Letter 23 - Part Two

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

Letter 23
Part Two



30th March 1988

Dear Tessa,

Let me continue. There is no doubt that the Horned God seems harder to perceive in trance, because we, as women, trust ourselves less to understand him — and, perhaps, because we trust him less. In our culture, images of maleness are so tied up with violence and authoritarianism that it is hard to trust. There is the Christian god, for example, with his propensity for torturing wrong-doers in the fires of hell for all eternity. Even the Pagan gods, since patriarchal times, have been perpetually involved in slaughter as gods of war, giving carte blanche to rapists and pillagers. As a matter of fact, the Pagan goddesses of the same era were sometimes also deities of war. But this fact is less familiar to us and so is less of a factor. We can ignore it more easily and invoke a much older being, the Mother of All Life, or Triple Goddess of the Circle of Rebirth.

Suppose we get behind patriarchy to the dawn-of-time male deity? We can then ask, What of the Horned God in an era when wars didn’t exist? But can we trust that God to be here now? He has been absent from the world a long time, banished. Can we now bring him back? Can we invoke his return? Assuming that he is unlike all the patriarchal gods of whom we have ever heard, can we also find him relevant? This is not, after all, a remote Age of Gold, but the twentieth century — all too close, it seems, to the Age of Plutonium or Uranium.

Who is this Horned God anyway? As a witch, my only advice can be that you see for yourself. And that you have the courage of the Goddess’s convictions. For he is her partner and is also the Father of All Life. The word ’father’ is quite tricky, too. You will need to forget all patriarchal connotations, like ’head of the family’. It means simply ’progenitor’, with all that implies. It means passion and the dance of life: desire. It also means male nurturer and educator of the offspring. These things are seen in nature. Male sea-horses give birth to the young; male lions tend and rear young lions. Patterns and possibilities of fatherhood are very diverse in the natural world.

Once again, you must visualize your blue sphere, ask protection from the Guardian Spirits and feel grass beneath your feet, as you see trees all around you.

Call your familiar and tell it that you wish to find and to speak with the Horned God. (Do not forget once again to ’check-out’ your familiar.) Ask it to accompany and guide you, and then leave the clearing. As in the last trance, make your way into the woods and find the cave. If you lose your bearings or have any problems, ask your familiar to give help. As before, you will slip inside the cave, between two rocks. And the candle is there, waiting for you. Pick it up and go down through the twisting rock passageway at the back, down and down, ever deeper. You emerge in the beautiful and peaceful landscape, once again. Leave the candle behind in the lower cave.

This time, you do not go towards the sea, for your familiar will lead you some way inland. This is a wild country, as well as beautiful. There are chalk uplands and belts of trees. Except for the highest ground, it is thickly wooded. Through tangled forest, you will emerge on a bare hillside. You begin to climb up. Once at the top, you can see for many miles. Chalk, flint and tough grass are all beneath your feet. You can see now that you are standing on a long ridge. This, too, is a sacred place.

Now ask to see the Lord of Day, the young Hunter. He comes striding along the ridge, a tall man dressed in animal skins and rough wool. On his head, he wears the horns of a great stag. He may be smiling at you in amusement, for this God is a great joker. Check that he is the true Lord of Day, the young Horned God. He suddenly sits down, indicating that you should sit too. He is slim and supple, and you sense that he could outrun the wind and has great strength. He asks if you would like to hear him singing. This is a natural question for him to ask. You haven’t asked him for help, you are not hungry, you are not frightened? Well then, life is for enjoying. Would you rather have a song or a story? Or perhaps you would prefer to dance? Choose the dance, and then you will dance a wild dance with the Horned God, on the bare hilltop, to the music of his low-pitched humming. It is a dance of weird craziness, sometimes a jig, sometimes improvisation. And it seems now that your blood dances, and the far-off hills and all the trees dance too, while the Horned God spins you faster and begins to laugh. Almost, you can ride the wind. Almost, you have feet on the earth and head up in the remote stars. Life pours through you and you can earth it: you conduct life.

Would a male witch dance with the Horned God like this, or is it just for you, priestess of the Goddess, a woman? I don’t know. I must ask Cole. But I don’t see why not. However, I think it more likely, at a first meeting, that a man would simply ask the God to awaken in him the power of life-dancing. Just as you have already asked the Goddess to awaken her power in you. Perhaps it is the Maiden Goddess who whirls a male witch away, dancing wildly on the deserted beach, while the waves crash and the wind flies and all the salt spray turns silver.

As the dance ends, you flop down again. You are relaxed now. You can ask the young hunter-dancer, the Horned God, any questions. Ask him why he is a hunter, if you want to. He will probably tell you that he hunts to live and not for entertainment, taking what is needed for bare survival. He will tell you that he is also the quarry, and that his being is bound up with the creatures who are being hunted. He is also the stag at bay, brought down and killed. This is a mystery which tells us much about the God, and also about ourselves, according to how we react to it. And it is beyond logic. The meaning can only be sensed deep within ourselves, and not objectified.

Remember that this God is the Lord of Death, as well as Lord of Life. Death as an aspect of Life. He is as sharp as the flint underfoot, as well as soft as chalk. Flint arrows and chalk pictures. For the artist drawing chalk pictures on the pavement in a city may also manifest the Horned God. Herne playful and creative, Herne defiant, and Herne surviving.


When you have asked all your questions, also ask how you can express and uphold his life principles of wild joyousness and honesty, being true to the instincts — real instincts, as opposed to our false and conditioned responses, real life-enhancing, life-upholding instincts.

Then thank him and tell him that you wish to see the Old Wiseman, who is his other self. He will direct you back down the hill and into the woods. Here you will see the Old Wiseman stepping out to meet you. Leaves may be in his tangled beard, and you may perceive him as both crazy old eccentric and wise astrologer. The horns are still upon his head and he holds a cloak of coarse wool round his body. This is no court magician, but a shaman. He can leave his body at will, and collect the knowledge hidden in tree roots or else howled to the Moon by dogs or danced by the March hares. He has the power of candle flames within his fingers. They glow gold and red as he blends herbs. His healing skills have the power of all elements, and he is also the guide in realms after death, having been there too. In life, he is skill in the mysteries. After life, he is the ancient guide and he brings understanding.

After you have made sure that this is the genuine Lord of Night, by following the usual procedure for checking out, follow him further into the wood. Here, you will see a rough shelter, built out of wood, mud and mosses. He invites you inside. (What do you see there?) Then he lights a candle. It was not dark before, but now it is brighter within the candle glow, and beyond that mysterious, shadowy. The Old Wiseman is quiet, but his presence is not austere. Then he asks you what creature you would like to learn from. A strange question. If you have no idea, then you had better say, ’Whichever I most need to learn from.’

He touches you upon the forehead. At once, you are becoming fox, badger, cat, hen, owl or she-goat or whatever you have chosen or have needed to become to gain further understanding. Soon the change is complete and you have shifted your shape. He takes you outside and you explore the woods, with him beside you. If you are a bird, you soar up into the sky. You need have no fear, because he protects you. More than once, he may help you shift shape again. You may be a fish and swim in a fast river, or else an eagle or otter or hind or even a butterfly. Somehow, the Old Wiseman is never far away. He may speak to you from inside a tree or be in a gust of wind.

Finally, you return to the hut and he touches your forehead one last time. You have your human form again, that of a woman. The candle has burned down a long way. The Old Wiseman looks at you steadily and waits for your questions. You have now learned, perhaps, the art of flying, or the art of being secret or the art of shedding old growth, from bird, animal or snake. Ask him to explain the further mysteries of birds and beasts. Ask about anything that you want to know. Finally, ask how you may express these magic skills and this understanding in you day-to-day life.

He may also ask you a question. Your must answer it as truthfully as you are able.

Male witches may have this experience not with the Wiseman, but with the Wisewoman, Old Crone who weaves spells. Here, I think that they would simply ask questions, and then ask the Wiseman to awaken in them that feeling for the mysteries that comprises keen delight in magic and a quest for true wisdom.

Thank the Wiseman and ask him for a blessing. You should then return to the cave where you have left your candle. Ask your familiar to lead the way. Go back through the rock passageway, to the upper cave, where you should once more leave the candle. And then go back to the clearing.

Thank your familiar. Return to the blue sphere and then thank the Guardian Spirits. Draw around yourself the blue sphere edged with gold. When you are ready, stand up.

What, you may be wondering, is likely to happen when a male witch meets with the Mother Goddess? I think that perhaps she may ask him to walk with her into the sea. What happens next, I do not know. But I think it is about trust and the interconnectedness of all life. I think that here there may also be the lesson of the whale and the dolphin, mammals whose intelligence may be as great as ours, and whose wisdom is certainly much greater and that perhaps he may have to swim underneath the water.

You have now met the Goddess and God in trance. Do not mistakenly believe there are three Goddesses and two Gods. For you have been a young girl and are now a mother and will one day be an old woman. That does not mean there are three Tessas. So it is with Goddess and God: one Goddess and one God, but more than one aspect.

It seems to me also that we can only understand Goddess and God in relation to each other. For what would it mean to be female in an entirely female world? The word would lose its meaning. Similarly, in a male world, one is male in relation to what? I do not mean, of course, that the sexes should be strictly defined in terms of role-playing. When the Goddess puts on trousers and unblocks a drain, she is certainly still female.

Let me know how you get on in trance. I will send you these four letters all at once. I look forward to hearing from you. Hope your spring equinox, your Eostar rite, was good.

Blessed be,