Introduction To The Hedge Witch
In his book The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism, Raymond Buckland tells us that “Hedge Witch” is:
A term applied to those who, like the Old Wise Ones, have great herbal knowledge and deal in the healings and magics of everyday life. With the Hedge Witch there is not necessarily any recognition of the religious side of Witchcraft.
She, or he, is a practitioner of low magic, i.e., magic that does not involve complicated rites and the use of ritual force to call upon entities. The Hedge Witch invariably works alone, as a Solitary. (The Witch Book, p. 229)
As Buckland says, the hedge witch is a solitary practitioner of “low magick” who uses herbs to perform healing and work magick according to the circumstances of his or her life. Necessarily, then, herbs are to play a huge roll in the life of anyone choosing to follow the path of the hedge witch.
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In fact, for some witches following this path, herbs may be the sole component of their practice. That said, the study of herbs is an extensive undertaking.
Some major universities are now offering alternative medicine degrees based entirely on the study of herbs, which require nearly 10 years of study to complete, just like more traditional medical degrees.
Magickal Working Of Herbs
So, how can we, as everyday, lay people not seeking a medical or scientific degree begin such a study herbs in a magickal or spiritual way without applying to school for a degree?
First, be honest with yourself about what role you want herbs to play in your life. Are you the type of hedge witch who will make your entire spiritual practice revolve around herbs, or are you more inclined to treat these magical herbs as a part (but not the whole) of your practice? Do you want your herbal study to include magickal, medicinal, and culinary associations, or do you prefer to focus in on only one or two of those areas of specialization?
Once you have figured out the extent of your study, you are ready to begin.
The difference between the hedge witch approach to herbal study and the scientific approach to herbal study is that the hedge witch acknowledges the living spirit within the plants. He or she attempts to build an active, reciprocal working relationship with the plants, whereas the scientist sees plants as tools to be used for accomplishing a specific purpose.
While there are many different ways to wind your way down this magickal path, my suggestion is that you start small and allow your experiences with the plants, themselves, to shape the rest of your practice. Most hedge witches tend to work with a small selection of herbs that meet a variety of needs.
The hedge witch looks upon the herbs he or she works with as friends. And, like a circle of friends, it is often better to have a small, close-knit group rather than a large, extensive network.
How To Choose Plants For Magic
So, how do you choose which plants (out of the many possible options) to cultivate a relationship with?
Personally, I work by three simple rules:
- Shoot for local varieties
- Try to find common culinary herbs
- Find at least one plant within each of the seven traditional planetary correspondences (a sun herb, a lunar herb, etc.)
By keeping your selection to local plants, you will save money since you can harvest wild plants instead of buying them from the store or an online source. By choosing common culinary herbs, you are able to begin your study right away, using what you already have in your kitchen. By using the planetary correspondence system of magickal working, you will round out your herb cabinet so that you can handle nearly any situation life throws at you.
Keep in mind, these are just suggestions. If you have another method that works for you, use it. If you don’t, try mine. In the rest of these articles, I will be introducing you to seven to ten different plants with different astrological correspondences that grow in my area (the South East Region of the United States). If any of the plants that I mention are not native to your own region, feel free to make an appropriate substitution that is more appropriate to your own area.
Great books to help you decide what an appropriate substitution might be are:
- Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper
- The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl
- Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham