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Anteprima del documento
Witches and the Underworld
by Eric De Vries
First Edition Copyright 2008
SmashWords Edition 2012
By Pendraig Publishing
All rights reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior
written permission of the copyright holder, except brief quotation in a review.
Cover Design & Interior Images, Typeset & Layout by: Jo-Ann Byers-Mierzwicki
Los Angeles, CA 91040
Table of Contents
Hedge-Rider: Defining Witchcraft
Searching for the roots of Witchery
The Importance of HedgeWitchery for Modern Paganism
In Search of Culture and Context
Otherworld Geography:The Metaphysics of Hell
The Underworld in Norse Mythology
The Hollow Hills and the Witches’ Underworld
Wisdom and the Underworld
A Brief Introduction to the Conception of the Soul
At Fate’s Well:The Wyrd Sisters and Frau Holle
Wyrd and the Basic Conception of Fate
Half Black & Half White: the Goddess of Fate
Half Black & Half White: Goddess of the Underworld
Half Back & Half White: Goddess of the Earth
The Old Goddess: Queen of the Witches
The Black God: Death, Rebirth and the Quest for Wisdom
The Great Cheat in the Great Game
Nine Nights Upon the Tree
Witch-Sight and Mimir’s Well
Wodan and the God of the Witches
Steeds & Stangs: Initiating Trance and Witch-Sight
The Wooden Steed and the Pole
Trance: Yggdrasill, the Stang and the Medium of Flight
The Practice of Invoking Trance
About the Spirit of the Plant
Wine: an Entheogen
Mugwort & Wormwood
Spirit or Mind-Based Techniques
Awakening of Awareness
In the Spirit: The Fetch, the Familiar & the Spell of the Wolf
Werewolves, Witches & the Shape Shifters of Europe
Shape Shifting in Norse Mythology
The Fetch & the Fylgia
The Fetch & the Battle with the Daemon
Spell of the Wolf
Beyond the Boundary: The Hidden Road & the Spell of the Hawthorn
The Road to Hell in Norse Mythology
The Hedgerider’s Hidden Road to Elf-Land
The Gate to Hell
The Spell of the Hawthorn
Walking the Hidden Road
The Sacred Marriage: The Fetch & the Quest for the Underworld Bride
The Bride in the Deep Below
Supernatural Lovers in Witchery
The Sacred Marriage in HedgeWitchery
Musings from the Hearth: Living & Initiating the Old Ways
Living the Old Ways
Induction into the Witching Way
Appendix I: Gallery of Witches
Appendix II: Spells of Gróa
Appendix III: Vocabulary
Appendix IV: Book Hoard
About the Author
Fiction Novels from Pendraig Publishing
More Magickal Works from Pendraig Publishing
Often you here so called ‘Wiccans’ and ‘Pagans’ claim that they are ‘Witches’. They fight for the
environment, freedom of religion and other good things that will make this world a better place.
However, when you ask them what Witchcraft is, what it stands for and what its most dearly held
principles are, you get some vague story about ‘the burning times’ and words like ‘responsibility’ and
‘nature religion’ keep popping out. The word used most commonly is ‘magic(k)’, which isn’t
supernatural but, supposedly, ‘proven’ by science. To the new seeker they’re a weird, fluffy New-Age
bunch and don’t seem to have any link to the ancient Witches. So, what is Witchcraft really about?
Searching for The Roots of Witchery
For centuries, Witches have been regarded as wicked, evil women who try to harm Christian people
by cursing their live stock, their crops or suck the blood out of their children. Normal human beings
are, usually, not capable of doing such things and therefore people thought they had the ability to
make magic. This ability was given to them by the Devil himself, who tried to torture innocent
Christians as much as he could, and the Witches, the people believed, helped him. With the aid of
politically and religiously motivated propaganda, this resulted in the hanging, burning, exiling and
persecution of real and imagined Witches.
Though the above doesn’t make the Witches look like really nice people, they often did serve a
purpose in the community. Some were regarded as ‘white Witches’ or ‘wise women’ and helped the
common people with herbal and magical remedies. Often functioning as midwives they were labelled
‘Witch’, especially when the mother or child had died while giving birth or soon after it. However,
Witches weren’t always regarded as ‘evil’ which is demonstrated by the continental origins of the
word – and the vast majority of the Witches. Modern Wiccans and Witches have talked endlessly
about the English roots, without paying any attention to the continental ones. The Dutch word for
Witch, ‘heks’, comes from the Middle Dutch ‘Haghetesse’, which means ‘Hedgerider’ or ‘spirit on
the hedge’. The same goes for the root of the modern German ‘hexe’, which is Hagazussa, which also
means Hedgerider, soul on the fence.
The term Hedgerider must have been almost universal in the Germanic languages. It appears in Old
Norse as ‘Hagzissa’, but also in Old English as ‘haegtesse’ – shortened in the modern day as ‘Hag’.
The continental Germanic words for Witch clearly come from words meaning ‘Hedgerider’.
However, all this talking about ‘Hedgeriders’ doesn’t answer our question immediately. The meaning
is a bit vague: what’s about riding a hedge? What does Hedgerider mean? And what does it have to do
The answer is found in the symbolism of the hedge. To our ancestors the hedge separated the village
from the wild, outside world. Within the village you were protected by law and things were, more or
less, civilized. At this side of the hedge everything was nice, humane and protected by Law and most
important, it has culture. Outside everything was wild, dangerous and one could be attacked by
animals and perhaps angered wood-spirits or other demons. Chaos was everywhere, waiting with its
dark, sinister hands until you walk by. The hedge is the Boundary, separating the two and was thus an
‘in-between’ place. All this is symbolic of Middle-Earth and the Otherworld, as well as culture and
In the Swedish Law of Västgötaland it is said: “Woman, I saw you riding on a fence with loose hair
and belt, in the troll skin, at the time when day and night are equal.” All this points to the
Otherworldly nature of the Witch and the Hedgerider. The fence is the hedge, the boundary. The “troll
skin” is, obviously, some kind of mask or guise in which the Witch dressed herself, as to be
recognised by or invoke the Otherworldly powers. At the time when day and night are equal, the
boundary is thought to be the thinnest. It isn’t the Day, but not yet the Night, meaning it is the inbetween time; the Otherworldly time.
The idea of the hedge is also found in the trial of Hans Buochman in 1572: “he was carried away to a
strange land; he did not recognize himself and was not in his right mind. He had gone through the
forest by night and had happened on a gap in the fence, when he heard a rustling as if a mighty demon
flew by, and immediately afterwards drumming, piping, and the sounds of strings.” Apparently he
went to the forest and when he passed through the fence he heard sounds of a feast, denoting his
entrance into the Otherworld.
Middle-Earth or Midgart, this world, is symbolized by the village while the Otherworld is the outer
world, the wild and dangerous forests. When you ride the hedge, one of your legs is hanging on the
left while the other is on the right. You’re in both worlds; you’re on the boundary, being part of both
worlds at once. Now things are starting to get clearer; the Hedgeriders weren’t just people who
enjoyed sitting on hedges all day, but who were able to travel between the worlds. They could be in
Middle-Earth and the next moment in the chthonic spirit-realm. That is the true meaning of HedgeWitchery: Witchery of the Otherworld.
The Otherworld has been and is known by various names such as Elphame, Elvelond, Wormsel,
Faeryland, Niflheim, the Land of Faery, though most people will know it under the name ‘Hell’.
Although you might think of Hell as a fiery pit full of sinners, tortured by a satanic majesty; it is
definitely not. Hell was the Germanic Underworld where the dead travelled and had another existence
defined by both their virtues and sins. If you died gloriously in battle you went to Odin’s Vallhöl, if
you weren’t chosen by Odin, then maybe Freya choose you go live with Her. If not, then you would
go into the hall of Hell – though this isn’t as black-white as it seems, some cults held that they would
go live in the mountains, or stayed in their grave or burial mound. In Hell, you could live well, just as
you spent the most of your life, or you could be ‘punished’ in the hall of the Goddess Hel. Niflhel was
the lowest region, suited at the roots of the World-Tree, full of mystery, darkness, mist, the dead,
where the really wicked were sent, preventing them from being reborn, keeping them from doing
The Hedgeriders travelled to this strange world and mediated its mystery back to midgart. With their
ability to divine the future, to raise the dead, speak to the Gods and see into any of the worlds, they
were as much feared as they were respected. The words ‘Haghetesse’ and ‘Hagazussa’ also refer to
‘Hagedisse’, which is a term applied to the priestesses of the Germanic peoples and they – the
Hagedisse – fulfilled the same tasks as the Hedgeriders did.
As you might have expected, the Hedgeriders, and so the Witches, were everything but Christian.
They still continued a Pagan practice and didn’t think of the Underworld as a realm of punishment,
but more as a place full of secrets to be uncovered and where wisdom was to be found. The
Hedgeriders were the heirs of a long forgotten cult of priest(esse)s and travellers to the Underworld.
With the passing of time, the ruthless persecution and the high death-rate in Medieval and
Renaissance life, this cult was wiped out.
During the Witch-hunts, a lot of people were burned, hanged, exiled and of course, tortured. Often the
hunters chased after their own, perverted fantasies rather than real Witches. Even though they
probably murdered more Christians than real Witches, this does give us some testimonies about
Witches. Of course we shouldn’t over exaggerate the importance of these testimonies for they are
obviously modified by the clergy or given under the pressure of torture. However, the essence is still
there and can give us a lead in the search for Witchery.
In the testimonies there are certain elements which range from Christian imagination to real, often
Germanic, Witch-beliefs. Although we have Witches confessing to have spit upon the crucifix and
having sucked the blood out of babies, there are also Witches who have ridden through the sky with
Frau Holle, Madame Oriente or Dame Abondia, or whatever name the Goddess was known by; and
Witches who’ve journeyed across an immense river to the gate of Hell and of course the appearance
and worship of the, obviously Pagan, ‘Devil’. The following passage is from Aelfric’s Homilies,
dating from 10th century England:
“Yet fares Witches to where roads meet, and to Heathen burials with their phantom craft and call to
them the Devil, and he comes to them in the dead man’s likeness, as if he from death arises, but she
cannot cause that to happen, the dead to arise through her wizardry.”
If you filter out the Christian elements, there remains important information about the Shamanic lore
of the Hedgeriders. In this passage, it is clearly stated that Witches travel to the crossroads and
Heathen burial mounds. Of old, crossroads have been considered entrances to the realm of the dead
and places where the Dark Powers would gather. It is interesting to note that the gallows were erected
at crossroads to confuse the angered spirits of the dead and so prevent them from haunting their
executioners. Moreover, the gallows and the crossroads were sacred to the Germanic God Odin/
Wodan. Also, in Greek mythology, the crossroads are considered sacred to the Goddess Hecate, the
Goddess of the Underworld, the dead and…Witchcraft.
Actually, the Heathen burial mound is a powerful entrance into the Underworld. It is the hollow hill
where the Gods, the elves and the dead reside. From this mound the Hedgerider can summon the
dead, a craft deeply associated with the Hagedisse, the Volva, Seidkona and Seidmadr of Norse
Mythology and the Heathen God Odin.
More interesting and maybe even more Otherworldly, is the mentioning of “faring” and “phantom
craft”. This is actually a reference to the ability of the Witch to shape shift, which is skill deeply
associated with the journey to the Underworld. For example, the werewolf is a “man-wolf ” who is
exiled from the village and is deemed to live in the wild forests: the Underworld. The Wolf itself is a
symbol of Hellish Chaos and Dark Power and is deeply connected with the Gods of the Underworld.
As a symbol of pure rage and dehumanization – and therefore ‘Underworldization’ – the ability to
become a wolf, or any other animal, is the same as having the ability to travel to the Underworld.
Moreover, “phantom” means Witchery is about the invisible spirits and the unseen itself.
This ability, the use of an animal shape to travel to “where roads meet”, or any other place the
shapeshifter chooses, was considered basic to Witchery. Actually male Witches were one called
‘werewolves’ in Holland. There are also numerous examples of shapeshifting from Norse Mythology
such as the description of Seiðr, given in reference to the Shamanic God, Odin. Though Witches are
said to travel in the shape of animals, they also travel upon the backs of animals. This practice is
mentioned in the 10th century Canon Episcopi, one of the earliest and most influential Christian
works on Witchcraft:
“During the night, with Diana, the Pagan Goddess, in the company of a crowd of other women, they
[the Witches] ride the backs of animals, traversing great distances during the silence of the deep night,
obeying Diana’s orders as their mistress and putting themselves at her service during certain specified
Instead of talking about shape shifting, this passage talks about the riding of animals. This practice is
common throughout the Witch-trials and often the goat, hare or black dog is the vehicle of
transportation to the Sabbath.
Also interesting is that the Canon Episcopi talks about ‘Diana’, the Roman Goddess. Although the
Goddess appears in the Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, it’s rather improbable that the WitchGoddess actually is Diana. More likely, it was one of the Germanic Goddesses such as Holda, whose
name appears in later editions of the Canon Episcopi instead of ‘Diana’.
Though there has been suggested that the origins of the Witch Goddess is Celtic, I think this isn’t
realistic. The Witch-Goddess, Frau Holle for example, appears in Germany, which hasn’t been
influenced by the Celts. The Germanic peoples though have influenced – i.e. occupied – the southern
countries, France and Italy and parts of Spain. Also, the places in which the Witch-Goddess Holda
appears weren’t occupied by the Roman army, which wrecks the idea that Holda is a Germanized
version of Diana.
When you connect the concepts described in Aelfric’s Homilies and the Canon Episcopi, they lead up
to quite an interesting concept concerning the Witches’ Sabbath. Using their “phantom craft” the
Witches travelled upon the backs of animals, or in the shape of animals, to the Meadow of the
Underworld: the Sabbatical gathering. The place where the Sabbath was held was a fragmented
corruption of the Underworld, as perceived by the Christian Witch hunters.
This intimate connection is further strengthened when taking a look at the lore of the Venusberg and
the Underworld-Mountain. It is interesting that in parts of France, Germany, Italy, the alpine
countries, there are mountains wherein a Goddess resides. Some of the German mountains are the
Brocken, Schlern, the Hörselberg and many more. In Italy there appears Sibilia’s Hill and the Cave of
Madame Oriente. Anyway, the mountains were filled with elves who were reigned by one Mistress –
Holda/ Venus/ Oriente/ Sibila/ Herodias – who resembles the Norse Goddess of the Underworld. She
taught the Witches the Arts of Magic and Wortcunning. Remarkably, this hollow hill can be
considered another manifestation of Hel’s hall and provides us with more details about the Sabbatical
gatherings of Witches.
Central within the testimonies and folklore is the journey to the Sabbath. The Witches would leave
their bodies and travel to the Sabbath, or some other strange place, where they would meet the Devil
or a Lady of the elves, ‘Devils’ and other Witches. When asked by the judges where this place was,
they often described places that didn’t exist. The Sabbatical gatherings probably took place in the
realm of the spirits, the Gods and other mysterious beings. This is also suggested in the Canon
Episcopi and the Homilies where the journeys are described as ‘dreams’. This means the Witches
travelled “in the spirit”, a term often used to describe the lucid dreaming of the Witches. The
Sabbatical gatherings took place in a different realm; the Otherworld. The journey to the Underworld
was central within Witchcraft.
The Witches have left us a beautiful, spiritually complex heritage, which you will discover in this
book, but they also leave us with some serious questions: “can one truly be a Hedgerider in the
modern day? What does Hedge Witchery have to offer us? And, most important to the NeoPagans;
can one be a Witch without being a Hedgerider?”
The Importance of HedgeWitchery
for Modern Paganism
Different people will give different answers, however, from the above one can easily conclude that
it’s impossible to be a Witch without being a Hedgerider. Even though Modern Witches often say that
Witchcraft was and is about nature magic, it is not. A lot of Witches who were tried for Witchcraft
were practitioners of simple folk-magic, though to identify these people as Witches would be
changing the essence of the word, Hedgerider. The core business of the Witches and their forebears
was travelling to the Otherworld. Therefore it is impossible to be a Witch without travelling to the
Otherworld – or at least have some sort of contact with it.
Hedge Witchery has a lot to offer us, one of its blessings being a form of native Shamanism. The
necessity of this lies in the fact that today, all the forms of Shamanism practiced by Western people
are stolen from other cultures – yes, stolen “taken without asking”. Instead, Hedge Witchery has to
offer a form of Shamanism that is native to our surroundings, embedded in our own unconsciousness
and fits with our own archetypes.
Hedge Witchery, as much as every other true form of Paganism, offers a form of spirituality that
breaks the boundaries placed upon us by modern materialistic and scientific thinking.
This thinking pattern completely rules out the spiritual, the divine and our personal soul. Hedge
Witchery offers a way of believing and living which makes us part of the earth, which acknowledges
our emotions and dedicates importance to them. Just like the other Pagan religions, it has never been
at war with science and can, therefore, remain far from the superstitious beliefs held by the older
religions, but also has the ability to stress the importance of science as a tool for a better world. Hedge
Witchery gives meaning to life, to the entire ecosystem of the Earth itself. Along with the other Pagan
religions, it offers a way of living far from the materialistic-scientific thinking which has lead to the
problems of the 21st century; Hedge Witchery changes your view upon the world, and do I dare to
say, into a healthier one.
Also, Hedge Witchery leads to a deeper understanding of culture itself and thus identity. As the ideas
expressed in the book ‘Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundaries Between Wilderness and Civilization’,
culture is better understood when the boundary between culture and wilderness is crossed. This is
exactly what the Hedgeriders do. They cross the hedge, which is, among other things, the boundary
between the Wild and the Civilized. A better perspective upon culture is gained through the temporary
abandonment of culture; the journey to the Underworld. Practical results? The better appreciation and
ethics of life.
In Search of Culture and Context
So, where are we going with all this? How can we re-discover HedgeWitchery and unravel its
mysterious threads? There are two ways to go:
II.) instinct and gut reaction.
I don’t think one of them can produce a really healthy way of living, since history cannot tell us
enough and instinct is probably not always true towards the historical. You might want to take a look
at the new-age ‘Witches’ who just cannot separate facts from fiction, such as “Charmed” from reality.
In instinct, there is a possibility. What most of the Heathen traditions have is the strong connection
with the Ancestors. They are the people who’ve gone before us, breathed the same air, looked almost
exactly like us and of course shared our dreams and desires.
With the coming of generations, it is said, there are certain ‘guides’ passed on, inherited beings, spirits
who are here to help. Sometimes they are ‘just’ spirits but mostly they are the spirits of long-gone
relatives who remain with us through our blood and souls, the clan mothers of the old ways. Now
don’t think I’m a racist or fancy some other, disgusting, political philosophy, but the ancestry is, in a
way, really important. The Ancestors may speak through our actions in ritual and spiritual moments,
certain types of immediate “clearings” in mind or sudden insight into lore and life itself. These are
given by the Ancestors, to help us recover our heritage.
My point is that it’s impossible to rule out the feelings and personal insight. However, we should also
trust the historical views upon mythology and accurate translation, etymology and the reliability of
historical records. This book is a thin line between those two things and there will be a lot of claiming
and interpreting around here. Though remember that books written based on history and trying to
search for something spiritual, always, always will be opinionated and subjective.
I’ve had many debates about many things with both Wiccans and people who just refer to themselves
as ‘Witches’. The subject most furiously discussed, often leading to arguments and verbal fights and
most important for a good understanding of Witchcraft, is the origins of Witchery and whether its
roots lie with the Germanic peoples. So, before we’ll be talking about Witchcraft again we’ll have to
find where it comes from.
The Witch-Cult itself must have been quite universal in the late Medieval and Renaissance period,
since there are a lot of testimonies which seem quite reliable and also folklore and fairy tales appear in
a similar manner throughout Northern and Central Europe. Witches appeared in the continental
countries like Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, the Alpine and the Baltic countries, in Great
Britain, there were also Witch-trials and in the U. S., though we cannot merely say those people were
Many people have said to me that Witchcraft is ‘universal’ and that every culture has its “own
Witches”. Usually, they base themselves upon the definitions used by anthropologist who simply call
everybody who practices (folk-)magic and isn’t liked by everybody, a Witch. That’s not true though.
Even though I think humans are all capable of travelling to the Otherworld and that in many, many
cultures there are people who do this; this doesn’t make a Siberian Shaman or a practitioner of
voodoo a ‘Witch’. Actually they would be quite offended.
Culture and religion are tied up very closely and nobody – even though say they do – can truly be a
cultural relativist. When confronted with brutal practices from other cultures, like we in the West
consider the circumcision of young girls clitorises a barbaric practice, there will absolutely be no-one
who will say “well yeah, that’s only your view. It’s a cultural thing and therefore it isn’t wrong.”
People will always judge such things. Culture is important and in the old day your culture also defined
your beliefs. That’s why more ancient, isolated cultures just didn’t have a word for ‘religion’, it was
so tied up with everyday life that a distinction was impossible to make.
Witchcraft isn’t a thing that just arose from Christian imagination, but rather something that was there
before the Christians came and was then perverted by the Christians. Witches have survived to at least
the early 17th century, however, the first records stem from the 9th and 10th century. That’s a period
of almost 700 years to bridge. Witchcraft must have been rooted deeply in at least something essential
to survive that long. Symbols and archetypes are deeply embedded in culture and the archetypes of
the Witch and the Witch-Gods are powerful archetypes as well, having remained for so long. Some
credit goes to the Church for this; they actively kept the myths and symbols alive by their active
persecution and repression. Anyway, people underestimate the energy that was spilled in search for
and the destruction of the Witches. The Witch-cult, its myths and archetypes must have been
powerful, or else they would not have lasted. Also, they should have been embedded in something
essential which contained and sustained these archetypes, symbols and myths. Culture is the – only –
reservoir for these things and thus, Witchcraft must have been deeply rooted in it.
Big parts of lore found on the continent carries Germanic elements. For example, what the Canon
Episcopi talks about is also known as the Wild Hunt. The leader of the Wild Hunt is the Germanic
God Wodan, though sometimes the Goddess Holda is said to be the leader. Anyway, the mythology
carries definite Germanic elements.
Also, a lot of the things talked about when discussing and defining Witchcraft are also found in Norse
Mythology, such as the ability to raise the dead through magic, the ability to shape shift, to see into
the (other) worlds and to divine the future. Moreover, the countries in which Witchcraft is found – at
least on the continent – are Germanic. Holland, Germany, the Alpine region, are all Germanic in
tongue and roots. The etymology of the English word for Witch comes from a Germanic language,
just like the German and Dutch words.
Moreover, the areas in which Witchcraft is found were once under heavy influence of the Germanic
peoples, Holland, England, Germany were Germanic and huge parts of Poland, almost touching the
Baltic countries. The Alpine countries are/were inhabited by the Germanic peoples as was Italy,
though only from the moment of the fall of the Roman Empire. France’s original population was
conquered by the Franks, Germanic tribes who strayed throughout Spain and Eastern Europe. The
Celts were driven away, the Romans never came that far and surely the Greeks didn’t.
However, there is another, good reason to ‘choose’ the Germanic People; they are our Ancestors. The
English, the Dutch, the Germans – I wonder where that name comes from – are all Germanic. Even
more, the Scandinavian peoples are Germanic and do I dare to say, great portions of the French and
Italians, too. There is simply no other option. Stating that Witches are ‘Celtic’ doesn’t stand up to the
fact that the Celtic cultural influence had ceased to be in continental Europe by the times of the
I’m not staying that other cultures are ‘weak’ or ‘less’ just because they are not ‘Germanic’; that
would be ridiculous. In fact, large portions of our culture aren’t Germanic at all: only the roots of our
language and large parts of the symbols and archetypes. However, nothing is more important than
that: the symbols and archetypes through which the Underworld speaks. The Witch or Old Hag, the
Toad, the Godmother, the Sorcerer, the (Were) Wolf, the Devil, the Ghost. In fact, a lot of these
symbols are still alive and continue to exist in folk-traditions and fairytales surrounding children. For
example, when I was a small kid, my mother would bake a cake on the 6th of January and hide a bean
in it. The person who had the bean in his/her part of the cake was ‘king’. This carries much of the
symbolism of Noctifer-Lucifer polarity, Sacred King-cycle and the Twelve Days of Yule. Not to
mention the entirely Heathen feast of St. Nicholas, which is the Wild Hunt all over again.
That Witches were Germanic gives us access into the great reservoir of Germanic Mythology. Now,
we can drink from the great well of Norse Mythology, of the Poetic Edda and all the other myths
handed down, continental folk-tales, scriptures, fairy-tales – world- view, Cosmology and Gods and
Spirits, all becomes clear: we have a context.
Hedge Witchery is not only a spirituality, it is also a religion and therefore in need of a mythos, a
body of lore to put in practice, a set of symbols to speak in and to recognize the Gods by and to know
the Otherworldly language by. Now that we’ve found that language – the mythology of the Germanic
peoples – we can try to decode the messages left.
The Metaphysics of Hell
The Underworld is key within our understanding of the Witching way, for we cannot fully grasp the
reality of the Hedge-Rider’s condition unless we understand both the worlds in which the Hedgerider
lives. Although you might think: “I understand this world”, this is definitely not the case, because this
world, and your experience of it, is rooted in the Underworld. How? Read it yourself. But before we
can talk metaphysics, we should see how the ancients thought of the Underworld and what they
thought it looked like. First, we’ll try a brief reconstruction of the Underworld according to Norse
Mythology and then move into the delicate matters of the Witches’ Underworld.
The Underworld in Norse Mythology
According to the Norse there are nine worlds, which came into being through quite a complicated
process. Though I’m not going to get into all the details here, there are certain parts which remain
essential. The worlds were sent forth from a vacuum, Ginnungagap, the Seething Void. At the two
edges of this nothingness there were two ‘worlds’, Muspelheim and Niflheim. Niflheim was a world
full of frost and mist, the name actually means, ‘mist-world’. Niflheim was one of the two first
opposites and can be equated to the side of frost and ice in the fire-ice polarity. Then, there is
Muspelheim, which is the complete opposite of Niflheim: it is the world of fire. The two worlds are
suited as opposites, Niflheim at the North with Muspelheim at the South. They are the two ‘creative
principles’, the dynamic opposites from which the Seething Void was made. From their melting ice –
‘water’ – Ginnungagap, was created and from there the nine worlds were sent forth.
Interestingly enough, Niflheim is the Underworld, it lies beneath Midgard or Middle-Earth and is
considered to be the realm of the dead. There’s more to it though. Within Niflheim, it is believed, Hell
is suited as an ‘inner realm’, which is specifically the realm of the dead. One could say that Niflheim
is a ‘greater realm’ with
Hell lying in it 1. Hell was the Underworld, where those that died of sickness or old age went,
according to Snorri. However, in Baldrs Draumar it is clearly shown that this isn’t the case as Baldr,
who clearly hasn’t died of sickness or old age, still goes to Hell. It may be that Hell wasn’t a realm of
punishment, reserved for those who didn’t die an honourable death.
Some people went to Odin’s Hall, Valhöll, in which eternal revelry and feasting is said to take place.
A battle takes place every day, over and over again. Only at the Doom of the Gods will they go out to
fight the Wolf. Only a few chosen men went to the Realm of the Gods, especially those who had
worshipped Odin or died as a sacrifice to him.
The Hall of the Goddess, Hel, is said to be made of snakes stuck together and is a place where the
dead reside. This Hall is sometimes also called Wyrm’s Hall which means “snake’s hall” and is still
found in more modern lore under the name ‘Wormsel’ or ‘Wyrmsele’. On the corpse shore, Náströnd,
wicked people, oath-breakers, murderers and such were brought, and the snakes would drip venom
upon them. Also a big serpent-dragon, called Nidhög 2, sucks the blood out of the wicked dead. On
this beach, the corpses of evil men are torn apart by wolves, which might be an euphemism for the
‘second death’ by which their, clearly ‘failed’, souls are killed, torn apart by chaos – the wolf – to be
recycled in the great cycles of nature:
She there saw wading the sluggish streams bloodthirsty men
and him who the ear beguiles
of another’s wife.
There Nidhögg sucks
the corpses of the dead;
the wolf tears men.
Understand ye yet, or what?
Voluspa, Poetic Edda
Between the dead and the gate to Wyrmsele there is a big river which is ice-cold and has knives
flowing in it. There’s only one bridge, which is made of pure gold, which crosses and connects the
land of the living with the land of the dead. When the dead tread this bridge, they pass without a
sound while the living fill the air with the noise of a thousand men. The guardian of the gate is the
black dog, Garmr. He allows everybody, also the living, to enter but allows none to return. Interesting
to note that in the Witch trials, the black dog is one of the infamous appearances of the Devil. All
canine animals are deeply associated with the Underworld, the unseen and chaos itself. The dog
functions as the guardian of the realm of the dead, much like the dog is the guardian of the human
However, the wolf is the symbol the dark and bringer of chaos itself. Throughout the Saga’s several
wolves fulfil their task as chaotic, dark beasts. When the wolf, Fenris, escapes from his iron chains,
the World-Tree will tremble and a ‘Heathen Apocalypse’ is upon us in which the nine worlds will be
destroyed and the Gods killed. Moreover, the wolves or dogs are the beasts running with the Wild
Hunt – another manifestation of dark, Underworld power. Ironically, some of the lore says the Wild
Hunt hunts after one of the (wolf-) daughters of Fenris who tries to eat the sun – according to myth;
this is why the Sun weakens when she closes in on Midwinter.
One account presents us with a nice picture of the Underworld. In the story of Hadingus, he sees a
beautiful land where the herbs grow when it is Winter on Earth. Also, he sees an everlasting battle,
much like the battle of Valhöll. There’s a wall which separates this strange land from the rest of the
Underworld and when the women who brought him there threw a dead cock over the wall, they could
hear it crow from the other side, as if alive again.
There’s never much said about the interior of the Underworld, what it looks like or what happens to
the people who go there. The only possibility explained so far, is the resurrection of the dead in the
Underworld dwelling, as suggested by the cock who’s resurrected after being thrown over the strange
wall. Hell seems to be two things at the same time: both a place of ‘good’ and a place of
‘punishment’, or rather retribution. The dreaded scenes of the corpse shore exist simultaneously with
the fair land as described in Hadingus’ journey to the Underworld. The passage into the realm of the
Gods is an exception, reserved for those who were glorious and full of vigour. The majority of the
dead souls had to go to the Underworld. In this place the really wicked and evil 3 were: punished,
ripped apart by the forces of chaos and then recycled through the process of nature. Also, few hints
are given about a world even deeper than Hell in which the dead were kept who had done evil things.
They died a ‘second death’ to keep them from being reborn again into the world of the living.
However, the good ‘live’, or rather ‘exist’ quite nicely over there.
The Hollow Hills
and the Witches’ Underworld
Actually, in certain trials the geography of the Norse Underworld appears as almost identical to that
of the Witch’s journey. For example, in the trial of Thiess, a confessed werewolf, said that he and the
other werewolves went down into Hell. To do that he had to cross a river, this river which separated
this world and Hell is a common feature in the Norse depiction of the Underworld. Also the name
used for the Underworld is the same in all Germanic tongues.
Certain Icelandic families believed that when they died, they were going to live inside a mountain
nearby their house. In the Eyrbyggja Saga, a Heathen who held a specific mountain in great reverence
thought that when he died he was going to live inside this mountain. After the Heathen was long dead
and his family perished in a tragic accident, a shepherd saw the mountain being ‘opened’ and he heard
sounds of feast and merriment: the Heathen’s family had come to live with him inside the mountain.
The belief in a realm, kingdom or hall inside a hill as a place of the dead, is actually tied up very
closely with Witchcraft, especially medieval, Witchcraft. The Witches were said to leave for certain
sacred mountains in which their Mistress would teach them the art of wortcunning and magic.
Travellers to the Venusberg reported that there was an ongoing feast of elves inside this hill. Not only
the Knight Tannhauser travelled to this sacred mountain, also the Witches flew in their nocturnal
journeys to the mountain of the Lady of the Elves where they were taught the ancient magical arts of
sorcery and wortcunning. These elves weren’t just nature-spirits
or benign land-spirits, they were also the transformed souls of the dead – which is also why the elves
lived in burial mounds. Once, a long time ago, they were the humans whose bodies were buried there.
‘Elf ’was the name by which some of the dead were known and sometimes the travellers reported that
people they had known in life sat around the table and feasted with the Elf-Queen.
In Italy, the Lady of the Hollow Hill was called ‘Wise Sibillia’ and her Underworld Kingdom was
entered through a grotto in the mountains of Norcia, a region famous for its Witches. More tales of the
same kind appear all over this region.
In the mid 15th century, a Saxon astronomer wrote to a Italian friend asking questions about an Italian
Mount Venus in which, supposedly, the magical arts were taught.
The Venusberg, which means ‘Venus Mountain’, appears in Nider’s Formicarius (1438) but also in
Guerino il Meschino (1391). In Reductorium Morale (1360) and Libro de Varie Storie (1362), stories
are told about a mountain with a realm inside full of – erotic – pleasures and, especially female elves.
Moreover, the Goddesses associated with these Hollow Hills were also the female deities of the
Witches and in several folk-tales and actual Witch-trials we are told that Witches travelled to the
Otherworld Kingdom inside these sacred mountains.
They went to ‘Game of Diana’ or attended the gathering of ‘Madame Oriente’ inside the Hollow
Hills. Inside the mountain, there is a gathering of elf folk, eternal feast, game and merriment but also
they had to fight in “Her service” for the harvest. The elf hill is intimately connected with Witchcraft.
Often, Latin-educated clergy referred to the Lady of the Mountain as ‘Diana’ or ‘Venus’ while
actually her name differs widely from region to region. In the Belgian and Dutch countries, she is
known as Vrouw Vreke (St. Vreke) and as Vrouw Holle; in Germany she is known as Frau Holle,
Holda, Berchta or Percht; in the Alpine countries she is known as Berchta, Perchta, Holda or Holle
and as Selene; in Italy she is known as Madame Oriente, Venus, Diana, or the wise Sibilla. She is the
Goddess who is known by many names, with a kingdom in the hollow hill to which her followers, the
Frau Holle or Dame Holda is said to live in the Venusberg, to which the Witches are said to travel.
Also on the Brocken, Witches are said to gather. Scattered all over Northern Europe and the Alpine
regions the Hollow Hills were the centre of the Witches’ Underworld journey. They entered the
Kingdom through the Venushölle, a cave leading deep into the heart of the Venusberg. Grottos, caves
and lakes or wells near them were thought of as places of magical power and sometimes they
functioned as entrances into the Underworld. Actually, certain physical places were thought of as
entries into the Underworld. As said in the last chapter, Witches travelled to Heathen burial mounds
where the Devil would appear in the shape of a dead man. Hedgeriders could enter the Underworld
through these places; through the places which were thought of by the Christians as ‘haunted’. These
were the places more ‘alive’ and filled with the energy of the realm of the dead.
This is also why Witches congregated in old churches and graveyards, not because they were
‘diabolical’ but because these places had that feeling of death around them. To the ancients, death
wasn’t an evil happening, just something that happened and was inevitable. The Witches used the
focus of ‘death’ and spirits in graveyards to ease the passage to the Underworld. Also, churches were
often built on Heathen sacred sites to signify the superiority of the new religion over the old one.
However, to the Witches these sites remained sacred.
In a fairytale, collected by the brothers Grimm, a young girl drops her spinning work in a well. Afraid
of her archetypically wicked Stepmother, she jumps in the well to recover it. The girl loses her
consciousness and wakes up in a beautiful realm underneath the Earth. Out of the goodness and
industriousness of her hart she ‘liberates’ bread from an oven and apples from a tree. Eventually, she
ends up at the house of Frau Holle. Frau Holle will provide her with food and give her a place to sleep
if she is willing to work – she has to shake Holle’s sheets so that it will snow on the earth. Although
Frau Holle takes care of her, the girl eventually gets, homesick and wants to return home. When she
walks through the gate to Mid-World, she is covered in gold. When her lazy Stepsister dives into the
well, she refuses to work – she burns the bread, doesn’t relieve the apple-tree from its burden, nor
does she shake the sheets of Frau Holle. When she returns through the gate to Mid-World again, she is
covered in tar.
In this story Frau Holle appears as the strict, though just, mother who, again, is the Lady of an
Otherworldly realm, suited beneath a well. In the next chapter we’ll positively identify Frau Holle
with the Underworld Goddess Hel. Again we see a happy Underworld with a more negative
connotation of retaliation. Frau Holle is the Mistress of the Underworld, a world full of happy scenes,
but also the horror of the corpse shore, both merriment and eternal feasting and the punishment of the
oath-breakers and truly wicked souls. The sacred mountain, Holle’s Hill, is the realm where the
Witches travelled: the Underworld of the Hedgerider, the forest of wolves, suited beyond the
boundary of Middle-Earth and the human mind.
Wisdom and the Underworld
Although we now know that Witches travelled to the Underworld Kingdoms of Wyrmsele, Hell,
Elphame, Elvelond, we still do not know why. That’s the key question: why? Why should you risk a
journey to a place from which you might not return; a road hidden and covered with all sorts of tests
A wise giant tells us the secret:
“Of the runes of the giants and all the Gods,
I can tell with truth.
I have been to into nine worlds below, to Niflheim;
There men die out of Hel.”
Basically, this means he has become wise through his journey to Niflheim, which gives us an
important clue: the purpose of seeking contact with the Underworld is the search for wisdom. Of
course, there are other reasons such as the search for knowledge which, obviously, can be found
amongst the dead. Actually, this is a more necromantic variation upon the journey to the Underworld.
The journeys seem to be centred around two things: either some dealing with the dead/knowledge/the
thirst for magical power or the quest for wisdom. However, the first should be seen as a side product
of the second.
The Well of Wisdom is situated inside the Underworld, which was guarded by the Giant Mimir and is
also called Mimir’s Well or Mímisbrunnr. Odin/Wodan, the Great Allfather of the Germanic
pantheon, went to the Underworld to drink from Mimir’s Well and so become all-wise; he was after
Hidden in a place where no one wants, nor dares to go, wisdom is a treasure acquired in a dangerously
deadly world. Wisdom, the key to the full blossoming of our gifts, is suited in a world full of death
and the road to it is covered with all sorts of perils and test. It’s a big treasure though. Basically, the
Underworld is a place of wisdom and of death, darkness and chaos. Wisdom can only be found here,
not in the nice heavens or on Middle-Earth: only between the dead does wisdom reside and only there
can it be found.
If one goes to the Underworld and drinks from the well of wisdom, Mimirs Well, one becomes ‘wise’.
That sounds nice and mysterious, “wise” but what does “wise” mean? What is wisdom?
First, we should define the exact meaning of wisdom. Most people will define it as “doing the smart
thing”, but that’s a bit too difficult as “the smart thing” can be and almost always is subjective.
Actually, the mystery is already in that sentence, “the smart thing”, how can one know the “smart
thing” if it is subjective, mean different things to different people? The point is that the “smart thing”
is THE thing, the true thing. A wise person can twist the definition of ‘smart’, breaking the boundaries
which culture and the human etiquette has placed upon us – in this sense the Hedgeriders were the
wise people, as they were the only ones able to break through the boundary of culture and roam the
wild forests. The “smart thing” is the only, truly good option, as it is not confined by human standards
and is not subject to the strange idea of “subjectivity”. The wise people know truth when they see it
and when it comes to their actions they have an objectivity which surpasses culture, opinions, human
standards and etiquette: they know truth when they see it and can act upon it – they can do the smart
thing because they now the smart thing.
If “to be wise” is to know the truth and act upon it, then what is wisdom? When to be wise, means
‘wise’, then wisdom must mean the long term goal. “Having wisdom” is the objective and “having
wisdom” might just mean that you “have truth”. As we’ve seen from the last reasoning, you are
“wise” when you “know truth”. Therefore, is it right to say that to have wisdom is to have truth? I
think so, the only distinction between wisdom and truth is that the experience of truth is what humans
Wisdom means the “experience of truth” then there should be something like truth, right? Truth is the
‘essence’ from which everything is derived, and the state of complete and ultimate objectivity. Truth
is the “stuff” of the Gods, it’s the thing. Truth is the face of the Gods, is the face of Hell and Heaven,
of providence if you like.
The conception of truth is key when you want to understand the metaphysics of Witchery. However,
the problem about truth is that it can’t be communicated, not like symbols can be explained or
commented upon. Truth is the Source, it’s the Unknown, but at the same time it’s everywhere. There
are metaphors to describe truth, lots of them, but none can explain truth to someone who hasn’t
already experienced it.
Truth is a medium, the common reality that binds all together. Although truth sounds like it has an
opposite, such a thing cannot exist. The only thing that is opposite to truth is illusion, and as the word
itself already explains; it’s an illusion, something not real. Or the opposite could be subjectivity.
However, subjectivity is something only apparent in the human/animal consciousness, which has to
do with the way we experience things, but certainly is not how they really are. With direct knowledge
of truth, subjectivity is erased. When objectivity has been reached, subjectivity appears to be an
illusion: it’s a matter of gradation, not of opposites.
Everything takes part in truth, only not everything and everybody is conscious of it. This is second
within this philosophy; not everybody is conscious of truth and therefore, not conscious of the allconnectedness of the Universe. People have the tendency to think of themselves as separate, because
they perceive themselves as separate. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is one of the
‘illusions’ of which Traditional Witches speak, and is one of the ‘tricks’ of the subjective mind to
ensure our survival when we were still animals. But when truth is conceived and wisdom blossoms, a
true state of objectivity is reached, then the boundaries of the mind are broken and can one fly over
Truth is the medium of connectedness, connecting everything, it is the root of all – the inner reality,
the root of existence. Truth lies at the heart of the worlds and is the origin and ending. From truth,
everything is sent forth and everything shall return to it when the time comes. The inner reality of the
worlds, the root of the cosmos is the Underworld. In Norse Mythology, this is shown through the
order in which the worlds where created: first the Underworld, Midgard and then the Heavens. Also,
the roots of the World-Tree which upholds all the Worlds, spring from a place somewhere deep inside
The inner reality of life is Hell, in Niflheim in the inner -world, the Netherworld, the Underworld: this
is the inner reality. Truth resides in, is the Underworld, and when you drink from the Well of
Wisdom, inside Niflheim, then you take part in the unseen and taste the waters of wisdom, experience
it, you become it – you’ve found and experienced truth.
A Brief Introduction
to the Conception of the Soul
Truth isn’t actually a ‘thing’ in the sense that it is a piece of material, but rather a condition meaning
that one can be a chair, for example, and find itself being true. Truth, or rather, the “thing” we’re
talking about can be equated to Godhead. Now, Godhead is NOT something like God; it’s not a being,
nor has a will of its own. Godhead is something very different. Godhead is the truth that lies at the
heart of things and is that which makes everything one. Godhead is in everything and is the ‘stuff’ of
Now, this isn’t Christian or monotheistic it is pantheistic: Godhead or ‘God’ is in everything. As the
essence of every human being and of literally every-thing, Godhead can be seen as the soul, the self,
the essence of the physical experience. After all, the occult maxim appears to be true: “Thou art God”,
for Godhead is within you.
Even though everybody thinks of his personality when it comes to the soul, this isn’t the ancient
conception of it. The soul is impersonal – it has to be, since my soul is a “little piece” of Godhead –
and therefore cannot contain memories, personality, dreams etc.. Soul is truth; my soul is, in essence,
your soul and also the soul of the world. Another word for soul is self, meaning that our true nature is
rooted inside the soul: my-self.
This means there’s a real distinction between the physical and the inner parts of ourselves. Our
consciousness is created by the cooperation of the body with the self. However, if the self would
cease to exist, the mind couldn’t exist much longer. The flow of life-force between the unseen and the
body would cease to exist – this basically means death.
Though the self and the physical are definitely different in the sense of their properties, they certainly
do NOT exist in a different place or plane. My soul is also inside my body. However, the soul is able
to separate from the body, but the body isn’t able to do this. This is the mystery of the Underworldexperience: the soul can travel to the Underworld, leaving the body as if asleep; but the body can’t
move without the soul.
Also, the true meaning of wise, “to experience truth” gets a totally new meaning when applied to the
conception of the soul. The experience of truth is exactly the same as the experience of the self, as the
self and truth are one and the same thing. Doing the “smart thing” is intimately tied up with the occult
maxim: “know thyself”, or rather “know thy self”. This is the essence of the quest for wisdom,
knowing thy self. This is also why Witches travel to the Underworld and why wisdom can be found
there, because this is the reality of the self.
Though the words ‘inner reality’ and ‘Underworld’ sound different and separate from this world, they
are not. Everything is connected and everything is at ‘one’ place, there’s only One World. The only
thing that makes us believe that they are separate is that we perceive them as “separate”. Physical and
non-physical, inner and outer, are just expressions of the same basic truth, Godhead.
When walking around on this planet, we see only the physical things. When walking around in the
Underworld, we only “see” the inner, unseen things. Though, in reality they are connected and one
and the same. This world, Middle Earth, is the Underworld and the Heavens at the same time. From
the One Thing, from Godhead, they’re both expressions and the only thing standing between direct
contact with the unseen World, is the illusion that they are separate.
At Fate’s Well:
The Wyrd Sisters and Frau Holle
Between the roots of the World-Tree there is a well, sacred to the Goddesses of Fate who sprinkles
water from the well upon the tree, so it may grow high and tall. Their names are ‘Future’, ‘To
Become’ and ‘Shall’. They are said to weave the Fate of men and most importantly the Wyrd of the
worlds. Weaving and twining the threads of Fate, they have the power over life and death, happiness
and sickness, success and misery, prosperity and poverty.
Wyrd and the Basic Conception of Fate
To the Germanic peoples, Fate or rather Wyrd was an important concept. Most people think of ‘Fate’
as something that determines the course of your life, much like the idea of destiny, in the sense that
someone has to do certain things in a certain way and cannot do differently. You have to move that
way, touch those places, take those steps, even when their choice would have been the other way–
they can’t help it. This is the common idea of Fate.
Wyrd is quite the opposite. According to Wyrd, our future is determined by the past. Previous
education, culture, experiences etc. have shaped you and made you the way you are; you are your
past. “You” are your body, your genetic make-up and the experiences from the past. In the present,
the forever and forward- going experience of now, you make your choices, as the ‘past-you’.
Therefore, everything you do will turn out in line with the past.
Your Fate is completely determined by the past. Basically you will never make a choice that isn’t
‘you’. You will always decide the way you decide, nothing can change that. On the foundation of the
things you’ve seen and experienced before, you’ll make your decisions, because these things have
shaped your personality – your personality decides and thus makes a choice which can only be
‘yours’, even if you don’t like the choice you have to make.
Basically, the concept of Wyrd is based upon the idea that everything happens for a reason. Reason
doesn’t mean it has a ‘meaning’, but rather every action, every movement is caused by another
movement which has been caused by another movement. The movements of today are a reaction or
consequence of the past. Following this, everything is caused by the past and so the things you face
today, in the present, are a product of the past. Here you have the reason for the names of the Weird
Sisters, all relating to the future: Fate is a continuous process of becoming, not predestination.
From the inevitability of making a decision that can only be ‘you’, everything will have to turn out a
certain way, eliminating the endless possibilities and choosing only one, which has always been the
only possibility since Mother Nature conceived you. Everything is caused by something else.
Everything happens because of an action taken or not taken in the past, and all is set in motion after
the first drop melted from Niflheim. Since then, everything will turn out only one way and this is the
only way things can be: all is as it should be.
This might sound strange, as things seem rather mad at this time, the hunger in some parts of the
world, the gangs in Port au Prince and New York, Bush in office, Sunnites killing Shiites, the
multicultural problems in Western countries with Muslim minorities, and then there’s the common
genocide, racism, murder, rape etc. Everything could be much better right?
The point is, everything couldn’t have been any different as we’re all the consequence of an action
taken before. Mind my words though, I’m not saying anything like ‘the bad comes to the bad’. All
I’m trying to point out is that everything that happens today has a reason, however this doesn’t mean
it is a reason with a meaning! Fate isn’t moral.
Most people have the idea that they have the possibility to choose and have a free will. Ironically
enough, these people only have the illusion that they can choose; in fact their future is already existing
in their past.
Western civilization has a very strange obsession with free will; everybody should be able to choose.
Though that seems a good basis for law and politics, one might wonder how realistic it is. We’re more
influenced by our surroundings than we might realize. Wyrd leaves some room for free will in the
sense that you still have the illusion that you’re able to choose. However, you still have to make the
choices – even though your Wyrd already is, from the moment you were born everything was already
there. In essence, everything will unfold in only one way, although the way it will unfold is NOT
written in stone: Wyrd will unfold in only one way, which is exactly how it should be, and the only
way it could be, but it is changeable in the now.
However, all this doesn’t mean you have no possibility to change your Fate. Time exists in two states,
present and future/past, which are essentially the same. If you can change the present, the past will
change. In an instant, the present will change into the past and therefore, change the future and your
Fate. To change the present is anything but easy. In an instant you have to let your past, your previous
experiences, education, culture, go – just let it go. Then you can make the decision and take a route
not yet explored, a path never taken. This is done by the immediate rethinking of every decision you
have to make. Just let go of your “programming” and take a decision which you normally wouldn’t
make: do the smart thing.
The concepts of soul, Godhead and Fate are intimately tied up and without one, the other could not
exist. According to Wyrd, everything, everyone is a ‘strand’, a ‘thread’ from which new things arise,
new manifestations come to be. But where do these ‘manifestations’ come from, where does the
process begin? It cannot begin in ‘nothing’ with the thread ending when someone dies, for the
ancients believed that humans lived on after their deaths. Here, the concept of the soul comes in. At
the heart of each strand lies the immortal quality we call the soul, truth or Godhead. From that soul,
new manifestations come forth and therefore are subject to the condition of Wyrd.
The concept of Fate states that everything is a strand or a thread, woven into the tapestry of the
Universe. At the heart of every strand, there lies the true Wyrd, the Well and also the soul from which
the physical and the non-physical emerge. So, from truth comes the physical where everything seems
to change, but in reality it doesn’t – truth is still there only the shape it takes changes.
Wyrd basically says that from the past, the future immediately emerges and that changing your past is
therefore, changing your future: the past and the future are one and influence each other. So the
physical changes, but only in accordance with truth or ‘different’ souls changing each other’s
manifestation, or the opposites; Fire and Ice changing each other, transforming each other and hereby
creating truth and oneness.
Half Black & Half White:
The Goddess of Fate
Fate, Wyrd, weaves your life and your death, your career, your sins, your happiness and your misery.
As you’ve probably noticed, Fate can be cruel, taking life when still young, massacres, genocide,
rape, murder – all are Fate’s creations. Life is not necessarily nice and most people suffer: this is their
Wyrd. Fate destroys life, destroys happiness and takes everything you always wanted. However, Fate
also gives life, gives happiness and gives the things you’ve always wanted. Fate is both cruel and
caring. She’s both mother and murderer.
This is an important feature of Wyrd. Although it is a process which is amoral and cannot ‘judge’
whether something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it definitely has a positive (creation) and a negative
(destructive) side. This is shown in the tale of Frau Holle in which one of the girls is given gold and
the other one is given nothing but tar. This signifies both the positive and negative side of Fate.
Moreover, this is also shown in human life itself: a child is born and grows and grows with Fate often
taking a ‘caring’ role towards children, while later on in life destroying their bodies and eventually
killing them. The Ladies of Fate have usually been depicted as Three Sisters, Shakespeare’s Weird
Sisters, standing besides the cauldron. They appear as a sign of impending kingdom, to predict the
Knight’s future. However, sometimes their message isn’t happy or glorious, sometimes it is death,
punishment and terror.
In folk-tales and songs, murderers are sometimes visited by their dead victims who inform them about
their unlucky Fate. The dead, the Otherworldly beings, the elves are often messengers of Fate,
predicting coming sickness, war or death and sometimes prosperity.
Elves are deeply tied up with the Underworld. In folklore, the Lady of the Hollow Hills is also called
the Lady of the Elves and presides over a inner kingdom crowded by elves. Sometimes people
thought of them as the long-gone dead, or sometimes God-like nature spirits and sometimes they are
the Genius Loci, the spirits of a place who have merged with the land. In some branches of traditional
Witchcraft, it is believed that when death takes over, one ceases to be human and transforms into an
elf, though only to reincarnate as human. Either way, they appeared as beings intimately connected
with the Underworld.
Though the elves and the dead often appear as messengers, there is one supreme Goddess of Fate. She
is the ultimate messenger. The Lady who stands behind Fate’s double face is the Lady of the Witches.
She’s half dark, half white; which signifies her creation and destruction aspects.
To the Shepherd of Luckenwalde the Lady of the Elves, Frau Holle, appeared fair from the front, but
hollow and rotten from the back. Frau Holle who lives inside the Venusberg is said to have the same
appearance. Sometimes Frau Holle appears as a woman with a half black and half white face. Her
appearance is intimately tied up with the cruel and compassionate workings of Fate.
In folklore, Frau Holle is intimately connected with spinning and therefore, Fate. Once, Fate was
intimately associated with spinning and actually equated to it. From Norway to Italy and from Russia
to Ireland, the image and lore of the Old Goddess was once well- known. Although the different,
cultural-specific names differ and certain aspects appear definitely different, Her association with
spinning is very clear.
In the twelve nights after midwinter, Frau Holle was said to reign Midgard. During this time,
according to several folk-traditions, one should have finished spinning or else Perchta, a local name
for Frau Holle, would wipe her ass with the flax still left. Also, spinners should not continue spinning
during the twelve nights, because Frau Holle, who is the Goddess of Spinning, would curse them and
send them bad luck while rewarding the hard-working who stopped during the twelve nights –
actually paying homage to Her, saying that She was the ultimate spinner, recognising her power.
During the Mother’s Nights, another name for the Twelve Nights, the natural order is reversed and
Misrule rules. Traditionally, Wodan – whom we’ll get back to in the next chapter – led the Wild Hunt
during these nights, but early accounts assure us that also Frau Holle led the Wild Hunt.
Actually, the Twelve Nights are the most potent times for operations of Witchcraft. It is said that
during the twelve days after midwinter, the Wild Hunt and other Otherworldly powers roam freely
across Middle-Earth. In these twelve days – have you ever counted the days between the arrival of the
three wise men at Jesus’ birthplace and Christmas? – the world order is reversed, the boundary is
In Phulsborn, a man went at night to a mountain where he meets “Frau Hulle” spinning industriously.
A big pile of flax was in front of Her already finished, with a small amount still to her right. She
asked the man to take the flax, but he refused saying that he already had enough at home. Still, some
of the flax ends up in his shoe and when he walks away his foot hurts, the flax had turned into gold.
A similar thing happened to the children in Kyffhauser. They too saw ‘Frau Hulle’, spinning
industriously and she gives them flax. All the children throw the flax away, except for one girl. When
they reach their home, the little girl’s pockets are full of gold.
In Weingarten, a bridge stands before an old ruined castle. At night an old woman would spin and the
people would hear the sounds of the spinning wheel. Also, in Germany people worshipped a WoodWoman, especially during the twelve nights, also known as the Zwölften. They would spin the flax
and sacrifice it to the Wood- Woman by burning it in the fire.
Moreover, on the castle hill near Biesenthal, a white lady appears with a golden spinning wheel in her
hands. In Neu-Berstein near Gernsbach, a woman came to help the girls who had to spin too much for
the lord of the castle.
Frau Holle is the Goddess of Spinning, as well of the home and industriousness and you can clearly
see how these two are mingled in the above tales. Frau Holle helps you, gives you gold or something
else if you are willing to stick with her.
Sometimes even the mother of Jesus adopted Holle’s spinning aspect. In the medieval song the
Mariënfaden there is said:
“Maria, good she could spin,
That womens’ thread”
In Mecklenburg, it is said that when the flax isn’t spun by the time the Zwölften begins, Frau Wod or
Frau Gaue will come. In the Preignitz Frau Gode will come; in Untermark ‘Frick’ will appear; in the
Harz the original name sometimes appears, Frau Frien or Frau Freke. All these names are worn-down
names or titles of the name Frick or Freya or one of the feminine versions of the name Wodan. We
might want to notice that in a folk-tale surrounding the Venusberg, it is said that within this mountain
the storm-spirit Wode resides together with his wife Holda.
Ultimately this leads again to the idea so over-appreciated within modern Wicca of a female divinity
and a male divinity as the Gods of the Witches. However, as we shall see, Frau Holle is chthonic, dark
and very different from the all-sweet female of new-age Paganism, who can hardly be considered a
Frau Holle is the Goddess of Spinning, as clearly shown through the above discussed folktales and
folklore. However, this means that She is the Half White Half Black Goddess of Fate. She is the one
who determines the course of our lives, who gives us happiness or misery, kills us or gives us another
life. From Her womb we were all send forth and to Her we shall return to Our Lady of Fate.
Half Black & Half White:
Goddess of the Underworld
The Goddess Hel, according to the Proza Edda, has a face which is “half blue-black and half fleshcolour”, this resembles the image of the Underworld Goddess, Frau Holle. Both appear as Goddesses
of the Underworld and can be linked through their appearance and etymology of their names.
The Proto-Indo European Goddess Kolyo, means ‘the thing gathered to cover’. This refers to the
covering of the dead with earth, especially in burial mounds and grave hills. From the root
‘kol’, meaning hollow, the words hill, hall, hole, hollow, Hell and the name Hel are derived. All this
meaning, or having some connotation of being ‘covered’ – i.e. buried. Also the name Holda/ Holle is
derived from the root ‘kol’, basically stating that Holda/ Holle means exactly the same as Hel, as they
are derived from the same source. They are essentially the same Goddess, both Queens of the
Actually, the association of Frau Holle with the Underworld runs quite deeply through medieval
accounts of Witchcraft and the sacred mountains. She was said to live in mountains, often accessed
through caves and grottos.
In the mid-1500’s tales are told about the Cavern of Sibillia, an Elf-Lady who lives inside the hill.
Every night she and her followers turned into serpents. The association of the Queen of the
Underworld or at least her Otherworldly kingdom with serpents is profoundly strong. As you might
remember from Chapter Two, Hell was also called Wyrmsele, the Hall of Snakes and in several
folktales the Hollow Hill is inhabited by elves who turn into serpents every Sunday or Saturday.
The strong connection between certain mountains, the Witch- Goddess and the Underworld might
explain the strong association between the mountain called the ‘Brocken’ and Witches. The Brocken
lies in the Harz-region, and at Walpurgisnight or May Eve, the Witches flew en masse to the Brocken,
according to the earliest information, to fight with evil demons. Ironically, more recent information
tells us that they were just kissing the Devil’s bottom. Anyway, mountains were often regarded as
sacred to Frau Holle and more generally to the Witch Goddes. That’s why the Hedgerider went there;
because there the boundary was thinner and the Cavern of the Goddess was there, the entrance to the
realm of the Lady of the Hollow Hills.
Wells are associated with Frau Holle and often function as entrances to Her Otherworld realm. In
Tegernfelden, in a mountain a White Lady reigns over several beautiful halls. Against the wall, the
souls of old men are positioned. In a second hall, the souls of young men and girls sleep. In a third, a
huge number of small children are lying down as if asleep. At the centre of every hall there is a well
in which the souls destined to be reborn are purified.
In Hessen, Germany, a magical well or lake gives children to the women who take a bath in this body
of water. This well is also known as Holda’s Lake and the bath taken by the women is called a
‘Hollenbad’. Under the well, there lies a realm in which the souls of the unborn children reside,
waiting to be reborn. In this tale you can clearly see the Underworld realm of Frau Holle as the womb
of the Earth Goddess – whom we’ll get back to – but more importantly She is, again, associated with
an Underworld realm. This tale shows the association with the magical well through which entrance is
gained into the world of Frau Holle. As you might remember from the last chapter, in the fairytale of
Dame Holda, a young girl gained access into her Otherworld by jumping into a well.
The association between Holle’s Underworld and the child-giving well runs quite deeply. The concept
is always the same: a woman takes a bath in a lake which is said to be the entrance into Her realm in
which children are waiting to be born. We’ll deal with this more extensively later.
Frau Holle is also often called Mistress of the Hill and throughout Germany and Holland, so called
‘Hollebergen’ are spread. One of these is the Hörselberg, which is often equated to the Venusberg in
which Holle is said to live. Suited between Hilgerhausen and Kammerbach the ‘Hollestein’, which
means ‘holle’s rock’, hides a cave which leads into the kingdom of Frau Holle. In Holland, in the
national park ‘de Veluwe’ there’s another Holleberg.
Frau Holle as the Mistress of the Underworld is most clearly shown in the trial of Diel Breull, a male
Witch in Hesse, Germany. He said that he travelled to the Venusberg in which “Frau Holt” showed
him the sufferings of the dead reflected in a bowl of water. Frau Holle is the Queen of the
Underworld, showing her half black and half white face as Mistress of the Eternal Feast and as
Mistress of the Corpse Shore. She is the Goddess of the Gallows, dragging the dead by a noose
around their necks into the Underworld, claiming them completely.
Half Back & Half White:
Goddess of the Earth
Though Frau Holle might have been a Goddess of Fate and the dead, she is more than just that. She is
also the Goddess of Fertility, Spring, the Earth, Children and the Seasons. She is also the Goddess of
sexual fertility to whom people prayed for prosperity and a good harvest. They left offerings out on
the roof or a seat on their tables for Her so that she would be grateful and bless them.
But what does “Goddess of the Earth” mean? For we certainly have no folktales about Frau Holle
referring to Her as “Lady of the Earth”. The title “Goddess of the Earth” is used to describe the aspect
of the womb, as a life-giving and prosperity bringing element. Basically, this comes down to the idea
of Frau Holle as a Goddess of a) fertility, children, prosperity, sex, marriage etc.. and b) motherhood,
meaning She is the Mother who birthed everything into existence.
Frau Holle is commonly associated with children and childbirth. As discussed before, certain wells
considered sacred to Her were said to increase fertility of the women who bathed in them. Also,
children were thought to come out of wells. In Flensburg, there’s an old, stone well from which the
children are pulled. In Bettenbrund, near Bergheim in Bovenhessen, there lies the children-giving well
called the Schwarzenbron. In the well of the Balkäuser Valley, children are said to come, sent by the
Holy Virgin who assumed many of the aspects and rituals once attributed to Frau Holle.
At the slope of the Einzelberg, lies the Hollerwiese. Once a woman saw a bag full of gold, and put her
new born down to take the gold. When she looked again, her child was gone. Crying she went home.
The Priest advised her to return a year after the mysterious disappearance of her child. When she
returned a year later, her child was sitting there, well fed and laughing. The child told her that a
woman who lived inside the hill – the Einzelberg – brought him milk and fruits every day.
Again, we see the caring aspect of Frau Holle as the protector of children. Also, Holle is the Mistress
of the Wild Hunt. Unbaptized children were said to roam with this Hunt, specifically when led by
Holle. This might be rooted in the Heathen idea that an unnamed child had no ancestral spirits or
fylgia and so weren’t protected. By joining Frau Holle, She took care of them and guarded them,
instead of the ancestral powers.
Not only does She bring fertility in sense of children, she also is the Matron of Marriage and governs
the more sensual aspects also attributed to Freya. In fact, Freya and Holda are in several ways one and
the same. As said in the part about the Queen of the Underworld, Holle is the same as Hell and,
according to Alby Stone, can be considered almost the same as the Nornir. Moreover, the Norse
Goddesses Freya and Hel have a lot in common. Freya is also a Goddess of the dead – She is entitled
to half of the slain according to Norse Mythology – and She even presides over Her own realm of the
dead, Folkvrangar. Freya is the Goddess of the Dead, and love, marriage and fertility, the same goes
for Frau Holle as She is intimately connected with Freya. The name Holle appears in medieval
folktales in one breath with the name Freke, Vreke, which are – bastardised – continental names for
Just as spinning, the marriage was considered sacred to Frau Holle and in Her Twelve Days around
Christmas, she prohibited any activity sacred to Her on the punishment of Her curse – which was
quite a punishment as She was the Goddess of prosperity. Therefore no marriages were blessed in the
Zwölften because Holle would curse them – actually this practise is still continued; between
Christmas and Epiphany, none marry.
Holle had many, often local, manifestations. Among these are the Goddesses Perchta and Berchta,
who mostly appear in the Alpine region. These Goddesses functioned the same way as Holle, as
matrons of fertility and prosperity. Instead of the people sticking to the sober and sterile image of the
Virgin, they preferred the appealing and sensual image of the Mother. The Mother was everything but
dead, as shown by the complaints of a 13th century Priest who said that the young people preferred to
pray to Perchta instead of offering prayers to the Holy Virgin. In later centuries Holy Marie adopted
elements of Holle, such as Her patronage of marriage and the devotion of women in want of children.
Lying at the root of the mysterious “White Lady”, Holle appears as a beautiful young lady cloaked in
white linens. With Her long, blond and curly hair She enchants every man passing. She is invoked by
the common folk as Mistress of the Woods and Animals, bringing fertility to the fields and to humans.
Her totem is the hare, a symbol of fertility. She is the spirit of Spring and Her breath is in every
radiant and life-bringing ray of the sun. “Bride” is a good name for Her as She is the Earth-Bride, who
offers the ever renewing power of the fields to us.
Of the above description one might think that Frau Holle is a sweet lady, who wants nothing more
than the best for everybody. However, She does not. Again, the double face of Fate is shown in Her
seasonal aspects. Besides being the marriage-ready virgin whose perfect melody awakens the flower
hidden in the dark of the Earth, She is also the Winter Goddess. She is the Winter Hag and invokes
the scourging winter storms that torment the world and its inhabitants. In Her eyes you can see the
ice-cold winter which kills the animals in the woods and brings starvation to the people in the
villages. She is the Lady of the Wolves, who scratches at the Winter door of the hard working
blacksmith. For indeed do the snowflakes fall from her sheets.
This polarity of Winter-Summer/Spring is most clearly shown in the tale of Snowwhite and Rosered.
The essence of the tale is this: an old mother had two daughters, Rosered and Snowwhite. Rosered is
the more ‘outgoing’ type, more of the flowers and happy meadows, while Snowwhite was more of the
Winter and the dark, silent and melancholic indoor-crafting. Their mother always said that “what the
one has, she should share with the other”. They were loved by the animals of the forest, and none of
whom was afraid of them nor attacked them. In the winter when snowstorms raged across Middle
Earth they sat inside, spinning. They go through an initiation consisting of freeing their bear-shirt
prince of the three elements, and eventually marrying him and his brother.
This is tale is full of Heathen symbolism, especially concerning the Hag-Bride polarity embedded in
the image of Holle. What it comes down to is that both the seasons – Summer and Winter, symbolised
by Rosered and Snowwhite – are in balance and have to share the kingdom by splitting each year in
two periods of Winter and Summer. There are of course numerous other fairytales, some of which
have gained quite a status thanks to Disney. One of these is the story of Snowwhite – the name keeps
coming back – and of course the tale of Sleeping Beauty carries a lot of the same symbolism, though
more centred around the Grail-myth and sacred kingship.
Frau Holle is the Goddess of fertility, prosperity, marriage, childbirth and Winter and Spring. Her half
black face is shown in her more chthonic aspect as the Winter Goddess while Her white side is shown
in Her desire to care for children and as the matron of women in want of children. If you pray to Her
and bring Her offerings to increase your prosperity or fertility, you’ve made the right choice, for there
is not a more potent Goddess you could turn to.
As Goddess of the Earth, She not only brings fertility to the fields or blesses the hardworking.
Ultimately She is the patronage of woman- and especially motherhood. From Her inspiration-giving
waters, children as a blessing of the Mother, are send forth. She is the matron of children, because
ultimately they are Her children. She sees after them because She is their Mother, as She is the
Mother of everyone. From Her Underworld womb, suited in Her Earth-body, She sends everything
forth only to drag them back in, when the time comes.
The Old Goddess:
Queen of the Witches
The above sounds nice and everything, but has nothing to do with us unless we can link Holle with
Most people think of Witches as people who’ve sold their soul to the Devil and therefore, have to
attend a Sabbath where they worship him. However, this is ridicule. Also, the Inquisitors prosecuting
Witches as Devil-worshippers often had to trick/force their victims into saying that some sort of Devil
was at the gatherings of Witches. Actually there wasn’t such a thing, in ancient times, Witchcraft was
as much known for its Goddess veneration as its nightly flights. Frau Holle is even while mentioned
several times in both Witch trials and Christian texts. Though there’s much confusion about the actual
name of the Witch Goddess, there is definitely enough that associates Witchcraft with Frau Holle. In
parts of Germany the phrase “to ride with Holle” means exactly the same as “to ride with the
Sometimes, the Witches even got their names from Frau Holle. In the book ‘Ecstasies’, by Carlo
Ginzburg, he says “the Witches “venerate Her as though she were Fortune and in common parlance
are called Hulden from Hulda” (pg. 94). Here, it is clearly said that the Witches were called ‘Hulden’,
for they were followers of Hulda, Frau Holle.
The clergy had numerous names for this Goddess. These often had Latin or biblical origins such as
Diana, Venus and Herodias. However, they also noted down names such as Oriente, Abundia and
Sibilla. In the later editions of the texts on Witchcraft, names such as Diana in the Canon Episcopi,
were replaced by “fraw Holt” or sometimes Herodias. Anyway, so many names were introduced by
the clergy and the Witches themselves, that it’s impossible to untwine the entire knot of confusion.
Especially in the South, the entire system of names became a mess. In the Canon Episcopi, “…Diana,
Goddess of the Pagans..” is clearly a reference to the Wild Hunt which, on more than one occasion,
was led by Frau Holle. That Witches had experiences, ‘delusions’, in which they travelled with the
Wild Hunt and numerous trials tell us about the wide-spread survival of this cult. However, Roman
tradition has no such thing! This leads to the conclusion that there is no way Diana could actually
have been the Goddess of the Witches – at least not in the Germanic countries. Only the Germanic
Goddess Holle, and the other Goddesses described as Her aspects, appears as the Mistress of the Wild
In 1015 Holda is first mentioned by the Bishop of Worms in reference to Witchcraft, again describing
the Wild Hunt. Moreover, the trial of Dian Breul in 1630, mentioned Frau Holt and Her sacred
mountain, the Venusberg. In the 16th century, a woman was exiled after having confessed to have
ridden with Holda’s Wild Hunt.
Ultimately, she is the Goddess of Fate, the Underworld, the Earth and also the Witches. She is the
chthonic deity of the Witches, and the followers of Her Cult, the people living upon the hedge, have
lucid dreams in which they travel to Her dark subterranean kingdom, the Underworld. The Hagedisse,
Hagazussa and Hexe take part in her good society.
The Black God:
Death, Rebirth and the
Quest for Wisdom
From the last chapter, you might have gotten the impression that you have no reason to be happy
about the entire Fate-issue. Probably because it interferes with our own, personal will and makes us
slaves to things we cannot control. Fate continuously robs us from the pleasures of life. We strive for
happiness, immortality and try to banish the pain, the darker things of life. We fear death and yet, She
makes us die, we hate pain and yet, we suffer. All we want is here, however we cannot take it because
were subjected to Her. In the battle of man against Fate, Fate seems to have a huge advantage and so
man rarely wins. However, there are people who do win.
Now this seems a bit strange. How can one defeat an omnipotent force, a thing isn’t conscious like we
are? Well, “defeat” isn’t the right word, it’s more like “not being subject to” or “cheating” Wyrd. It
means we’re no longer influenced by our Fated conditions, our Fated struggle for happiness is won
and She isn’t able to destroy it. When this condition is reached, peace is found. You’re at peace with
the world, the physical for you known the inner truths and you can see the Gods shine in the world
Cheating Fate is actually the same as cheating death. Death is one of those things we’re Fated to do,
and when you cheat Fate, you’ll have to cheat death. You’ll have to find a way to “cheat” death, twist
the rules, find a maze in death’s nets and turn death’s inevitably into an advantage.
The Great Cheat in the Great Game
But how can one cheat death? As you know, the physical body will at some point, die and there’s not
much you can do about that. More likely it has to do with cheating the process of dying. But, before
we can see how we can cheat death we should look into the process of death itself.
When a human being dies, his or her body stops working and slowly starts to decay. Then the
personality dies too, since the body and the persona are intimately connected – the only thing
remaining is some strange shade. The shade has to enter the Underworld, if not immediately after its
death, it will have to someday. The dreams, memories, passions and desires, everything that defined
you as you, will fade away. It dies, you will die, whether you like if or not. The ego doesn’t live much
longer than our prone, human bodies. However, the soul lives on.
This is probably why the dead can only be raised through magic: they’ve ceased to exist. Much like
the dead in Greek mythology could only be re-awakened by making a blood-sacrifice, giving the soul
a little bit of life-force to give it the energy so that a bit of the human personality be recovered.
Raising the dead is something supernatural, for they do not exist anymore, at least not in the way we
However, in Vallhöl the dead lived on, they weren’t forgotten. They remained conscious all the time;
they still existed. The same goes for the dead in the realm of Freya and certain persons in Hel’s Hall.
They lived in a state of immortality, much like the Gods, only less powerful. So, we see a paradox
here, people lived on forever by the favour of the Gods after they died, though in the Underworld
people ceased to exist. How can this be?
This problem is solved by what Peter Paddon described in one of his podcasts as the “cosmic soup”.
In the cauldron we’re ‘recycled’, but only the people who need to be recycled! Not everybody is
recycled, because they’re in that ‘perfect state’ already and therefore are good, perfect individuals.
The rest of us: recycled.
The people who won’t be recycled are a small minority, those who’ve done extraordinary things.
Some who have done great artistic deeds and according to Norse Mythology, those who’ve died
gloriously in battle and those who’ve proven to be extremely brave – not stupid though, that’s
something else. Those people are granted immortality by the Gods and so end up in the heavens with
them. The rest of us? We’ll have to do it the hard way.
Cheating death is quite problematic, because the only way one can NOT die is by making the physical
everlasting, which isn’t possible – at least not yet. More likely is that ‘death’ is a metaphor for
something deeper. As you might have noticed in the few lines about the process of dying, the physical
disintegrates and the mind does so, too. However, if one can shift the consciousness from the physical
to the soul, consciousness doesn’t stop at death, but lives on as long as the soul exists; which is
Practically, this means death is still inevitable. However, the process of dying can be cheated.
Normally, the human body ceases to be, leading to the following events. Firstly, the soul goes to the
Underworld where the personality has to face the self or the truth, which means the end of the
personality. The Ego dies almost instantly at the moment of physical death. Then, the consciousness is
shifted from Ego to self.
This is what normally happens at death. Though, there is one way to cheat this process: facing
truth/self before the body stops working – this will force the soul to create a new mind, only this time
consciousness is rooted in the self, rather than the Ego. This is the Mystery of death & rebirth. Death
is twofold disintegration; disintegration of the mind and of the body. Disintegration of the mind is
something sought after by the Hedgerider, however the body is better if left intact. This means that
after Rebirth, the human can take on a quite different stance on things, not always to the pleasure of
the relatives and such. Though don’t be afraid of losing your memory or anything like that, this is
ingrained and stored in your brain which doesn’t change on that point. However, the process of death
& rebirth resembles a nervous breakdown, and often goes with a certain period of insanity – which is
used to reintegrate the persona. This is something seen among many Shamans after their death &
Remember the definition of ‘wise’ from chapter two “to experience truth”? When Fate is defeated,
death is cheated; truth is found and therefore wisdom. We’ve defined wisdom as the constant
experience of truth. Death & rebirth not only grants immortality – that is ever consciousness existence
– but also wisdom and actually, these two are intimately connected.
Immortality isn’t the goal here though. The Hedgerider searches after peace in life and the highest
state of objectivity, truth. Many have said that this resembles teachings from the Buddhist Nirvana, to
which it indeed shares some affinity. In the end, the Hedgerider quests after Godhead, truth and peace.
Nine Nights Upon the Tree
This symbolic death & rebirth is also found in Norse Mythology as Odin’s Nine Nights Upon the
Tree. In His everlasting search for wisdom, He hung himself upon the World-Tree:
“I hung on that windy Tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself to mine own self given,
high on that Tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven.
None refreshed me ever with food or drink,
I peered right down in the deep;
crying aloud I lifted the Runes
then back I fell from thence.”
In the first line He says that He “hung on that windy Tree”, which means the World-Tree, Yggdrassil.
If you want to know what the World-Tree actually stands for, take a look at the next chapter. Also
note the use of “hung” which refers to the use of the noose and the gallows. The noose used to be the
way of sacrificing victims to the old Gods, especially to Odin. Also, it was used in Traditional
Witchcraft as a symbol of self-sacrifice. Actually, the Traditional Witch, Robert Cochrane, spoke of
the Noose as a sacrificial tool and symbol.
“Nine whole days and nights”. In Norse Mythology, the number nine usually reflects an unknown
period, a symbolic period of initiation. Nine is not to be seen as an actual number, but more as a
period or a quantity, ranging from none to infinity.
“Stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin, myself to mine own self given”. These two lines are fully tied
up in the death-before-you-die thing, discussed above. The spear was Odin’s own weapon; meaning
He killed himself. The following two lines are, however, interesting: “offered to Odin, myself to mine
own self given”, let me just put some accents: “my-self to mine own Self given”. Odin slayed His
ego-self for His greater self and dies while shifting His consciousness to His self. He thus turns
immortal and All-wise, for He has direct experience of His self. This makes Odin wise.
“High on that Tree of which none hath heard, from what roots it rises to heaven.” Again, though more
clearly this time, the tree upon which Odin hung Himself is identified with the World-Tree. “None
refreshed me ever with food or drink, I peered right down in the deep; crying aloud I Lifted the
Runes, then back I fell from thence.” These last sentences give us a clear-cut clue about what happens
when the ego-self is killed. He screamed and “lifted the Runes”.
‘Runa’ means mystery, so when he saw the Deep and found his soul, he retrieved the Mysteries from
the Deep, the Underworld. He could speak the Mysteries, He could write the Mysteries and truly
understand them – He had found wisdom.
Actually, death & rebirth has been part of Mystery initiations all over the World. Even in British
Traditional Wicca, a death & rebirth initiation is found, in the second degree to be precise. It also
found in Siberian Shamanism, Freemasonry and Native American practises. It is found in the New
Testament, where numerous ancient deities died and were resurrected, much like Odin.
An important thing to acknowledge is that the death & rebirth initiation is another manifestation of the
Underworld journey. The journey to the Underworld is intimately connected with death and the
process of death. The Hedgerider passes the same tests and perils as the dead themselves and it is
likely that in the journey to the Underworld, death and rebirth are also found.
This is the reason why wisdom, the Underworld and the Hedgeriders’ journey are so intimately tied
up. The journey to the Underworld and death & rebirth are one and the same, deeply connected with
the lore of the Hedgeriders.
Witch-Sight and Mimir’s Well
Before Odin hanged himself upon the tree, He did another mysterious thing in His eternal quest for
wisdom. Odin heard of the Well of Wisdom, from which a single drop would make you all-knowing.
We’ve talked about this well earlier in Chapter One, it is also known as Mimir’s Well.
The giant Mimir wouldn’t let Odin drink without some sort of offering or gift. Mimir asked for Odin’s
eye, in return he would be able to drink from his well. So Odin would have to sacrifice his eye and
therefore his ability to see depth in the physical to gain a drop from Mimir’s Well and so knowledge
of all things.
It is interesting to note that there’s some probability of the Witches’ cauldron within this Myth. In
‘The Road to Hell’ M.R. Ellis says that the seething cauldron (Hvergilmir), the Well of Wyrd and the
Well of Mimir are one and the same. Which makes it probable that the Well of Wisdom and the Well
of Wyrd were, like Hvergilmir, cauldrons; giving these wells and cauldrons an interesting death &
Again, there lies some ‘Witchery’ concept behind this myth. By sacrificing His worldly eye, Odin
would gain insight into the truth of things, becoming wise, again. Only this time in a different sense;
He sacrificed His eye to awaken His ‘inner eye’, as to that He could see the Godhead, the soul and the
Wyrd of things. He could see the truth of Things by the awakening of His inner eye, the Eye of his
soul – though not without a sacrifice.
Witches have been reputed to see the ‘inner things’, the dead and other such things. Mostly it is said
to be clairvoyance, meaning Witches could also see the future. The ability to see the dead, see the
future and see the things hidden from natural sight is often called second sight or Witch-sight and is
much the same as Odin’s ability to see the truth of things – it both comes down to the same.
In the Myths of Odin, there is clearly a message to humanity. I think this message screams:
“WISDOM! WISDOM!” We should walk in His footsteps and search for the way of the Shaman, the
way of the Sorcerer and the way of the Witch once again. We should again search for wisdom, for
wisdom is what we need most. From wisdom comes clarity and peace. With these two things one can
be truly happy, truly experience life in peace and happiness. Immortality? I think we can consider it a
by-product, not the goal itself.
Wodan and the God of the Witches
On the continent Odin was known under a different name, Wodan, Woden, Wod, Wode etc.. His
memory still continues today in the numerous towns and hills named after Him. Wodan was seen as
the leader of the Wild Hunt. This tradition is still continued in the feasts of St. Nicholas in Holland,
but also in the form of Santa Claus. He still lives as Herne the Hunter, the notorious ghost of Windsor
The Wild Hunt is a procession of the dead, manifesting as dark storms roaming the midnight skies. In
the winter months, when thunder scourges the land and its beings, the Wild Hunt rides across the sky,
hunting after the wolf who is trying to eat the sun. This dark procession invokes dread and terror in its
spectators, often causing death amongst those who watch it face to face.
The Wild Hunt can be considered an Otherworldly procession, signifying the reversal of the natural
order on specified nights. The Wild Hunt was most active in the Zwölften, when the Sun had already
past her lowest point. In these nights misrule ruled, the Underworld Gods installed on their Earthly
Throne. For it was the in-between time, the time when the new year had not yet begun but the old one
had already finished. In these nights, the door was open and the dead sat at their family’s tables,
eating from the Dumb Supper, the elves’ Meal set aside for them. It was in these times that the people
left out food and drink for the Old People, the Ancestors and the elves. Also, they would extinguish
the family fire, upon which Wodan would bring the New Fire of Sunna’s New Flame through the
chimney, lighting the Hearth once more.
Wodan, however, also continues the cult of inspiration and death, also common in the figure of Odin.
As His manifestation in the Windsor Forest, Herne the Hunter shows extremely Odinic/ Wodanic
One day Herne was hunting with the King. In the chase of a stag, the stag turned upon them and
would certainly have killed the King had Herne not taken the fatal blow. He would certainly have
died, had not a local magician appeared who cured him by vesting the stag’s head to Herne; in turn
the King had to grant the magician his wish. Out of gratitude to Herne, the King swore to make Herne
chief game keeper, if He would recover. Herne recovered and returned to the castle where He was
declared chief game keeper. Jealous of His great skill, the other hunters plotted against Herne. The
magician, who had cured Herne, said he would take all Herne’s skill, if the hunters would fulfil one of
his wishes. And so it happened. Disappointed with Herne, the King banished Him from court. Herne,
who was deeply hurt by the King’s decision, hanged Himself from a tree.
One by one the other huntsmen were appointed chief game keeper, but once installed, they too lost
their hunting skills. They went to the magician to get the problem solved. He told them to meet him at
the Oak upon which Herne had hanged himself. When they appeared there, the magician told them
that Herne’s death was their fault, each and everyone of them and they would have to come to the Oak
the next night with horses and hounds to fulfil their debt.
And so they did. When they came to the Oak, Herne appeared and made them swear an oath of
allegiance to Him, they’d have to hunt with Him as their leader. Herne is said to sill hunt in Windsor
forest with His pack of spectral hounds, sitting on His horse, tracking deer. Often He is depicted as a
dark man with horns on His head, hunting through the forest.
You can clearly see the Wodanic/Odinic aspects of Herne; hanging Himself upon the Oak tree and
His Wild Hunt through Windsor Forest. He, too, is resurrected after being hanged on a tree and leads
the Wild Hunt across the sky.
Actually, Wodan survived in folk tales sometimes associated with Frau Holle and therefore, the
Witches. Sometimes, it is said that He lives in the Venusberg as the benign wind-spirit, Wode, with
his wife, Holda. On the continent the Witch-Mother often appears alongside Wode, suggesting that
Wode could have been the master of the Sabbath.
Though the Devil appeared in a way not familiar to the Witch and was often forced upon them as an
entirely foreign element, there are some things to take into account. One of the names of the Devil,
Old Nick, comes from one of the names of Woden, Nikkhar. He appears as the notorious dark man,
guised and cloaked with a broad rimmed hat.
Woden/Odin is famed for His hall; Vallhöl, in which the bravest of warriors lived. He was entitled to
half of the slain, the other half went to Freya. One of His totem animals is the Raven, the other the
Wolf, clearly associating him with the Underworld and the dead. He is the Black God.
In His black face, we can see the terror of death, for He is the terrible one, invoking dread in His
enemies and followers alike. His name, Fury, is thrown across the sky when he walks the midnight
skies and hunts for the souls of the dead. He is the door into the Underworld, for His terror is the
terror of death itself and in His black face this is reflected.
Also, pure rage and fury are expressed in His wild heirs, the furious host. Even His name bears out
this meaning. He was the God of the Warriors, of the Berserker who went to fight in ecstatic frenzy,
which gives us another meanings of Him: ecstasy, trance. He was the God of – poetic – inspiration &
wisdom, and ecstasy.
As the Black Master, the God of Wisdom, He shows us the path of the Hedgerider; the way of the
wise people. When His ecstasy is invoked, the spirit is released and can be sent forth into the dark of
night and the Hedgerider can go and ride with the furious host of Frau Holle. As God of Wisdom, He
has shown the Way of wisdom, the way of death & initiation. Ultimately, he is the great Ancestor of