Letter 19 - Part One

Hedge Witch: A Guide to Solitary Witchcraft - Rae Beth 2014

Letter 19
Part One

New Green


1st January 1988

Dear Tessa and Glyn,

In answer to your questions, there is something impenetrable about the winter solstice, a transcendence and mystery. In a timeless moment, all of nature dies and is reborn. It is like the beginning of all time, the first creation of all the worlds, the many levels of reality and existence, both manifest and unmanifest, objective and subjective. I can’t tell you how it happens; but the cycle of the year, which we celebrate, is Goddess and God made manifest. At Yule, we must acknowledge their transcendence. The Goddess is unborn, she never dies. Between the worlds, she is eternally creating. Thus, she gives birth to the worlds afresh, at the end of each cycle of time. It is this we celebrate at Yule, as the birth of a New Year. The cauldron is the symbol of the mystery. It is within the cauldron of the Goddess that the Dark Lord is transformed to Infant Light. The cauldron is both tomb and womb and is the vessel of transformation.

At Imbolg, the young Goddess Bride and the young Sun God are Daughter of the Moon and Son of the Sun, here on Earth. And we celebrate the God and Goddess immanent, indwelling the universe. These are not different deities from the transcendent Goddess and God, just as you are not different from your own actions and behaviour. Creation reveals them, just as the endlessness of outer space reveals the infinity of inner realms. There is one Goddess, three in one. There is one God, Lord of Day and Night. We meet them in many guises and we know them by many names. These, and the many names by which others know the Goddess or God, are all sacred.

Tessa, you have asked about herbs, incenses and oils. There are specialized books on the subject but I will tell you a little, as an introduction. For you are right, what use is a witch who knows nothing about the magical properties of herbs?

Much knowledge can be acquired by simply looking around you. Which flowers are blooming at any particular season? What colours are they? Which trees are evergreen? Much can also be seen in folk custom and tradition. For example, red roses are emblematic of love. Garlic is well known in connection with exorcism. (Less well known is the fact that it can be taken on trips over water, as a charm against drowning.)

The blending of incenses is a whole craft in itself. It is possible to create a special one for almost any use or occasion. You might become interested and skilled in this aspect of magic, but Cole and I tend to burn only pine in winter and lavender in summer. For simplicity’s sake, we vary this only if a particular rite or spell calls for the use of a specific incense — if, in other words, the burning of an incense is the main physical means by which the spell is cast. For example, when purifying the atmosphere in a room, pine, juniper and cedar would be a good blend. (You might find this useful to remember when moving into a new house.)

For trancework, you could burn bay leaves, or mugwort and wormwood. You might want to wear essential oil of lemongrass, as this opens the psychic centres. Just before scrying or reading tarot cards or before any other form of divination, you could drink rosemary, thyme or yarrow tea, as these encourage clear perceptions and the development of clairvoyance.

These are all gentle, harmless ways of receiving the magical benefits of herbs and oils. The stories that some covens in the past used hallucinatory herbal potions, and that they covered themselves in ointments, the famous ’flying ointments’ that induced visions, are all true. Very few modern covens still use hallucinogens, but in any case, it would not be wise to attempt their use on your own, without specialized knowledge. The use of a gentle herbal magic, though slower, is as effective. It means less reliance on the physical effects of herbs and more on the etheric and aesthetic vibrations. The main magical tool is then you yourself — your ability to make contact in the inner realms, and to focus, visualize. This is honed by practice and experience. Herbal magic can be an aid. I believe a more forceful approach manipulates the plant spirits and one’s own psyche. It can also be dangerous, wrenching the psychic centres open too suddenly, and therefore damaging them. However, a herbal magic which links plant ’vibrations’ to trance and inner concentration is both safe and potent, if less obviously dramatic. Anyway, it is what I recommend to you.

Here is a brief list of herbs, with some of their magical applications.


rosemary, eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, sandalwood


pine, juniper, cedar, lavender, hyssop


rose, southernwood, myrtle, meadow-sweet, basil


bay, mugwort, wormwood, yarrow, rowan

Psychic protection:

asafoetida (smells awful!), cypress, frankincense, garlic, vervain


heather, holly, Irish moss, nutmeg, oak

Essential oils for the same purposes would be these;


rosemary, sandalwood


lavender, myrrh


rose, jasmine


lemongrass, saffron

Psychic protection:

cypress, frankincense


apple blossom, lemon balm (melissa)

Herbs, with or without oils, can be burned as incense or sewn into sachets and charm bags. Oils on their own can be used to anoint oneself, someone else, or an object (for example, a candle or wand).

At each festival, certain flowers or fruits are appropriate on the altar, or in the room. They may not always be available, in which case you should look for alternatives.

Snowdrops for Imbolg

Daffodils for Eostar

Hawthorn in blossom at Beltane

Roses at Litha

Hedgerow fruits at Lughnasadh

Corn at Mabon

Apples and nuts at Samhain

Holly, oak and mistletoe at Yule

These are some of the flowers and trees sacred to the Moon: gardenia, jasmine, lemon balm, wild rose, lily, loosestrife and willow. For a rite of the Moon, any of these may be suitable.

It is now up to you Tessa (and to you Glyn, if you do take self-initiation in the future) to rediscover and to recreate the old Craft of the wise, as solitary or hedge witches. This means walking a path that the world, in general, will still barely acknowledge. It is a path of wildflowers, candlelight and starlight. It is also a path of bloodroses, stoneroots. Much may be asked of you, but you will know the mysteries. The cup of the wine of life will be yours to drink and the bread of communion will be yours to eat, even if, at times, there seems to be not much else on the table. Your life will become a quest in which every kind of experience has meaning.

May the blessings of the Triple Goddess

and the Horned God be upon every step that you take.