Anyone who knows me, knows I will not be put in a box. Even though I am a shamanic practitioner, soul rescuer, Reiki Master and spirit medium…I also identify with the archetype of the modern-day folk witch. The truth is that on my journey to connect with the Divine, my soul, and the web of spirits and energy that is all around us, I have found my way to many spirited paths. Each path has taught me so much, but I love the magic, history and mystery of folk witchery. Folk witchery as I practice it, is not based on intricate rituals and rules, but instead on spirit relationships and a strong connection to the land and its spirits. It draws on ancient folk knowledge left in lore and traditions to guide the modern magical practitioner into the mysteries of the spirit worlds.
The common thread throughout my magical practice is my connection and relationship with spirits – from my Creator, deities, disir and ancestors, land spirits, guides, my familiar, and more. Since spirit relationships form the backbone of my craft, I wanted to share one of the ways in which I connect and communicate with my spirits through hedge riding.
When learning to communicate with spirits, it is beneficial to hone two fundamental skills – mediumship and hedge riding. In far too simplistic terms, mediumship entails spirits coming to us and merging with our energy field to deliver messages or healing. The merging of spirit with medium involves mediums raising their vibrations while spirits lower theirs so that the two can find a common energetic ground in the middle to communicate.
In “hedge riding” however, we travel to spirits as opposed to spirits traveling to us. Hedge riding is the ancient practice of shamanic journeying, also called “soul flight” or “spirit walking.” The image of the witch on her broom or the witch holding a wand, stang or staff, are representations of the shaman’s flight into the spirited realms via the World Tree found in so many cultures. The World Tree is the axis point – the place connecting all other places in the spirit worlds and in the Universe. It is “Yggdrasil,” the massive ash tree in ancient Norse, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon cosmology that connects the nine worlds. Truth be told, witches have always flown, just not in body but in mind and spirit.
Through hedge riding, witches have the opportunity to meet and form relationships with spirit allies and deities who want to work with them and can lend the witch their power, healing energy, and guidance. If you learn to travel into the spirited realms, you will be taught your craft by your spirits.
To honor the dark half of the year, I want to share a simple but powerful technique for journeying into the spirit worlds called “hallowing the compass” or “laying the compass round.” Through laying the compass, you are creating the “axis mundi” – the World Tree from which you can travel anywhere in the spirit worlds.
“Hallowing the compass” originates in “traditional witchcraft.” I want to be upfront that I am not a traditional witch and what I will share is my own technique for laying the compass inspired by traditional witchcraft but not identical to it. What I present will be a purely mental endeavor as opposed to employing ritual to create the compass. My method uses the magic of the mind.
But before we begin, let’s talk about definitions. Those who engage in hedge riding are “hedgewitches.” This term is often used to refer to a witch who practices their craft with plants and herbs, but this was not originally how this term was used. The terms “hedge riding” and “hedgewitch” originate from the Anglo-Saxon word “hægtesse” which referred to a person who flew over the hedge – a boundary of shrubs at the ends of town that separated civilization from the wild places. The hedge witch bravely flew over this boundary, leaving the mundane world behind for the spirit worlds. The hedge witch was an explorer of the truly wild places – the spirited realms of the “Otherworld.”
The evolution of the word “hedgewitch” from a person who engaged in soul flights to a practitioner of plant magic is not as big of a shift as it might first appear. Across the globe, shamans and witches have always been knowledgeable on the medicinal and magical uses of plants and employed them via teas, flying ointments, burning herbs, and more, to aid in hedge riding. Nature has always been our most powerful ally and portal to the Otherworld.
There is sometimes a debate in magical circles over whether “casting a circle” or “laying a compass” is preferable for magical workings, including journeying. But this debate shows a lack of understanding of these two different practices. “Casting a circle” creates a protected sacred space that keeps out undesirable energies and spirits. It is often created through a clockwise motion through intention, or intention with walking the space, calling the quarters, using an anthem or wand, drawing a circle of salt, or simply using your finger! Clockwise has always been associated with invoking, life, and works done in the physical world. When casting a circle, we are seeking to invoke protection and bring it into the mundane world around us.
Laying the compass on the other hand, is created counter-clockwise for the purpose of journeying into the Otherworld. Laying the compass creates a “liminal space” – a threshold outside of space and time from which you can travel into the spirited realms. A counter-clockwise direction has always been associated with that which is opposite to life, namely spirits and works done in the spirit world. To put it plainly, we cast a circle for protection but we lay a compass to create a threshold – a doorway – to the Otherworld.
So, why choose? I use both when hallowing the compass.
To start, find a quiet place where you can sit or lay down undisturbed. Close your eyes and center yourself with deep rhythmic breathing. When ready, you will begin casting a circle of protection around you. Remember that this circle must be large enough to place another circle and yourself within it.
Cast your circle by envisioning that you are drawing a large ring around yourself in a clockwise direction. Have firm intentions that you are creating a protective barrier that nothing harmful or unsupportive can enter. Begin drawing your circle directly in front of you in your mind’s eye. Claim this starting point as “north” whether it is or not, and envision that you are drawing a large ring around yourself three times with your mind. End back at the north. Invite any protective spirit allies you want present during your journey into your circle. Once you feel you have created a sacred space, you are ready to lay your compass.
You will start laying the compass directly ahead of you in your mind’s eye, just as you did when casting your circle. This time, you will draw a ring in a counter-clockwise direction around yourself three times within the circle you cast. This will result in a circle inside of a circle.
You should begin to feel the energy of your space change as you create the opening to the Otherworld. You may begin to feel lighter or ungrounded while the energy around you gets thicker and more alive. The energy may feel like it is buzzing and you may feel that you are already further away from the physical world. How liminal space feels is personal but you should feel the energy shift when you create liminal space.
After the inner ring is laid, envision that you are standing in the center of the compass ring. Through intention, lay an electric blue line going from north and south. Do the same to create the east to west line of the compass. The electric blue energy comes from directly inside of your core and connects you to the spirited side of the place you are in. You should now be inside of a circle with two lines crossed, just like a medicine wheel. Lastly, envision an electric blue line going through you in an upward and downward direction. This up to down line connects you from Source to the center of the Earth or Universe. It should pass through you, as well as the center of the compass where north, south, east and west meet. You have now fully laid your compass and created the axis mundi. After all, the World Tree was always you.
The axis mundi is the place that leads to all other places in the Universe as we know. You have created the threshold from which you can journey into the spirit worlds to any place and any time, and to every spirited place outside of space and time. But the other purpose for laying the compass was to create a powerful anchor while you journey.
By using the compass you are not only creating the doorway to the spirit realms, you are creating an anchor to the place where your body resides. The compass connects you to the land and ensures that you return to the place where your journey began and to your physical body. To solidify this anchor, tie a red cord that extends from your core (around your belly button/stomach area) to the center of the compass where all the points meet. As you tie your cord, you can employ a bit of knot magic and use this as an opportunity to set your intentions for your journey. For instance, you can intend to journey to the land of the dead to speak with ancestors, to the middle world to explore the energy of your home and land, or journey to meet your guiding spirits for advice. Tie as many knots as you feel called to firmly set your intentions.
At this point, you are ready to begin your journey into the spirit worlds. It is time to take flight by moving outward from your compass through intention and following where your soul leads you. Trust that your soul knows its way. For fun, you can envision that the up to down blue line tilts forward and becomes your broom that you can ride while your red cord is still tied to the center of the compass. Allow your hedge ride to unfold in its own way. Pay attention to not only visions, but feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells and more. Enjoy your journey and feel safe, as you have taken the time to create a protected sacred space, a compass to guide you, and an anchor to ensure your safe return home.
When you are done with your journey, simply come back to the compass through intention and envision that the blue lines of energy making the directions and your red cord are absorbed back into you. Undo the ring of your compass by erasing it mentally in a clockwise direction three times, returning you to this world. You can also envision that you are taking a broom and sweeping the compass away. Do the same to close your circle through erasing it in your mind widdershins three times. With intention state the compass and portal to the spirit worlds is now closed and thank your ally spirits for their assistance. Set the intention that all spirits are released with gratitude. Your hedge ride is officially done! But be sure to ground before returning to your normal day.
I hope you have enjoyed this simple mental technique for hallowing the compass. Opening yourself to the spirit worlds is the key to deepening your understanding of your journey through life and beyond and grants you access to the wise and ancient spirits who want to be a part of your healing, growth, magical endeavors, and empowerment. They will teach you how to co-create in the Otherworld to shifting things in the mundane world – magic!
I wish you many magical and spirited travels. Blessed be to you all!
Copyright 2021 Vanessa Hanks, All Rights Reserved.
2 commentsAdd Yours
You are a wordsmith, Vanessa! What a delightful read.
Thank you Jim! You are very kind and I am glad you enjoyed the article.