The term hedge witch seems to be familiar to British witches but may need some explanation for those who aren’t based in the UK. The book is probably written with the UK audience in mind and the idea that the reader will already know. A hedge witch typically may do a lot of what a kitchen witch does with use of herbs and plants in spells but the British tradition also includes a form of magical journeying called hedge riding that resembles shamanic journeying. The author is influenced by both Celtic and Nordic traditions and even uses planetary correspondences based on Roman traditions. All of these cultures influenced the British.
Most of the practices found here are based in British or Scandinavian folk magic. The English had people who were referred to as cunning folk or parish pump witches who used practical magic but were very likely to have been Christians. A lot of what carried over into American ideas of what witchcraft is or was, could be traced to this folk magic practice. This book is a DIY magic guide without dealing with the framework of theology and is intended as an introduction for Hedge Witches. That said, anybody open to the idea of magic could learn to do simple spells with Saillie’s instruction.
There’s a long talk about connecting with the materials you choose to use in spells. Traditional uses of different species of wood in magic is something that seems to be considered the basics in England. The use of runes and even a guide to the meanings of runes with their images is included. Old spells from England and even the Eddas work their way in. The magic of animal familiars gets a whole chapter as do working with the elements. So much of what is considered common witchcraft practice like candle spells and hagge bags (spells in a bag) are rooted in these northern European customs.
The lists and correspondences I found a little bit tedious because they are basically reference lists. The information is good but you may wish to skim these lists until needing the information. Sprinkled throughout are interesting comments that show this author has more depth of knowledge. I was fascinated and horrified to read about the witch bottle that appeared on the Antiques Roadshow.
Saillie states that not all hedge witches do hedge riding. For those readers who do neither shamanic journeying nor hedge riding, she provides visualization exercises that are not the same but may serve as good practice for those who continue this study. I’m not sure I could distinguish between shamanic practice and hedge riding except that the hedge witch flies to the otherworld for magic and prophesy and connection to the gods and the shamanic journey is often part of ritual healing. My gut tells me the spiritual planes of both intersect and the main difference is probably one of cultural context.
Recommended for beginners interested in traditions practiced in the UK
~review by Larissa Carlson
Author: Harmonia Saille
Moon Books, 2021
pp. 275, $18.99