She is ancient…
She is the landscape beneath our feet
She is the mountains and the hills
She is the rock and stone that leads down to the shore
She is wisdom
She is knowledge
She is mysteries
She is the old hag
She is The Cailleach
The Cailleach – Goddess of the ancestors, wisdom that comes with age, the weather, time, shape shifting and winter.
She is said to have shaped the landscape by dropping boulders from her apron which given that she is often portrayed as a giant should have been a fairly easy task. Later on stories also began to surface that gave the Devil as being the one with an apron who drops stones to shape the landscape. Not sure the image of the Devil wearing a pinny with the apron strings flapping in the breeze works for me but it may have been an attempt by early Christianity to cover up the pagan stories of The Cailleach.
Her time is Samhain to Beltane which is when she is at her most powerful and powerful she most certainly is for in my experience she is a strong, feisty, no nonsense, and kick bottom goddess with a wicked sense of humour. Towards the end of autumn when the weather starts to get that clear, fresh and chilly air you can feel her draw near.
The Cailleach is at her most powerful during the winter months bringing the cold weather, icy winds and snow with her. She is said to often ride a wolf (sometimes a wild pig) across the sky bringing the snow and riding the wolf through the lands crushing any signs of plant life. But she is also seen as the midwife for the dying year, keeping the seeds of new life safe and warm beneath the earth, caring for them throughout the winter months so that they may become new life in the spring.
She can appear to be fearsome and she is most definitely powerful as the hag of winter, woman of stones, bone mother, a goddess of death, the dark mother, the harvest goddess, an ancestress who rules the dark half of the year and is as ancient as the earth itself but she does have a nurturing side, she is the spirit of the land and allows us to peek at the wisdom we need to let go of what no longer serves us and look forward to what is yet to come. Let’s not forget that to have rebirth there must be death first. Without the Cailleach culling the plants in the winter they would not survive the harsh weather.
My journey with The Cailleach has been enlightening, eventful, rewarding and sometimes hard but it continues and each day I learn something new.
(Text from Pagan Portals The Cailleach by Rachel Patterson)