Here is a new term for you: Hedgewitch.
What, pray tell, is a Hedgewitch and why would I pull this term out of my mixed bag to gift to you, darling readers? Because. Okay, I know that’s less than helpful but bear with me and I shall try to eventually bring this to a fruitful end.
Hedgewitch, and its corresponding hedgewitchery, is a word that is not often heard in modern conversation. Hedgecraft is a form of witchcraft that combines aspects of witchcraft and shamanism, inspired by the traditional witchcraft and cunning folk of Europe and parts of Asia. To call oneself a Hedgewitch is to basically call oneself a shaman, a sense of reclaiming of a title and power long denied us. So you can see where the boundaries of my spiritual identity become blurred.
It used to be that the native healers lived on the outskirts of town, between the wild of nature and the chaos of civilization. They were held in esteem and feared with the same breath. When you had an ailment that your mother couldn’t cure, or needed a curse or a charm, you knew who to go to. These are the cunning folk, those men and women who dedicated their lives to the knowledge of nature. The “hedge” was literally the border of town and so has become a symbol of walking between worlds in our modern lexicon.
To ride the hedge is to journey to the Otherworlds in shamanic journey work. The hedge becomes the thin point of the veil, and those who are talented or stubborn may learn to step through to other realities.
Hedgewitches often refer to shamanic journeys as “Walking the Hedge”, “Riding the Hedge”, “Oot and Aboot” or “Crossing/Jumping the Hedge”. They also have a tendency to spend much of their lives with one foot on either side of the Hedge, which makes them eccentric to say the least.
A Hedgewitch walks freely into caol ait (Gaelic), the “thin places” between one world and another. More experienced Hedgewitches learn not only to find such places, but how to use them effectively and how to open them even when the Hedge, or Veil, is at its thickest between the high days. – Juniper
On the other hand, we have shamanism. Shaman is a word that was stolen from the Turkic word šamán, from the Tungusic cultures of Siberia. It was brought to the english language sometime in the 20th century by anthropologists and sociologists and has become a great big giant sticky ball of CULTURAL APPROPRIATION (said in a scary deep voice). Western versions of shamanism became popular in the 60s and 70s, and quickly evolved into Michael Harner’s version called “core shamanism”. That is: shamanism removed from any cultural, spiritual, social or environmental context. Lets whitewash something sacred and inherent to communities and cultures world-wide and sell it to the desensitized westerners willing to pay $300 for a weekend to learn how to become shamans. Excuse me while I wipe the excess sarcasm from the computer screen.
Let me just put a few ideas out so every one understands:
- There are no shamans in Native American culture, each tribe has their own title of respect for their spiritual leaders. Calling them shamans is a form is racism and elitism.
- A weekend does not make a shaman, the gods and spirits do.
- No one in their right mind chooses to undergo a shamanic initiation. Raise your hand if you are just itching to die and be reborn multiple times?
- Shamans are also not allowed to walk away from their practice, this results in madness and death. A shaman talks to the spirits because they have to.
- Without a culture and a community, there is no shaman. The whole point of a shaman is to serve the community around them as a bridge between realities.
So why do I vacillate between the words shaman and hedgewitch? Because I’m a white girl raised in Southern California and living in America. Its as simple as that. Shaman is not a term from my lineage, it is a term stolen from a remote tribe. Yes, its still easily understood and helps people to identify me easier than hedgewitch or spirit-touched or god-owned does. But it still carries its own baggage.