"Magic is just the science we don't understand yet."— C. Clarke
Magic and science are an odd mixture to say the least, and when you throw Hedgewitchery into the cauldron, the result is completely unrecognizable to those who dwell only in reality. For the Hedgewitch is someone with one foot in one reality and the other in "unreality," the world where no amount of science can explain its beginnings, middle, and end. Hedgewitchery commands those who adhere to it, to suspend temporarily their belief and knowledge of this world, of Darwinian science and all that prevails, into a world of total mystery and fascination. In many ways and ironically, to use the terminology of one social scientist, Rudolph Otto, the Hedgewitch lives in the world of the Numinous.
Hedgewitchery is the belief of nature and the power contained within that nature. The Hedgewitch goes beyond her brothers and sisters in the many forms of witchcraft and Paganism. She is the esoteric branch on the Pagan tree, totally at peace living in a different reality, where no science of man can comprehend or even begin to explain its origins. Science completely dismisses that which we hold dear and sacred.
We believe that there are energies within the natural world that are immortal, powerful, and sacred. We connect with them through ritual, spells, and meditation. We prefer to be alone; we do not have a coven or engage with others during our journeys into the other realm. Indeed, many hedgewitches, I think, would prefer to live in that other world. And that is what makes us very secretive about our practices, as many people do not understand our ways. When you tell someone that you believe in fairies or that you have seen the sprites of the forest, science prevails and we are termed as "crazy."
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."—Albert Einstein
This quote comes from one of the greatest minds of the past century; Albert Einstein conjures an array of contradictions. Yet this uneasy relationship between science and religion continues to spark debate. And Hedgewitchery also sparks a comparative difference within those who practise traditional Witchcraft. It is this debate between magic/religion and science/reality, that prompted me to write the book, Hedgewitch's Little Book of Spells, Charms & Brews for Llewellyn. Further, there are subsequent books within the works: a book on seasons, and one dedicated to flower spells. All embrace that other world of "unreality," and feature working with those entities and energies that many do not believe exist.
However, I do, and it's how I live and was brought up, with the respect for nature and all that prevail within her. And I do believe that the power of nature and this world of reality is manifest with energy. It is this energy that can change, transform, and transmute into something that previous generations and ancestors would have deemed the Fae, or the enchanted realm. And perhaps, if we ask the right questions, science can answer those questions.
We are on the precipice in our world with a new paradigm beckoning. We have had successful rover missions to Mars, and new advancements in medicine, technology, and chemistry are discovered every day. Yet where did this knowledge begin, what steps did we first take before we arrived on the moon and created vaccinations to cure life threatening illness?
The interpretation of the world around us first stemmed from magic. Our ancestors tried to make sense of seasons and nature by interpreting them in a magical light. The gods were responsible for the harvest, if the rains came or didn't, who lived and who died. Our ancestors' lives were thwarted with disease and death, and we tried to understand the world through magic, wonder, and philosophy.
From this wonder, our questioning abilities came to the fore, and we began to seek answers through reasoning and practical pursuits of knowledge, often alongside growing belief systems. Alchemy was the forerunner of our hard sciences with its emphasis on philosophy and how to change basic substances, such as metals, into other substances.
Alchemy was an ancient academic study, which, looking at it through our modern eyes, still retains its mystery and secrets. The thin line between science and magic was never more apparent than with alchemy with its belief of turning lead into gold or the search for the creation of the elixir of life. Yet, for all the alchemists' attempts and experimentations, the everlasting gift of alchemy was the gift of chemistry, with its many procedures and equipment (not to mention the names of substances, which are still in use today).
"Science is magic that works."—Kurt Vonnegut
Though despite its influence in the natural sciences, many would dispute this claim and view alchemy as nothing more than an embarrassing would-be member of the scientific community. Yet, this uninvited relative shares a history and a knowledge with science—for not only did alchemy help to develop the minds of chemists but also in the scientific disciplines of biology and physics. The world and life were so intrinsically interwoven that it becomes impossible to unravel the connections.
The shared history of alchemists, heretics, and witches combine in an uneasy past of trials and persecution for the pursuit of answers to questions that eventually would benefit mankind. Early scientists were often condemned alongside witches, or even declared as witches themselves by the ruling status quo (such as the Church, for example), and persecuted for heretical practices.
"Formerly when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic."—Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin, 1973
The stereotypical image of the witch in her kitchen surrounded by bottles and herbs, potions and spells, brewing up magic gave rise to herbal benefits and discoveries. We owe so much to the shaman, medicine men and women of the past with their knowledge of herbs, the world, and their belief system. It is the development and awareness that everything in this world is connected. We call these the Correspondences, and I discuss them in my book, Hedgewitch's Little Book of Spells, Charms & Brews.
I have divided the book into subsequent sections for the main subjects we have in our lives: Love, Money, Career, Health, and Family. I have tried to create spells that anyone and everyone can follow. I also wanted to show the importance of the natural world by harnessing its power and energy into the spells. And of course, there is contact with the Fae.
Perhaps it was my Celtic ancestry and upbringing that ensured I would believe in "them." My father was a firm believer in them as were many members of the family. Many summer vacations were spent in Ireland, and even at the age of 13 my family still had me putting out food for the fae: cookies, honey, and some sweet wine in an egg cup. My grannie was a firm believer in the "wee folk," and woe betide anyone who stepped on a fairy ring!
I come from a family where that "other world" prevailed. I had a great uncle who was termed by the rest of the family as the "moon boy;" he would sit out during the full moon staring at it; when this happened, others in the family knew he would disappear. And, sure enough, when they awoke the next morning, he would be gone. He could be gone for days, weeks, months, even years, and when he returned all he would say, was that he had been with the fae!
Further, even when my family ventured into "reality" and the horrors of this world, the unknown would still appear and call to them. I had great uncles from Ireland who joined the British Army to fight in World War I; these uncles had been at the Battle of Mons, and there appeared the angel. Many soldiers witnessed the phenomenon, now called the Angel of Mons, but we knew of this world and the other world, that unseen world, where magic, and mystery prevail.
I wanted to bring that world to my readers, and to show that they, too, can connect with a magical world. And the way to that other world is through nature. Therefore, the importance of practising magic outside is crucial to the role of the Hedgewitch, for we believe that the worlds are joined together by energy and flows throughout the universe continually like a never-ending, unwinding river of energy, and through the practice of witchcraft and in particular, Hedgewitchery, we can dive into that river and journey throughout life on its currents.
In the book, Hedgewitch's Little Book of Spells, Charms & Brews, I discuss the importance of key ingredients such as magic salt. It is very easy to make and anyone can do it; all you need is the moon and salt. Place the salt on a dish and leave it out during the night of a full moon to infuse with the power and energies from the Goddess of night, and in the morning pop in jar, and use as when required.
Remember, it is all about the energies and harnessing those energies to use for not only yourself but others, too. In the book I also discuss some of our ethics and key responsibilities but generally, the book is crammed with spells, potions, and charms that have been used, transformed, and reinterpreted many times throughout time. I do believe that Hedgewitchery is not only the esoteric aspect of witchcraft but also one of the most practical. It demands you get out there in nature to feel the energies and power all around you, from rain storms, to snow, to searing heat from a summer's sun.
Further, if you do journey with me to the other worlds, don't be surprised to find strange things happening in your life and homes, like items going missing and appearing in strange places, lights flickering on and off, creaking floorboards, cupboards opening, or flashes of strange-coloured lights such gold and silver sparkling here, there, and everywhere.
Yet this is the world of the Hedgewitch and I hope you will enjoy the book. It does ask you to suspend your beliefs of this scientific, and explained world of rationality. And yet if anything, the events of the past year have shown how unexplained our world really is, as many thought they were invincible, but nature has other ideas. Many in Hedgewitchery know that the destabilisation of the natural world can create problems in our world. The interconnectedness of all worlds is made all too aware to us by the events of the past year. Perhaps science will realise this connection just we have since the beginnings of time.
Magic is promiscuous, it will go with anything. It is our past, our present, and our future. When we finally leave this planet and venture far into the universe on our spaceships and rockets, magic will go with us. We will see the wonder of new worlds and begin asking those same questions all over again.
Blessed Be to all.
Tudorbeth is the principal of the British College of Witchcraft and Wizardry and teaches courses on witchcraft. She is the author of numerous books, including A Spellbook for the Seasons (Eddison Books, 2019). Tudorbeth is a ...