What is the Otherworld Well Hedge School?
When my Irish ancestors were living under occupation, their language, their stories, and their history were outlawed. How did they keep their culture alive? The keepers of the seanchas, the old ways, gathered children under hedges and on the banks of streams to pass on the knowledge that had survived the destruction of the old Bardic colleges, fragments of an oral tradition reaching back to at least the Bronze Age. These gatherings were called Hedge Schools. (I first learned of the Hedge Schools from an essay Julie McIntyre wrote that Stephen Harrod Buhner included at the end of The Lost Language of Plants.)
We, too, live in a time when the language that speaks most deeply to our souls is forbidden. The culture around us tells us that the wild and the dead have no voices and cannot speak to us. Our bodies know otherwise. They know that the rhythm of our ancestors’ heartbeats echoes in our own. They know that the wind in the Pines and the scent of Spruce on that wind carry messages that speak of our kinship with them.
It is imperative that we remember the language, culture, etiquette, and stories of the wild.
This is the purpose of The Otherworld Well Hedge School -- to pass down some of what I have learned from plants, from ancestral traditions, from elders, about how to heal ourselves and each other and enter into deeper relationship with the living world.
John Moriarty wrote that:
"To learn to speak is to learn to say 'our river has its source in an Otherworld well,' and anything we say about the hills and anything we say about the stars is a way of saying 'A Hazel grows over the Otherworld well our river has its source in.'"
We must learn again to speak in such a way. And to listen to all that is speaking to us. The Otherworld Well Hedge School is my effort to aid in that restoration.
- Seán Pádraig O'Donoghue
Starting this March, Seán Pádraig O'Donoghue will be offering weekly live online classes exploring the ways we can connect with wild plants, ancestral traditions, and the land to heal ourselves, our community, and our world.
Classes will be held Sunday evenings at 7:00 EDT and Thursdays at Noon EDT and will be infused with Seán’s unique blend of science, history, folklore, magic, spirit, and poetry.