The Witch at the Forest’s Edge: Thirteen Keys to Modern Witchcraft, by Christine Grace
Weiser Books, 9781578637584, 224 pages, November 2021
“I stand in the meadow, at the forest’s edge. One step forward and I will straddle the boundary between fading light in the swaying grass and rich darkness in the woods. One more step and I will be immersed in the nighttime world of southern, hardwood forest. My home lay behind me, the wild magic ahead. I am the witch at the forest’s edge.”1
The Witch at the Forest’s Edge: Thirteen Keys to Modern Witchcraft by Christine Grace is an immersive and deep dive into the world of the modern witch. Grace’s theology studies shine through with informed practices and cross section references to other spiritual practices. The philosophies and method of study contained within this book provide the reader with a sampling of the tried and tested teachings that are foundational within The Forest’s Edge Tradition, co-founded by Grace in 2011.
“The essence of the Forest’s Edge way is to honor the specificity of the individual, while holding that each witch is fully themselves only within the web of human and other relationships in which we live and have our being.”2
I appreciated the “How to Use This Book” and “Self-Assessment” sections of the Introduction. Knowing the “how” and the “why” align deeply with the overall intentions of this book. These emphasize the ultimate goal of the modern witch to develop as one who finds their way through deep reflection, deep practice and a slow and often self-guided approach to cultivating the individual’s personal growth in the practice of witchery. All of the tools required for that intention are found within the pages of The Witch at the Forest’s Edge: Thirteen Keys to Modern Witchcraft.
The book is separated into thirteen chapters. The formatting of these chapters allows the reader to flow easily through a methodical and well-designed approach towards cultivating their own practice of modern witchcraft. “Communing with Spirits” (chapter two), “Cultivating Spirit Senses” (chapter four), “Divination” (chapter eight) and “Spellcraft” (chapter twelve) are some of the topics included for deeper exploration.
Additionally, each chapter contains sections with related content for reflection and another for actual practice. The “Resources” that conclude the book are thoughtfully aligned by chapter and rich in specifically curated titles of depth and substance.
Grace offered some practical insight in chapter one, “Worldview and Spirituality”, which spoke as a lovely fusion of her spiritual practice and her training as a counselor:
“It is one thing to give an intellectual assent to the ideas and practices outlined in this book. But will you do the work? . . . In order to identify and develop perceptions of the sacred and the many influences at work in ourselves, and our environment, we need both study and practice. Once a practitioner has actually experienced something that they learned or formed in study, it takes on new life and deeper meaning unique to that individual. Without study, we may not be inspired to practice with depth; without practice, we cannot fully understand our study.”3
This approach is clearly evident throughout the pages of The Witch at the Forest’s Edge; each chapter is complete with opportunities for study of the related skills and guidance for practice of these newfound concepts. As stated by Grace, the power lay in the interweaving of the two as the reader begins to build a strong foundation of witchery.
I was particularly drawn to chapter seven, “Hedgeriding”.
“Hedgeriders follow in the ancient tradition of magical practitioners who live with one foot in this world and one foot in the Otherworld. The Otherworld is the multilayered realms of fae, ancestors, gods and innumerable other spirits. Hedgeriding is a means to release part of our consciousness from this world and travel, spiritually, into the Otherworld to engage with spirits, gather new knowledge, hone magical skills and create change.”4
There is an abundance of information about the use of the word “hedgeriding” in this chapter, both in general terms and as it applies to The Forest’s Edge tradition. And, with the primary focus being that of moving between the worlds and liminal space, this chapter is ripe with suggestions for the practice of hedgeriding through guided meditation and visualization and incorporates a step by step process to allow the reader to find their correct path of resonance into the astral:
“At its core, hedgeriding is a deeply altered state of consciousness and both mental and physical.”5
Another chapter of note was chapter thirteen, “Magical Ethics”. There is much debate in the pagan community about the ethics of baneful magic and the harm or healing it may do, if thought ethical to practice at all. This chapter speaks clearly to what the responsibilities and the allowing of free will, individual power and choice are for those who embrace a witchery that is rooted in traditional witchcraft as practiced by The Forest’s Edge tradition.
“Traditional witchcraft does not forbid any spellcraft or magical practices. We cultivate the skill to both hex and heal as needed, as all of existence contains this sort of ebb and flow.”6
There is a generous amount of thought provoking statements and the “Reflection” section of this chapter is one that should be given deep consideration in the formation of the individual’s personal ethics. This is preceded by Grace providing the reader with “An Ethical Structure”, that allows for a methodical approach to ethics within the craft and ways of organizing your thoughts.
The closing section of the book feels like a loving gift of support and encouragement from Grace to the reader. She offers a bolster of confidence that is infused with the underpinnings of some of the philosophies presented throughout her book; there is no right or wrong way of practice, the work of the craft is demanding and difficult, and although at times progress may feel slowed, the path of the witch is always rewarding when you remain true to yourself.
“Don’t fear the cycles of practice. The time and energy that you devote to your craft will wax and wane and shapeshift through the seasons of your life. It doesn’t make you less of a witch. You are just living the cycles, like the rest of nature. The magic is yours, a witch unto yourself. You are beholden to no one but connected to many as you stand at the forest’s edge.”7
The Witch at the Forest’s Edge is a handbook into the world of modern witchcraft founded on the teachings of a practicing tradition. Regardless of what or if the reader claims as their own practices within the craft to explore and build upon, the take away from the reading of this title is one of greater clarity about the possibilities of taking the journey of the Witch.
As is true of the mysteries of weaving one’s magic, the content is layered between word and practice, between experience and integration; and, as such it should also be understood that a single reading of The Witch at the Forest’s Edge provides only one layer of understanding. This is a title that will become the reader’s reference guide. Much like fine wine, as the studies age, so does the deepening of the practice, becoming the way in which (Witch) the practitioner lives their magical and mundane life.
Robin Fennelly is an Elder within the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition [www.sacredwheel.org]. She is a dancer, teacher, astrologer, author, ritualist and seeker of all things of a spiritual nature. Her writings and classes incorporate a deep understanding of Eastern practice and Western Hermetics and bring a unique perspective towards integration and synthesis of the Divine and Mundane natures of our being. She is a mother of five and lives in Eastern PA with her husband of 45+ years.