Monday, August 15, 2016

Book Review: Hedge Riding by Harmonia Saille

Book Review: Hedge Riding by Harmonia Saille 

Harmonia needs to write more books on hedgecraft, that much is for damn sure. She is one of the first authors to write on the topic extensively (well -ish because her books are WAY too short in my opinion) and get it right. More often than not, hedgecraft is confused with the practices of a kitchen or hearth witch. Yes, we share many things in common, but the main difference is hedge riding and the stress we place on divination. Harmonia's book Hedge Riding covers the topic of hedge riding quite well, although like her last book, she could have written a lot more. Her book gives a basic introduction to the art of hedge riding while comparing it to meditation, pathwalking, and astral projection. While these activities have similarities, they are distinctly unique. To learn more, please read my post Meditation, Pathwalking, and Hedge Riding: Making Sense of It All for more information.

As always, let's start with what I did not like. I did not like the length. That's a given. I also did not like that the content wasn't covered in enough detail to walk away with a firm understanding of how to hedge ride. If you are familiar with pathwalking, which many may be, jumping to hedge riding isn't much of a stretch, but for those new to the craft, this book will be difficult to understand. It is by no means for a novice hedgewitch. That's pretty much it for what I didn't like.

What I did like was that it accurately addressed the practice of hedge riding for experienced witches like myself. Harmonia also does a great job describing the different parts of the otherworld in a way all readers can understand. She even makes note that how you sort through the information she presents is completely up to you and that you should make it your own. Like her last book, Hedge Witchcraft, this is written from her perspective of her craft which makes the book relateable. Furthermore, seeing her step by step process regarding hedge riding makes some of the details clearer than if she had just listed the steps. She also leaves subtle warnings throughout that hedge riding can be dangerous and to take precautions. There are at least two chapters than deal with safety when hedge riding. The first covers entering an altered state of consciousness without the use of drugs and what you should bring with you and why, while the second chapter deals with proper preparation and etiquette once you enter the Otherworld.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars because there are some parts that are slightly unclear. This is book is clearly intended for experienced witches and some of the content would be unfamiliar to new or novice witches. However, for someone like myself, this book was an amazing addition to my collection.

Have you read anything wonderful lately?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Meditating, Pathwalking, and Hedge Riding: Making Sense Of It All

Witchcraft is one of those paths that has multiple ways for seeking answers and assistance from other realms. Often times, these methods can be confused or incorrectly used, especially by novice witches. Today I'd like to address some of the ways to seek assistance outside of spell work and rituals that require a specific mental state. I will not be covering astral projection in this post as I have talked about it before. If you would like to learn more, please read my post Astral Projection: What It Is & How To Do It for more information.


Meditation
Meditation is a fairly simple practice used not only by pagans, but people from all walks of life to quiet the mind, heal the body, and problem solve. While some believe you shut off your mind during meditation, the opposite is actually true. The intention of meditation is to focus the mind on self and enter a state of consciousness different from our daily consciousness. Some use meditation to contemplate while others use it to look inward to problem solve. None of these are "wrong," although some will tell you so. During this higher state of consciousness, you contact your inner "true" self and communicate with the Divine for whatever purpose you have in mind. Compared to pathwalking and hedge riding, meditation is very easy, although many find it difficult to quiet the mind, especially with the hustle and bustle of today.

To begin practicing meditation, I suggest going and sitting in a quiet place outside. Start slowly by sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and thinking about what you feel around you. Focus on the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, the sound of the birds, and prickling of the grass. Start off by sitting in this way for about 10 minutes. As you become accustomed to focusing your mind, extend your sessions. Some people are able to meditate for hours, while some feel good with 20 minutes. Try not to fall asleep, but if you do, know it is because your body needed the rest. You can combine visualization and meditation, called imagery meditation, where you picture a simple scene in your mind or by imagining something you want, such as seeing yourself well again if you are sick. This is also a great way to retrace your steps if you have misplaced an item. These visualizations are simple and directed toward a specific purpose.

Pathwalking
Pathwalking is a relatively new concept in paganism and is not believed to have existed prior to the occult revival. Originally, pathwalking meant astrally or mentally projecting yourself up and around Kabalistic Tree of Life in order to gain information, seek guidance, or heal. More recently, however, the term has evolved to mean any visualized journey, and shares many traits with a Shamanistic journey or vision quest. Pathwalking differs from meditation in that you embark on a visualized journey instead of focusing your mind on your inner self or a specific need. Pathwalking comes the closest to hedge riding as you often find yourself passing into the otherworld realms.

Pathwalking can be guided or self created. In guided pathwalking (sometimes called guided meditation) someone else talks you through what is happening while you visualize the journey. This is a great way to learn certain magical techniques, gain a better understanding of magical symbols, and heal. If you are just starting out, it may be best to use a guided exercise so someone can "pull" you back if and when needed. If you are self-creating, make sure you plan your journey ahead of time and carry a grounding stone with you to ensure a safe return. Sometimes you will feel you have somewhat lost control, but for the most part, you drive the visualization for a specific purpose. Astral projection is a form of pathworking as your astral self leaves your physical self to seek answers, divine intervention, healing, and more.

Hedge Riding
Hedge riding is the main practice that separates hedgewitches from other witches. Unlike meditation and pathwalking, hedge riding requires the witch to physically leave our realm to travel to others. This is not visualization. You do not have control of the journey, and the forces you meet there can cause you harm if you are not careful. To hedge ride, the witch must enter an altered state of consciousness (ASC). This can be done with drumming, dancing, chanting, or drugs, although many hedgewitches do not condone or support the use of drugs to reach an altered state of consciousness (ASC). It is too dangerous. However, flying ointments were common practice way back when and are thusly named because they allowed the witch to enter an ASC and thus fly or hedge ride to other worlds.

Hedge riding is shamanistic in nature and usually performed alone, although some witches prefer to work in groups. When riding, the rider's consciousness enters another realm, generally referred to as the otherworld, which is the collective unconscious. This otherworld has three different realms, Upper, Middle, and Lower, each with their own levels (9 total). The most common version of this is the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil. Unlike practices in Shamanism, however, hedgewitches usually do not engage in psychopomp work which involves escorting souls to the afterlife or soul retrieval. Instead, hedge riding is used for healing, to search for knowledge, divination, or assistance in spell work. You can also meet your ancestors during hedge riding by moving into the past or future.

There are two different translations of verse 156 of The Havamal in the Poetic Edda of the 13th century that talks explcitily about hedge riding:
I know this the tenth:
If I see the hedge-riders magically flying high,
I can make it so they go astray
Of their own skins, and of their own souls.
Nigel Pennick (Havamal, Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes, 2002)

A tenth I know, what time I see
House-riders flying on high;
So I can work, that wildly they go,
Showing their true shapes,
Hence to their own homes.
Henry Adams Bellows (Hovamol, verse 156, The Poetic Edda, 1936)
Both translations are a charm that can either cause the hedge rider to show their true self and return home, or cause the rider's spirit to separate from their physical body. Either way, these charms tell us that hedge riders traveled or flew to otherworldly realms, usually in another form.

Experienced hedge riders often shape-shift into an animal form for added protection. Journeys are also usually accompanied by animal guides who provide protection and guidance while traveling through the other realms. This can be very dangerous, so if you are not already experienced in meditation and pathwalking, I do not suggest you attempt to hedge ride. If you do, visiting the upper Lower realm tends to be safest, but go for no more than 20 minutes at a time. As you can see from the charms, it is possible to separate your astral self from your physical body.

While there is so much more I can say on all three of these topics, I think we have covered enough of the basics for everyone to have an understanding of what each is and the differences among them. As with any practice in witchcraft, I suggest using your best judgement when engaging in these activities. While meditation and pathwalking are relatively safe, hedge riding can be extremely dangerous.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Should We Rethink the Triple Goddess?

I've said it a thousand times here that I don't believe in any of the deities, but I will admit I like the idea of them. I find them fascinating and believe they can exist within our own minds, but not outside of it. That being said, the Triple Goddess is a beautiful representation of the phases of a woman's life, the changing seasons, and the moon phases, but is it perhaps time to redifine her?

After reading Hedge Witchcraft by Harmonia Saille, my feelings regarding the use of the Triple Goddess changed. The Triple Goddess is supposed to represent the changing seasons, the phases of the moon, and the stages of a woman's life, but Harmonia suggests using four because in reality we have four seasons, four moon phases, and women have four stages in their life.


Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter are all very distinct seasons with certain sabbats falling within each to represent those seasons. We don't really see too much of spring or fall here in Georgia, but the traditional associations are still there. Using only three goddesses to represent these four seasons seems a bit odd. Which do we lump together into one? Furthermore, fall really doesn't match the crone phase, but it doesn't match the mother phase either. The same goes with the moon phases. We have Waxing, Full, Wanning, and Dark. The crone doesn't really fit in the wanning moon phase in the three-phase system, but she fits quite well in the dark or new moon phase. So viewing the seasons and moon phases as a set of four means we are missing a Goddess form.


Photo Credit: Catherine Noble Beyer
Today, people are living longer, meaning women transition into their Crone stage much later than before. However, many women move on from their Mother phase well before becoming a Crone. My mother is one of these women. She has left her Mother phase, but isn't quite in her Crone years either. So what is she? This phase is the autumn of life. In the three-phase system, postmenopausal women are left out, but by switching to a four-phase system we create an archetype to fill this gap. Harmonia calls her the Harvest Queen. After doing a bit of research, several others have also used the word queen to describe this portion of a woman's life as well. I think this name is suiting because queens are wise, independent, and strong, yet still nurturing and young at heart. When I think of the word queen I see Queen Elizabeth I, a woman who was known for having fun, but being strong and independent as well. Queen suits postmenopausal women in the autumn of their lives quite well in my opinion.

So by creating this new archtype and therefore Quadruple Goddess, we have a Goddess for each season and moon phase as well as for each element and direction. So, with this system:


Madein-Spring-Waxing Moon-Air-East
Mother-Summer-Full Moon-Fire-South
Queen-Fall-Wanning Moon-West-Water
Crone-Winter-Dark/New Moon-Earth-North

This system works beautifully and includes women who have otherwise felt left out. If you would like to read more on this subject, Donna Henes wrote a great piece on the topic of the Queen while Wind Hughes posted an article from Sowell Magazine (2000) about the four phases of a woman's life, their meanings, and their "light and dark" sides.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Office is Finished!

So we finished the office! Actually we finished it back in May, but I have been so busy I haven't had a chance to upload the pictures and write about it. So without further ado, here is our completed office!

To start off, I painted all the walls except one white. The other wall was painted jade green. The stencil I created and cut myself, and my mom came over to help me stencil the room properly. I'd never done something like this before and wanted to make sure it was "even."

After getting the entire wall stenciled withe the skull damask print in gold, my husband and I sanded, conditioned, stained, and sealed three pieces of pine. We brought up the base cabinets and set them far enough apart to give us roughly 29-30 inches of space. Two of the base cabinets were originally kitchen cabinets my dad pulled from a couple of jobs while the third was a desk cabinet. They were all different colors so I sanded, primed, and painted them with a semi-gloss white paint to have them match. The middle bookshelf cabinet was an upper cabinet with a divider and I actually cut it out. It doesn't fit full sized books, but it works well all the same!


We carried the boards up and dragged them in through the window to fit them in the room. We fit them together using some metal brackets and connected them to the cabinets with small L brackets. Once the desk was put together I began decorating.


I hung our L and J above our respective seats, my husband decorated his side with all his...things...and we hung some shelves up.


My dad also brought us over a bookcase for added storage. Originally I was going to paint it too, but after placing it in the room I couldn't bring myself to do it. The dark wood tones match perfectly and fortunately don't make the room feel too small. I decorated it mostly with my collectibles (see, mine actually have value. I tease; I tease) from my Loot Crates. As I acquire more books the set up will evolve, but for now it works as is. And FYI, my plant is not dying, she is just shedding old growth and putting out new growth.



There are still a couple things missing, but the room is mostly complete. I need a rug and some curtains as well as a closet door for the small closet in this room. Yeah, we still don't have closet doors anywhere in the house from when we put the floors in this past January. I'm still slowly making my way to painting all the trim around the house. Haha! So, what do you think?!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Litha Celebrations 2016

Woo! So things have been super busy at my house. My nanny job ended, but instead of having more time I feel like I have less. I am been working nonstop on the two courses I am taking this summer while preparing for my first year teaching. Honestly, I need more time to prepare for teaching! My physics class eats 4-6 hours a day. I wish I was kidding, but it literally eats that much time between reading the material (about 150 to 200 pages per unit), doing the homework, taking quizzes, posting on forums, studying, and taking the tests. I can tell you, I still have no idea what we are learning. I am BSing my way through this course. Literally. When the final comes, I don't know what I am going to do because it is not open note like our other exams. Haha! Oh well!

Anyway, we had a wee celebration for Litha last month. We couldn't do much because we both had to work and the budget is super, super tight, but we had a nice evening nonetheless. We started off the evening grilling up some veggie burgers and corn. I also made a light pasta dish and we gorged ourselves in front of a beautiful fire.

To honor the holiday I burnt some rose scented incense and threw a mixture of herbs into the fire to bring good luck, protection, and peace. This mixture consisted of mugwort, lavender, thyme, and yarrow. Not going to lie, this mixture smells divine.
 
We spent the evening after dinner watching the sun go down while we talked and laughed around the fire. Pretty simple and peaceful, yet very spiritual.

How did you celebrate Litha this year?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Litha Correspondences


Symbolism: life, fire, rebirth, transformation, power, purity

Symbols: sun flowers, leaves, sword, spear, sun, God's eye, sun wheels, bonfire, balefires, fire, sun dials, bird feathers, seashells,

Colors: red, gold, orange, yellow, white, green, blue

Food and Drink: mead, ale, summer fruits and vegetables, strawberries, honey cakes, whipped cream, oranges, lemons, summer squash, honey

Herbs: Saint John's Wort, lavender, rose, peony, vervain, mugwort, chamomile, chickweed, chicory, sun flower, lily, thyme, hemp, fennel, nettle, wisteria, rue, fern, heather, oak, yarrow, holly

Deities: Ra, Bast, Helios, Oak King, Fotuna, Arinna, and other sun god.

Crystals and Gemstones: Lapis, diamond, tiger's eye, emerald, jade, and other green stones

Animals: butterflies, wren, horse, stag, robin, cattle, phoenix, dragon, faeries, satyrs

Magic: Litha is the time to celebrate the Sun and all that he provides for us. Protection spells and fire magic are great to perform on this night. Make protective amulets to be empowered in the balefire lit on Midsummer's eve. Looking to promote a transformation, a new career, or create a new or strengthen an old relationship? Litha is a great night to perform such magic. Collect herbs, especially St. John's Wort, on the eve of this sabbat to bring luck and enhance the herbs' power. Renew your wedding vows or just enjoy the time with your friends and family. This is also a great time to communicate with faeries and seek their help if you so wish. Be careful though. Faeries can be tricky.

Please note this is not a complete list but a brief overview of symbols, colors, herbs, deities, and the like. If I have missed something that you feel should make the list, please feel free to contact me via the comments or through email.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Litha, History and Lore


We are quickly approaching one of my favorite sabbats, Litha. I'm not 100% sure why I love this sabbat so much, but I think it has something to do with Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and the thinness between our realm and that of the faeries. Throughout history, people have celebrated Midsummer, the longest day of the year where the Sun seems to stand still. This time of year is marked by lush gardens, dense forests, fires, swimming, and warm weather.

The Romans celebrated Midsummer by honoring Vesta, goddess of the hearth, in a festival known as Vestalia. Matrons would enter her temple to make offerings in hopes she would bless their homes. While very few primary sources exist, there are some records detailing the traditions of the ancient Celts. It is believed the Celts celebrated Midsummer with hilltop bonfires and feasting. When the Saxons arrived they brought the tradition of Aerra Litha, where this holiday gets its name, to celebrate the endless days which contrasted with the endless nights of northern Scandinavian counties. This festival was marked with huge bonfires to celebrate the Sun's triumph over darkness.

While there is some debate as to whether or not Litha should be included in the eight sabbats, most modern pagans and witches choose to celebrate the sabbat. It is a festival of light, brightness, and warmth. Spend this time outdoors celebrating the power of the Sun and the life it gives the Earth. Light a balefire, drink mead, and spend time with friends and family.