The Path of the Hedgewitch is a good primer for those interested in British magic and solitary practice. Author Joanne Van der Hoeven comes across as a lover of the outdoors and a mystic. She walks through heaths and dances under stars, gathers herbs, and works simple spells. Her sensibility is both practical and wonder loving. This book could be used by a new solitary witch to learn the basics but it is also interesting if you just want to know more about English pagan practices.
Hedgewitchcraft focuses on the spiritual relationship of humans to the natural world and to the Elven realm. Incorporating English folklore, country magic, and hedge riding traditions, the author bases her practice on close observance of natural cycles. Her personal stories are about what plants, animals and phenomena she sees in her locale. She expresses a deeply felt connection to nature and the places like hedges where she crosses into the Otherworld of the Fairies. Known in Britain as hedgeriding, this is an ancient indigenous practice in the Isles in which someone enters into a trance and interacts with beings in the Otherworld. The author is influenced by Nordic völva practice too. Her exercises will show readers how to begin walking between the worlds.
One of my favorite parts of the book was Chapter 2, A Brief History of Witchcraft. Van der Hoeven looks at writings and laws from the Middle Ages, the Salem Witch Trials, the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in England in the 20th century and only then discusses the founders of the modern Craft. This chapter paints such a clear, succinct picture of where witchcraft has been and puts it into an insightful context. The attention to historical truth, traditional lore, and natural science makes this a better than average book on witchcraft.
The final section presents basics of the hedgewitch’s craft such as how to do a ritual or sabbat and use ritual tools like stangs and goblets. There are step by step instructions on practices like hallowing a compass, treading the mill, finding your fylgja and fairy companion, drawing down the moon and crafting a spell. Herbcraft, country lore and even weather and stargazing are covered in brief.
~review by Larissa Carlson
Author: Joanna van der Hoeven
Llewellyn Worldwide, 2022
pp. 260, $19.99