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Book Spotlight


Arin Murphy-Hiscock

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The Way of the HedgeWitch


Out of the Broom Closet











Way of the Hedge Witch and
Out of the Broom Closet

by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

TWPT:  Wow it has been 4 years since we last spoke, which was when you did the author interview for TWPT back in 2006. How have you been since then? Anything exciting happening in your life? Or even mildly interesting? :)  

AMH:  Iíve had to take it pretty easy, actually. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia three years ago, so Iíve been trying to reassess how I live my life. Itís hard to apportion energy appropriately when youíre never entirely sure of how much youíll have to work with. Iím fortunate in that I work out of my home, so I can control my own schedule. Iíve had to dial down my activity and figure out coping strategies just to stay healthy.

 Apart from that, I wrote two more books, one of which has been released (The Way of the Hedge Witch) and one which has not to date (Pagan Pregnancy: A Journey from Maiden to Mother; itís currently waiting for a more positive economic climate for release), and edited an anthology of first-hand stories about revealing oneís pagan spirituality to family and friends. So Iíve kept busy since we talked in 2006!

TWPT:  I've been watching in horror as the spill continues in the Gulf and begins to kill off sensitive sections of the ecosystem in the area. As a follower of an earth based path do you have any thoughts about how damaging this will be in the long run?  

AMH:  Every time thereís an ecological disaster I have to come to terms with the fact that the majority of people in control of business arenít interested in the long-term picture beyond how it will benefit them.  Poisoning our oceans attacks one of our most basic life sources, and altering the ecological balance of the earth in such an extreme way has and will have repercussions that we canít predict. And just because we canít see them now doesnít mean they wonít manifest as a cascade effect several years down the line. I think perhaps that as people who work with energy, weíre very sensitive to the idea of unbalancing something delicate, and the ecology and environment certainly qualifies as delicate. We honour nature as a manifestation of the energy of the Divine, and so we want to care for it in a way that people who see it as inert or disconnected do not.

I wish more people in charge of these things would look at it the way my four year old son does. ďThe whales and dolphins are dying?Ē he said. ďBut theyíre my friends! I donít want my friends to die!Ē

TWPT:  This is something that will haunt the Gulf coast for many years to come and the effects will probably extend much further than just the immediate area. How sad. Anyway, on to more positive news. I hear that you have been busy last year with a couple of books. One that you wrote and one that you edited. Let's start with the one you wrote, which is called The Way of the Hedge Witch: Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home. Why is the home so important?  

AMH:  Your home is your headquarters, the place you start out form every morning and return to at night. Itís your recharger, a place of default setting, ideally where you can be yourself. I think that by ignoring the fact that your home is fundamental to your life, youíre missing out on a huge opportunity to incorporate your spirituality into your life. A lot of us look for more ways to do it, because a Pagan path is often a lifestyle, not just a worship choice. Your home is right there. It isnít just something you live in; itís fundamental to the energy you recoup and draw on. It just makes sense to make it the best energy you can.

TWPT:  As you look at the homes/families that exist in 2010, what is it that you see as having been lost from the typical family that is important to restore?  

AMH:  Time together. There so much time taken up by commuting, working, and extracurricular activities that the family as a unit so rarely has time to just be together. Lifeís pretty fast, and we canít wholly escape that, but we can work with that reality by approaching the time we do have together with awareness to best appreciate our time together.

TWPT:  Could you explain the term Hedge Witch and what it means to you as you apply it in the title of this book?

AMH:  Thereís a story here! When I wrote the book I used the term ďhearth witch,Ē and the original title was The Way of the Hearth Witch. The publisher felt a more recognizable term would be better received by readers, so after a while of back and forth, they proposed Ďhedge witchí and I went with it. To me, a hearth witch is someone whose practice and spiritual focus are based in house and home. A hedge witch is something slightly different, with a broader focus. But hearth witchery is certainly a division or department of hedge witchery, so to speak.

TWPT:  How do you see your own home and how do you use it as the center of your own family?

AMH:  Pretty much as I outlined above. Itís our place of refuge, a place where we can be ourselves, and unwind from the demands of the outside world. Itís a bastion, a defense, as well as a place of peace and calm. Thatís the idea, anyway; thatís what we work to keep. No, the house is not immaculate (we have three cats, a five year old boy, and a relaxed sense of what constitutes tidy!), and itís hardly a magazine-quality home. But the majority of people who walk in comment on how comfortable it feels, and how they wish they had a home that felt like it. They touch on something thatís important to us: the feel of the home. The energy is crucial to our sense of well-being. There are homes that are tidy and well-decorated, and yet feel unwelcoming. The feel of a place reflects the energy and activity that goes on in it. We strive to keep the energy healthy and supportive to give us the best possible starting point in our lives every day.

TWPT:  As you were writing this book what goals did you have in mind to help those who want to use your book to reclaim the home as their own power center?  

AMH:  I wanted readers to be able to redefine their homes in their own minds. A lot of how we interact with our home is based on our perception of it, and if we interact with awareness, we can derive a different benefit than if we interact on autopilot.

TWPT:  On the negative side of things, what happens when a home is not what it should be, and does not nurture an individual or family when they go there?  

AMH:  You end up with people who are strained and stressed because they donít feel safe or comfortable in the one place they should. Itís spiritually draining as well as mentally, emotionally, and physically damaging if you canít relax in your home for whatever reason. Iím fully aware that there are many, many people out there who live in situations beyond their control, and I tried to include things they can do to make their home situation as optimal as possible, too.

TWPT:  What subjects do you cover in Hedge Witch and why did you feel they were needed by the readers of the book?  

AMH:  I looked at the home being the logical connection to the Divine, being a source of sorts for our lives. I think our homes are overlooked as spiritual places. On a nature-honoring path such as Paganism we tend to think of the outside environment reflecting the Divine, but we spend more time in our homes than we think we do. Even asleep! So I looked at ways to reconnect with the energy of the home, and how to define the home as sacred or spiritual space. Thatís going to be different for everyone, of course, but I outlined some basics. Then I wanted to talk about other ways to reconnect and love your home more than you might already do, like dťcor,  cooking, furniture and appliances.

TWPT:  How about a teaser for the readers. Give me a tip that would be easy to implement but would help someone turn their home into the haven and refuge that you talk about in your book?  

AMH:  Purify, purify, purify! Get rid of the stagnant energy that hangs around. It may have been positive energy initially, but energy that isnít stirred regularly loses its active component and needs refreshing. Purifying on a regular basis keeps the energy fresh and positive. Itís easily done, and has a deeper effect than youíd think.

 Hereís a bonus tip: Tidy up. Energy gets caught and stagnates in corners or piles of stuff. If youíve got things all over the floor, or boxes piled that you havenít sorted through, not only does it stress you subconsciously because you have a task hanging over your head that youíre trying to ignore, the energy canít move freely around the room to rejuvenate and refresh itself, and if the energy is sick (metaphorically speaking) you will be, too. Itís okay to have a lot of stuff if it all has its place. I know people who complain about how they donít feel comfortable in their own homes, and I look at their piles and boxes and chaos and think, Well, no wonder you hate where you are: you donít respect the energy of the space. Sure, sorting through your stuff is a chore; sure, it takes time. But itís time well invested, because youíre tending to the energy of your home, and in the end it will be much more positive and beneficial to you. And if you break the task down into steady, manageable components, you get a sense of satisfaction of accomplishing a small step every time. As long as you working at it, youíre tending to the energy.

Itís important to remember that a home is a living place, too. Things happen in it all the time. You canít fix something and expect it to stay fixed; that would be like feeding someone once and expecting them to stay fed, or washing a dish and expecting it to stay clean while using it. It needs ongoing maintenance.

TWPT:  As to the book you edited, which is called Out of the Broom Closet: 50 True Stories of Witches Who Found and Embraced the Craft, I have one question whenever I see edited by on the cover of any book... could you explain what an editor does in regards to getting a book like this published?  

AMH:  In general, the editor handles the call for submissions, the selection, the order of the stories, editing for tone, the contracts for each author outlining the rights being used, and all communication. Sometimes the editor pitches the idea, sometimes theyíre asked to handle the project by the publisher who developed it.  The editor will usually write an introduction to the book as well, explaining the theme or doing an essay on the topic to situate the reader and give a context.

TWPT:  Ahhhh, now I see. At least the next time I see the phrase edited by on the cover of a book I'm buying I'll know what the person did to get the book published. So who came up with the idea for Out of the Broom Closet? Was that you or the publisher?

AMH:  In this case the publisher came to me with the project, and I said Iíd be happy to work on it.

TWPT:  Tell me the premise of this book and why it's important for people to read and to hear about stories of other Witches making their faith public.  

AMH:  Itís not just about people making their faith public. Itís about the struggle every person goes through determining if sharing the information is right for them or not. I think itís important to have a book like this available for those who are struggling with that choice. They canít necessarily go to someone for advice, because that would entails sharing the information, and they donít know what will happen if they do that. Reading a variety of examples of how others did it can offer them options or approaches they may not have considered, and in some cases can offer insight on how not to do it. Ultimately, it leaves them feeling like theyíre not alone.

TWPT:  Another question about your role as the editor of what is essentially an anthology of stories written by others about their experiences. Where do you find/contact all the "others" who write their stories and how do they go about submitting their writings to you?  

AMH:  Thereís a rich online community of Pagans who interact with one another on boards, listservs, and e-lists. Iím also fortunate in that I have contacts with authors and other community leaders, and thatís where a lot of the people I invited to participate in the project came from. A lot of it is networking, really. There were also some stories already attached to the project when I came on board.

TWPT:  As you pored over the submissions was there anything that completely surprised or shocked you about the narratives you were reading?  

AMH:  Not really. Most of the elements within the stories were, for better or for worse, familiar. Itís how each story came together and how each author expressed him or herself that makes them special. A firsthand account has a lot more weight and power than a secondhand one, and each author reflected on their experience in a very personal way. It was wonderful to see the range of conclusions made, the good outcomes, the less fortunate outcomes, and to know that by assembling them and sharing them with the world, these people would serve as ambassadors for their decision.

TWPT:  Did you have more submissions that what you used? If so, how is it that you decided what went into the book and what didn't?  

AMH:  A lot of the decision ends up being based on the character of the book as itís assembled. You can have a great story that just doesnít fit the flow of the book, and itís as disappointing as heck to have to cut something like that. Sometimes you can talk to the author about how the storyís been written and ask them to focus more or less on certain aspects so that it fits the character of the book a bit better, but sometimes the material, no matter how good, just doesnít fit in. Itís always hard to turn stories like that away. In the end, ironically enough, we were missing two stories as a result of people changing their minds about participating at the last minute or not responding to attempts to contact them. I was blessed to find two people who heroically rose to a super-tight deadline, both of whom had really important things to say about two very different paths.

TWPT:  So all in all, when your book is read by those who want to educate themselves about coming out of the closet before they actually do it, what is it that you want them to take away from your book in regards to the decision they are going to make?  

AMH:  Know that ultimately, this is your decision. Whether you tell people or not is up to you. There is no right or wrong. For some, itís important to make a clear statement regarding their faith; for others, itís a very personal thing that they consider no one elseís business. And remember, too, that once you announce it, thereís no taking it back; it will stay with you for the rest of your life, and be part of your identity.

TWPT:  Is editing a book any harder or easier than writing one yourself? In what ways are they different and what ways are they the same?  

AMH:  Thereís a lot more communication and management involved in editing an anthology. When youíre handling a book solo, itís you and your editor(s). With an anthology, youíre managing any number of authors and reporting back to your contact at the publisher, and managing goodness knows how many rewrites of however many stories youíre working with, answering questions and offering support and so forth. Writing a book solo is more like sculpting from clay, shaping it according to your mindís eye, making whatever curve or line you like; editing an anthology is like assembling something from existing blocks, trying to find the best arrangement to reflect an image or theme youíve chosen. In the end of both cases you have a piece of art, but arrived at in a very different way.

TWPT:  Well, I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk to me about your books. It's always nice to catch up with authors that I've spoken to before and see what they have been up to since we last spoke. The interviews are frozen moments in time and as nice as they are for the slice of life that they represent; the only way to keep them fresh is to continue to talk every now and again. Is there anything else you'd like to add to the conversation about upcoming projects or something you'd like to share with your readers?  

AMH:  Iím in the midst of restructuring my work life, so I donít have anything confirmed at the moment. I actually had to take a year off after handing in The Way of the Hedge Witch and Out of the Broom Closetbecause the fibro was seriously impacting my ability to plan a book and get words down on paper. Iím taking the time to reexamine my spiritual practice and look out the thin areas and weak spots. Something very much like tending to the energy of the home, actually: Iím tidying up my practices and thought patterns to keep things fresh. Iím returning to studying Pennsylvania Pow-Wow after a few years away from it, and Iím looking forward to immersing myself in that again; hearth and home magics are my personal area of focus, and Pow-Wow covers a lot of that. Other than that, Iím keeping myself open to what the gods lead me to do!