meet spirits, and even make your way to the Witch's Sabbath. If you treat her with respect and offer her a spot of alcohol or some tobacco, she'll be more apt to oblige. 


Of course, this list is not exhaustive by any means. There are multiple other deities that are associated with astral travel and the Otherworld, but remember to be culturally sensitive when choosing a deity to work with. Before invoking a deity for hedge riding, be sure you have developed a relationship with them first. If you wouldn't ask it of a friend, let alone a stranger, then don't ask it of a deity. Furthermore, just because you have built a relationship and asked for their aid, doesn't necessarily mean the deity will show up. They are not there to serve your every need and if you run into a non-responsive deity, try another time.

How you ultimately invoke one of these deities is completely up to you. Once you have an established relationship, you will know how to ask for their aid, thank them for their service, and what offerings they prefer. Go with your gut. I promise you'll know the way when the time comes.

Happy traveling!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Magical Properties of Labradorite

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Monday, April 24, 2023

Book Review: Craft of the Hedge Witch by Geraldine Smythe

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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.

Recently Crossed Crow Books, an independent occult publisher, has been picking up and reprinting previously out-of-print books, including Craft of the Hedge Witch by Geraldine Smythe. I was lucky enough to recently receive a signed limited copy to review, and I am here today, after a little hiatus, to share my review with you. This review has been requested multiple times by readers so I was happy to finally get my hands on a copy!

First and foremost, I am going to get it out there and say overall, this book was a huge letdown. It's not often I want to DNF an occult book, but this was one of them because I struggled with Smythe's tone, disregard for science, and trans-exclusionary language throughout the book. She is extremely pretentious and even snarky towards non-practitioners and witches of other "faiths." She states early on that she doesn't like covens (neither do I), because egos often get in the way, then spends the next 100-something pages going on an egotistical rant about her version of hedge craft and how witches are better than those living in the "world of agreement." She often says "Only a witch can.." do some occult thing, which is extremely dismissive to other spiritual practices, such as Brujeria, hoodoo, and Santeria, practices that do not refer to their practice as witchcraft. We have to remember all occult practices and magic are valid and capable of doing extraordinary things, not just witches. This is a very Eurocentric viewpoint, one that our community should be moving away from. At the end of the book she says, "...nothing more annoying to a real witch than a conflicted Bible thumper dabbling in the craft out of boredom and dissatisfaction with their own religious identity." What? A lot of us came from Christianity. Our dissatisfaction with the religion and its exclusive, culty nature is what drove us to seek something better and now suddenly we are the enemy? Absolutely not. Furthermore, there are Christian witches out there! Witchcraft is not a religion, it's a practice, and therefore anyone, from any faith, can practice it.

Smythe also takes a dismissive stance on anxiety, claiming that's a problem from the mundane world that witches shouldn't have and if you do have anxiety, like me, that you shouldn't be practicing witchcraft. I understand mental illness, especially anxiety and depression, can severely impact your magic, but that doesn't make people suffering from an illness less than others or incapable of practicing witchcraft. My witchcraft may look different than others, that's all. It isn't any less valid because I have anxiety. And what frustrates me the most is that those of us suffering do not need to be reminded that our illness often gets in the way. We know... We are living that reality day in and day out.

Later, Smythe claims that a "witch's shadow runs on...sexual energy" and that "females" are more powerful than "males" because "females" draw their power from their cycle and childbirth. This exclusionary take not only wreaks of transphobia but also a severe lack of understanding of the human body. First, it's gross to reduce people to their body parts. Second, not all women menstruate or bear children, and not all men are incapable of menstruating and bearing childing. Whether you bleed once a month or not has absolutely no impact on the potency of your magic.

Finally, Smythe dismisses science and reasoning, making it the enemy of witchcraft, but then tries to use a very inaccurate view of evolution to explain the existence of spirits. Pick a lane, lady. Do you support science or not, because you can't bash it then try to use it to support your "truth." Science and reasoning are not the enemies of witchcraft. In fact, they can help explain some of the mechanisms of witchcraft, but certainly not all. Evolution, however, does not explain spirits. Smythe says that if it (spirits) wasn't beneficial to humans then it wouldn't exist. This is not how evolution works. Nonbeneficial or neutral traits are selected for all the time. Evolution is simply change over time. Nothing more, nothing less. And unfortunately, it doesn't explain spirits.

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Whew...that was a lot of things I really disliked and hopefully, I haven't completely discouraged you from potentially picking up this book. Despite the egregious flaws, there are many hidden nuggets of wonderful information. First is her walking meditation. This is an excellent practice and one I highly encourage you to look into. Her directions and explanation are clear and concise, and she even offers examples to explain her point. Smythe also includes supplements that can aid in hedge riding, resources to find more information on the topic, her experiences with different supplements, how to use a key to hedge ride, and the difference between "hedging" and "flying the hedge" which I found enlightening. The book ends with a very small collection of recipes to help induce hedge riding, which I also really liked. I believe this information is valuable and useful to new and practiced hedge witches alike, more specifically pages 21-25 and many of the chapters in Part II, III, IV, and V, which also cover the elements, familiars, ancestors, and the foundations of spellcraft. 

If you decide to pick up this book, I encourage you to skip Part I and read the remaining text with a very critical eye. Just because the author's viewpoints are flawed, doesn't mean you can glean some valuable information from their text. I detest Crowley, but that doesn't mean his rituals aren't valid. Smythe offers a unique perspective on hedgecraft, one I found both validating and enlightening, but I had to wade through a swamp to get to it. You can pick up your copy of Craft of the Hedge Witch by Geraldine Smythe from most online booksellers now.

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