An extract from Traditional Witchcraft for Fields & Hedgerows

Jul 6th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

For a witch the magical energies of Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows differs quite considerably from Traditional Witchcraft for Woods and Forests because whereas the woods have been part of our landscape since the beginning of time, fields and hedgerows are a relatively recent innovation. It therefore stands to reason that the witchcraft of fields and hedgerows is going to be much more of a domestic and homely variety, not moving far from hearth or cattle byre. It will lack the primitive, sometimes hostile, sensations that we encounter when walking alone in the woods. Unfortunately, very few modern witches have the opportunity to understand the land, but once we learn to appreciate it again and begin to feel part of it, it begins to share its secrets.

It’s not only woods that can be dated from the variety and number of different species, hedgerows also have their own history and this is chronicled by certain tell-tale signs, familiar to a local witch or cunning woman. Hedgerows are a prominent and distinctive feature of the landscape and the oldest are probably remnants of the continuous woodland that once covered most of the land. As villagers and landowners cleared the forest for agriculture, they would leave the last few feet of forest standing to mark the outer boundaries of their land. A traditional witch will know that these boundaries have a special magical significance, especially at dawn and dusk.

Some of our most ancient hedges are the remnants of such boundaries, perhaps even now still marking parish borders. Hedges were also formed to enclose patches of land to contain livestock. This would have been done close to a farm or village, and in many places, these small, irregular enclosures can still be recognised by witches of today, as indications of old field patterns and ancient hedgerow. The majority, however, were planted in the 18th and 19th centuries to enclose patches of land in order to establish ownership. Nevertheless, the older the hedge, the more we will feel we are walking in our ancestors’ footsteps as we search for magical and medicinal ingredients.

For both countrywomen and witches the hedge was extremely important. A veritable treasure house: a source of food, drink, medicine, shelter, fuel and dyes, while numerous superstitions arose around many hedgerow plants. The special plant community that makes up a mature hedgerow also offers a wider range of food for animals and birds than most deciduous woodland, making the hedge a very attractive habitat in winter. After feasting on the autumn harvest of elder and blackberries, birds turn to rosehips and haws, then sloes, and finally to ivy berries and this is where we become familiar with our totem animal or bird in its natural habitat.

The Romans introduced a large number of herbs to Britain, valuing them for their supposed supernatural powers, as well as culinary and medicinal uses … and many of these plants now grow profusely in the wild. By the Middle Ages, the use of herbs for magical purposes was commonplace, and every village had its own witch or cunning-woman. A medieval witch was an expert in the identification of wild herbs, and from the countryside surrounding her home she would gather the appropriate plants for scenting linen, flavouring sauces … or procuring an abortion. Herbs were so important in daily life that when people moved around the country, they took with them the plants and the superstitions surrounding them.

Unlike the wort-lore of traditional witchcraft, however, folk or domestic plant medicine was the everyday use of plants by ordinary people to cure minor wounds and ailments. Although there is a wealth of material from the classic herbalists recorded by the Benedictine monk Aelfric, the Physicians of Myddfai and the 17th century apothecary, physician and astrologer, Nicholas Culpeper, very little has actually been preserved of the common domestic plant remedies used by our forebears. In fact, the use of common native plants in everyday home medicine is now almost obsolete, largely because it was mainly a DIY collection of first aid remedies, often passed on orally, rather than a written record. As a result, even many of today’s witches are unaware of the therapeutic effects of ordinary kitchen herbs.

Through the daily life of ordinary country people, however, the use of folk medicine had been preserved with remarkable accuracy from one generation to another up until the early 20th century. As a result of two world wars and with the large-scale dispersal of country people into the towns, the need for folk medicine diminished outside the practice of traditional witchcraft.

Old people who remained, no longer had anyone left to whom they could pass this age-old wisdom and so much of it died out for lack of interest. In many cases, only the remedy surviving to pass into folklore and superstition. For the traditional witch, however, wort-lore is part of her (or his) heritage and must be preserved by developing a greater understanding of the fields and hedgerows where these plants can still be found.

It doesn’t matter whether we refer to ourselves as witch, wiccan, or pagan. Whether we belong to a coven, or consider ourselves to be a solitary but important part of the larger pagan community … when we observe what we can view as ‘field Craft’, more often than not, we tend to work alone. The benefits of being a solitary witch means we can work whenever we feel like it, regardless of the date on the calendar, the phase of the moon, or what anyone else considers to be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ time of the day. The only ‘rule’ we need to learn and obey, is the call of the natural cyclic tides of Nature … nothing else.

And whether we live in the country, town or city, Nature is all around us. It cannot be suppressed, destroyed or eradicated and if Nature suddenly ceased to be, then every living thing on the planet would die. No book ever written can teach us how to become a witch. Only Nature can do that. Only Nature can coax out those long suppressed abilities and give us back the freedom to be a witch, releasing the knowledge of the Old Ways back into the world. So let’s walk through the fields and along the hedgerow together and discover Nature as she moves through the year …

Try this simple exercise:

Pick a common wild flower, possibly one that is considered to be a weed, from a piece of waste ground or local building site and identify it; remembering that many so-called weeds have medicinal or magical properties. Discover all you can about it and press the flower between the pages of your magical journal, recording the notes as you find out more about the plant. The power of the witch is a natural ability and with practice, we should be able to visualise the flower in its natural wild environment, not the place where it was found.

For example, we have discovered a small clump of Herb Robert growing amongst the rubble on a new supermarket site. This distinctive little pink flower with its colourful fern-like leaves is recommended by Culpeper for: ‘It speedily heals wounds and is effectual in old ulcers in the privy parts or elsewhere …’ Its modern usage, is listed in the RHS Encyclopaedia of Herbs and Their Uses as being suitable for use internally for gastro-intestinal infections and externally for treating skin eruptions. Now visualise the flower in its natural setting, growing at the foot of a hedgebank with the summer breeze causing the delicate leaves to flutter; there is someone in period costume — perhaps one of the ‘green’ men or women gathering plants to sell to the apothecaries in London — bending to pick the plant …

Once you have proved to yourself that you can immediately visualise the pictures painted in the text of Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows, you can create your own fields and hedgerows on the astral. And walk there whenever you please.

Traditional Witchcraft for Fields & Hedgerows by Melusine Draco, published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book format. ISBN: 978 1 84694 801 5 UKÂŁ9.99/US$16.95

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