The Cailleach is the stone mother, the spirit of winter, the queen of the cave and the keeper of the fire. This Wise Woman represents the completion of the Wheel of Time. She is wholeness. The Cailleach has immense wisdom to share because she has seen it all. Journey into her sacred cave for a time of renewal.
Far from being a simple granny, she is fierce with no patience for fools. Her beauty is found in her legacy, the very earth itself. We are all her children. She comes as The Cailleach, the Great Wise Woman, who created the mountains and brings the winter. She is called carline, crone and hag. We see her in the faces of our goddesses when they come to us in their ancient forms. Hail to The Cailleach in all her many forms. She of 1,000 names. She who was she before she had a name.
The Cailleach’s Message
In our time, we resist the harsh barrenness and storms of winter. We rage against the darkness of these months, unnaturally lighting up the world. Forgetting The Cailleach, we have created on the global scale the same false positivity that we can fall into in our personal lives. The Cailleach calls us to her cave so that we can return to our truth.
Within our lives, avoiding the dark places within us inevitably leads to unsustainability as well as we fall deeper into the energy of the shadow self. It is a curious thing that the only way we can heal our shadow is by not avoiding her, but by embracement. The dance of shadow and soul plays out not always under the burning light. We need the darkness for our wholeness. Call out to The Cailleach to teach you how to be a better dancer, a creator of balance and wholeness.
Renewal: The Nourishing Darkness
As she has always sustained us, we can now nourish her by bringing her presence back into our lives. As we answer her appeals, her energy will grow leading to the correction within us that denies the necessity of darkness and in the larger world. Avoiding her winter darkness has gotten us in a lot of trouble. Isn’t it time to enter her cave?
The cave is the refuge from the harshness of reality, but only the brave will enter. They will be rewarded with nourishment and wisdom. How often do we choose to remain in a storm, ignoring comfort offered to us? There is a time for rest.
Entering The Cailleach’s Cave
While The Cailleach is as complex and diverse as they come, this ritual calls out to her to bring us nourishment and respite. Her home is deep in the heart of her mountains, where she restores her strength. Her cave offers a break from the storms of life and the harsh barrenness of the winter landscape. In many ways, winter comes for us as individuals and as society. While the only way to survive these storms is through them, there is a time for replenishment required. Enter into her cave to share your stories and to hear her wisdom. The sacred shared nourishment of connecting through the power of narrative awaits.
The Wise Woman Healer
Although the word “cailleach” simply means “old woman,” this term is generally used today to signify a witch-mother goddess who’s evolved through the tales told of her, often through the myths of particularly Ireland and Scotland. She heals through the wisdom shared in her stories. Her cauldron brings rebirth. She welcomes the sincere into her presence.
The Ancient Goddess
There are many tales regarding The Cailleach as the eternal wise woman healer. Sometimes denigrated as a mean-spirited hag, The Cailleach of various locations, such as the Cailleach Béara (Cally Berra), were Goddesses of Winter to ancient Celts.
The importance of place is central to the tales of The Cailleach, where she is historically often said to be based in a specific location, such as Béara. That she is linked to places signifies how deeply she is connected to the land and its people. She is of the earth itself. This connection of place also speaks to her message of reconnecting to the land, of treating the earth well so that we can be nourished.
The Cailleach Béara is the ancestress of many peoples in Ireland. To them, she is the sovereign queen who remembers the time before time, and the early eons when earth was water. Also representing the time before the freedom of the Irish was lost.
The Veiled One
In legends dating from the Christian period, she is sometimes portrayed as a nun, perhaps linked to the association of her name with veiling. She is The Veiled One, wrapped in shawls with her head covered in a scarf.
The Goddess of Winter and Storms
On The Isle of Man, she is called Caillagh ny Goamagh (Grumpy Old Woman) and Caillagh ny Gueshag (Old Woman of the Spells), where she is a spirit of winter and storms. The Cailleach Uragaig, of the Isle of Colonsay in Scotland, prevents a young woman from being with her beloved. In a similar story, the Cailleach imprisons the beautiful young Goddess Bride (Brigid) inside of a mountain over the winter. At Bride’s release, spring comes to the world.
The theme of The Cailleach holding spring captive is found in many of her stories. She arrives at Samhain, dismissing the youthful exuberance of Bride (say “Breegh”). The Gracious Old Lady of Scotland (The Cailleach Bheur) is a blue-faced crone in winter but becomes youthful in the spring.
Goddess of the Sea and Stones
The Cailleach, like many goddesses of winter, is strongly associated with not only storms, but the sea, such as the Cailleach Na Mara (Of The Sea).
The Cailleach an Mhuilinn (Of The Mill) appears in many myths as well. She is both helper and foe, a seer and shapeshifter. To the ancients who revered her, the mill symbolized the power of creation through the wheel which spun the water to create the necessary friction. The association with the mill illustrates her connection to ponds and lakes. The grist stone stands in for the Wheel of Time. The Cailleach as the Maker of Mountains and her connection to millstones demonstrates her primal nature. She existed before time and created the stones and the earth itself.