In the tradition of the village wise woman, the hedgewitch (also spelled hedgewytch) has a deep respect for nature and uses herbs and natural remedies to ease suffering and promote healing. In the past, hedgewitches often performed midwifery, matchmaking and marriage counselling, sold protection charms, blessings on houses and crops, curses and counter-curses, and made divinations and prophecies.
The name ‘hedge witch’ is thought to derive from the Saxon word haegtessa, which means ‘hedge rider’. The hedgewitch often lived on the outskirts of a village and would venture beyond the hedges or fences which kept the community safe, into the wilderness to collect materials for her craft. She would have been respected – and perhaps a little feared – for her willingness to do so, and for her healing skills and the seemingly magickal feats she could perform.
For hedgewitches today, the hedge symbolizes the separation between this world and the Otherworld, and “crossing/walking the hedge” refers to making a shamanic journey (reaching an altered state of consciousness in order to interact with the spirit world). A hedgewitch spends time in the wild, usually in solitude, and prefers working with natural rather than manmade objects and materials, with an emphasis on herbalism.