Cross the Hedge: Devilish allies and thorny gates to the Otherworld

Hawthorn and a friend

I still remember the places where I carried out my practices before moving to the Pyrenees. I used to go to a beautiful plateau, delimited and circled by hawthorn, blackthorn, and blackberry bushes. I remember pricking my fingers with their thorns, both willing and unwillingly. And I remember the sense of alert and protection I felt every time I walked into that circle.

Nowadays, I live in an area that is literally infested by rosehip bushes, together with the usual blackthorn, hawthorn, blackberry, and raspberry bush. But when I started researching the local beliefs and folk customs associated with them, I found that all had a strong link with the Devil and tricky spirits. For instance, it is common belief that rosehip bushes are guarded by the Devil, and its fruits are seen as the Devil’s food. Same goes for blackthorn bushes, which, even if used as medicine through decoction or infusion, are claimed to be dangerous and deceitful.

That devilish nature has a reason behind it. Thorny bushes can shape natural hedges; they offer us protection, intimacy, hard wood, healing leaves, useful thorns, alluring flowers, and precious and nurturing fruits. But in exchange for our profit, we must let them observe us; we must let them lurk curiously, following our moves. When entering a hedge or a bush-encircled area, or even when dealing with a single isolated bush, we must bear in mind that we will be watched, and our actions and words will be judged and scrutinized by their eyeless branches. This has of course been considered as an evil or aggressive feature by common folk, but may be very convenient for those who tread the Path of Poisons.

Thus, it would be recommendable to create a good protocol when dealing with such pricking allies, making sure we include some kind of personal presentation, perhaps a song, an offering or libation, and a series of gestures to approach them and to bid them farewell in a proper manner. Each time we harvest wood, thorns, flowers, roots, or fruits, we are taking a part of that resident demon with us, and it would be nice if we could act accordingly, with respect and devotion. As always, remember that even if you need to interact with the same species, there are no equal bushes; each of them has its own character and its own needs, so we’ll have to modify and adapt the ceremonies accordingly.

Similarly, it would be unwise to adulate them gratuitously, or try to win their favour with shallow words just in order to get something in return, for they know of our deepest intentions. That being said, make sure you don’t act selfishly and unwarily; understanding that will make a great difference.

The crossing of the hedge

Blackthorn branch

There is a strong link between the crossing of the hedge and the arrival to the Sabbat in Pyrenean folklore. For instance, there is the Aragonese flight incantation which goes: “Sobre arto y sobre espina, a las lanas del boc seamos ayna” (Over buckthorn and over thorn, let’s go quickly to the land of the goat). Witches would jump over thorny bushes when going to the night gathering, a very symbolic step for personal transmutation and the change in our subconscious. The thorny bush manifests itself as the ultimate ally of the Otherworld, it is the painful threshold that we must trespass in order to be accepted by the Master of the Land.

But, as usual, there is a price to pay. For tales and legends warn us not to rush the process, they advise to learn the exact words and understand its meaning, because those rituals, ancient and wise, reveal the inherent taboo of the thorns and their role as guardians of the path. And those who mistake the incantation and say it differently suffer grave consequences. Let’s not forget that thorns know us and see through our spirit.

When we made the Hedge-cross incense, we tried to encapsulate all those ideas of taboo, prohibition, intimacy, and dark trascendence in a mixture. We gathered all those plants we could find in the local hedges (sloe berries, fennel, etc.) and topped them with vetiver root, black copal, and local honey, as offerings to the bush demons. We incorporated oak wood as the firm communicator of our presence and will, in order not to be carried away forever by the faeries, but, of course, this in the end depends entirely on the practitioner. You can find it here.

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