Spirit-Flight, also commonly referred to as Hedge-Crossing, is the practice of traveling outside of the physical body and passing into the Otherworld. The main purpose of this practice is typically to communicate with various types of Spirits and Gods. The nature and goal of this communication varies but common examples include making pacts, finding counsel, seeking knowledge, forming relationships, and engaging in different types of ritual such as initiation, healing, celebratory, etc.
The history of people engaging in Spirit-Flight is long, diverse, and widespread. While traveling outside of the body and journeying into the Otherworld isn’t limited to Witches, it is a skill that plays an important part in the narrative of Witchcraft. Today, it seems that the practice is going through a revival as an increasing number of people begin to explore more visceral forms of Witchcraft.
However, for those who are interested in incorporating this practice into their Craft, finding a place to begin can be difficult. Spirit-Flight can be a complex topic to discuss as it is very personal, with each Witch experiencing it differently. In an attempt to help guide new-comers, below you will find a list of some common tools and techniques that aid in facilitating flight, as well as my general layout/ritual for the process, and finally some recommendations and tips for those just starting out.
- Drumming: Music can be incredibly helpful in altering consciousness, and drumming in particular is useful for Spirit-Flight. You may choose to drum yourself, have someone else drum for you, or make use of prerecorded music. I have found all three options to be equally effective. I would recommend using a steady beat, one that specifically mimicks your own heartbeat and progressively gets slower. This will help lower you into a deeper state of consciousness, in which your body becomes relaxed and your soul is lifted.
- Entheogens: These are substances that “generate the divine within,” or bring about a change in consciousness. In regards to Spirit-Flight, these substances aid in lifting the soul from the body and sending it off into the Otherworld. There are obviously many different substances (both natural and unnatural, legal and illegal) that have the capability of altering one’s consciousness. However, what makes something entheogenic is the context in which it’s used and the relationship the user has with it. Please note, I personally do not advocate the use of unnatural or otherwise illegal drugs. Within the realm of Witchcraft, one of the most widely used entheogens for this practice is flying ointment, which you read more about here.
- Charms and Amulets: The two main purposes for charms and amulets in Spirit-Flight are to assist in crossing the Hedge and to protect the body and spirit. How these devices are constructed and utilized depends only on the Witch’s own creativity. I personally recommend creating a charm bag that is specifically formulated to fulfill both needs, including specific herbs, stones, and animal parts. Additionally, I use a special stone that I refer to as my “anchor,” which helps protect my physical body and keep my spirit from drifting too far off. During ritual these items can be placed on or near the body.
- Vehicle for Flight: These are tools which can be ‘ridden’ upon in your travels, so to speak. They can include the classic broomstick, the Stang, or a Familiar Spirit. I have personally utilized all three methods at one point or another and have found them all to be equally efficient. If I’m using a broomstick or Stang, I will lay it next to me. Otherwise, I call upon my Familiar Spirit, explain my intentions, and proceed into the ritual. You don’t need to use any of these, however they can be very helpful, especially when first starting.
- Breathing: It is widely known that controlled and focused breathing has the power to alter levels consciousness, which makes it an important part of Spirit-Flight. Being mindful of your breathing helps to relax the body and loosen the spirit. My favorite breathing technique to use when crossing the Hedge is as follows:
- Begin by taking a deep breath in, hold it for four seconds, and then exhale. Repeat the cycle (inhale, hold, exhale) eleven more times, counting down to one. Then, repeat the process but this time counting down from thirteen to one. When you’ve reached the end, you will hopefully have reached a deep meditative state in which your spirit is able to lift from your physical body.
- Visualization: Once you have crossed the Hedge, the world becomes a lot more complex with limitless territories to be explored. I’ve found that it can be helpful to create your own personal visualization of the Axis Mundi, where you can begin and end your journeys. After I have finished my breathing countdown, I visualize a large tree standing before me. The specific type of tree is up to one’s own preference. The important part is that the branches reach far up into the sky and at the base of the trunk is a small opening which gives you access to root system. I may choose to stay on the ground and travel the Mid-World, climb the branches and explore the Upper-world, or descend the roots and venture into the Under-world.
The first step is to find a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be bothered. Gather all the materials you will need, including any of the aforementioned tools as well as candles and incense if desired.
*Note that if you plan on using an entheogen you may need to employ it sometime before the ritual begins in order to give it time to set in. For example, I apply my flying ointment 30-60 minutes before ritual so that it’s effects have fully taken hold by the time I begin.
If you have someone drumming for you or otherwise attending to your body, they should be present and ready. Once everything is in place you may wish to cast a circle, lay a compass, or otherwise call upon your Spirit allies. If you work with a Familiar Spirit, now would be the time to inform them of your intention and request their aid.
Next, situate yourself in a comfortable position within the space. It’s vital to make sure that you’re comfortable as any pain or irritation can be quite distracting and pull you back into your body. I personally like lying down upon a soft blanket with a pillow under my head, but experiment and find a posture which is right for you.
Once you’re ready follow the process of counting down your breath and then arriving at your World Tree. From there, the direction of the journey is up to you. When you want to return, focus on your tree and feel yourself being pulled back. Once you arrive back at your Axis Mundi, begin focusing on your breath again, counting up from one to thirteen and then one to twelve. As you count up, feel your spirit coming back into your physical body. Slowly move your fingers and toes, arms and legs, and finally when you’re ready open your eyes.
Recommendations and Tips:
- On your first few journeys into the Otherworld, it would be wise not to stray too far from your tree. I would personally recommend taking it slow, gradually exploring further with each journey, as your ability and comfort-level increase.
- It is obvious that you will enviably come into contact with different spirits. My number one tip is to be polite, as you would hopefully be with anyone else. Furthermore, until you gain more skill and knowledge of the Otherworld, it is recommended that you let spirits approach you first. Not all spirits are benevolent or have your best interest in mind. Use your intuition and if something feels wrong, at least until you gain more skill with handling spirits, I recommend returning to your tree at once.
- In the beginning it may be very tempting to spend a lot of time in Spirit-Flight. However, this can be harmful as too much time spent in the Otherworld can lead to a variety of symptoms including depression, lethargy, apathy, and dissociation. I recommend spacing trips out, such as on the full and new moon, or when a specific work needs to be done.