Interview With a Hedge Witch
Could you describe Green Witchcraft, please?
Well, some call it hedge witchcraft, or herb witchcraft. Call it whatever takes your fancy, whatever's in vogue right now. It's a type of simple witchcraft which works with herbs and plant lore, and with elementals - most people probably call them fairies but that's a bit misleading. Say "fairy" and people think of childrens' stories and Tinkerbell. That's not what I mean at all. I work with the natural energies of the earth, with ley lines and places of power.
I don't use complicated rituals or expensive ritual tools. Keep everything simple and uncluttered, is my motto. Use what you can make yourself, from wood and clay and stone. Or improvise - use the same things you'd find in any kitchen.
How did your interest develop? Did you take formal classes or join related groups?
Well, let's see... I've always had an affinity for nature, for being outdoors. I came across Wicca not long after my first was born. That was heavily influenced by Gerald Gardner's ideas about witchcraft, and while that was fine for me for a good while I gradually moved on to less formal ways of working. I was with a coven originally but got fed up of all the squabbling and endless debating over how things should be done and by who. It was easier and much more fun to work by myself in my own way. That's all I've done since, really; follow my own instincts.
What do you consider to be your main successes so far?
That depends on what you mean by success. I think raising three fine daughters is my best success. I don't have a big house or a flash car, if that's what you mean. I've an ordinary terraced house which backs onto the woods, which is perfect for me as I can walk from my kitchen down my garden and into the trees beyond. Love it! I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
If you mean magical success, that's harder to pin down. I've seen things and experienced things which were wonderful, which strengthened my love of nature and the old legends. The spells I cast work; I've helped people heal more quickly. I only ever work for the good of people, always.
Would you like to introduce yourself to readers, please?
Call me Astarte in the interview; I like my privacy.
That's probably why I live alone. Apart from my cats, I mean. I love my cats; they keep me company. There's Seth, who's an old man now and very dignified. There's Molly, who ruined my curtains when she was a kitten by climbing up them. And there's Freckles, who's a total nut-ball - always bringing weird things home, like pebbles and acorns.
I'm mother to three, all grown up now and with homes of their own. Two of my daughters went into nursing, the other's a primary school teacher. They're all doing ok for themselves, and I'm proud of each of them. I'll be a grandmother again soon and I'm looking forward to it. I've got five grandchildren. It's a riot when they're all here at once - exhausting but I love it.
I was married to a lovely man, one of the best, but he's gone now. Died almost twenty years ago when the girls were still children. It was quite a struggle, making ends meet. But I never married again, not because I wasn't asked but because I didn't want to. I've had lovers, over the years. But I like my own space. I like doing things my own way - which is why I enjoyed being self-employed.
I'm retired now, of course. I used to run a market stall - flowers, floral displays, wreaths, dried flowers in baskets, things like that. I made them all myself. It was a good laugh, working on the markets, gossiping with the other stall-holders and regular customers.
What project are you working on right now?
I've been making some dried flower display baskets to give to my local Oxfam shop to help with the Haiti relief fund. We can all do our bit. No excuses. And I'm a member of the WRVS and do quite a bit of work in the hospital, making tea and often just talking to people. A lot of elderly people don't see much of their families anymore, and feel very isolated. Loneliness is a terrible thing to live with, especially when a person is ill. So I talk about all sorts of rubbish, really - flowers and my cats, the garden and so on. Anyone can share a smile.
How do you plan to develop your work in the future?
My witchcraft kind-of develops by itself. I don't really plan anything, it just comes along and I try to do what's needed. It might be a healing spell, or it might be volunteering to plant trees - though I'm getting on a bit for that now. I'll bring sandwiches for those planting the trees, how's that?
Have there been particular books, paintings or films which have influenced your work?
Paintings? Not really.
I've read a lot of books. I've always read, since I was a child and my mother used to take us all to the library. She wanted us all to have a better education that she'd had. But I can't say there was any one particular book which influenced me; I've taken ideas from all over the place. I use proper medical herbals, though, so I suppose they'd count.
Would you like to talk about your other interests?
Gardening, of course; I grow all my own herbs out in my garden and greenhouse. I grow some of my own vegetables too. I make my own jam from berries from the wood behind my house.
And I love doing crafts and painting with my grandchildren. That's always a lot of fun - gluing and sticking things together, doing nature walks and baking cakes with them. We get into a glorious mess but that's nothing to fuss about. People are scared to let their children learn in the kitchen these-days - too worried they'll mess up their designer clothes. Crazy. Let 'em get messy; let then run and breathe. Switch the damn TV off and all go out for family walks. Have real conversations. Anyway, you'll have me getting on my soapbox now.
What is your personal philosophy?
Keep things simple; don't aspire to things you can't have. Have fun but work hard. Be fair to others but don't be a doormat. Always be willing to try something new. Share a smile with someone every day.
What advice would you offer to someone hoping to take up a similar interest to yourself?
Read widely but think for yourself. I think that's the main thing. Witchcraft is supposed to be a craft - a skill you develop over time, with your own signature to it, your own way of doing things like with any other craft. There's too much dogma these-days; too much psycho-babble.
Oh, and if you fancy working with herbs don't poison yourself. Seriously. Don't be taking or handing out potions you've made just because you read it in a book somewhere. You could land yourself in real trouble. Think about it - doctors train for years and have insurance.
I advise a person to read, as I said, and learn meditation and take to meditating regularly in woods - so long as you're safe to do so, of course. Woods or remote places are good. Get a feel for nature in a practical way, in a real way through gardening or similar, not just as an idea in your head. Keep it real, and go from there.
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© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray