Cailleach by Jill Smith
The Cailleach is the Scottish triple goddess who can be identified as a creatress, nurturer, and a bringer of death. She was the great primordial Mother Goddess of Scotland. Originally Scotland was called Caledonia, or "land given by Caillech". With her hammer she could change the landscape and command the weather. Her name might be related to the Hindu Goddess Kali. In her dark aspect she was depicted as an old hag with a bears teeth and boars tusks. She was known as a shapeshifter and great sorceress. Some stories also connect Bride/Brigid as the maiden aspect of the Cailleach. In these legends, it is told how on January 31st, the Eve of Bride, the Cailleach retreats to the Isle of Youth, in whose woods lie the miraculous Well of Youth. There, at the glimmer of dawn, she drinks the water, and having renewed her youth, the Cailleach emerges as Bride, the fair Goddess, known today as St. Bride. (3) She has the ability to transform from a Hag into a beautiful maiden at will (4)
She is also the Death Goddess, who lets die what is no longer needed, while she collects the seeds for the next season. (5) She is most often depicted as a blue-faced wise woman, representing cold, darkness and death. In the winter months she rides through the air on the back of a wolf, bringing freezing cold, blizzards and ice. In her guise as Storm Goddess she is usually known as Cailleach Bheur. She carried a magical staff, which froze the ground with every tap. (2) Her sacred trees were the holly and the gorse bush, under which she traditionally threw her staff before turning to stone. (2) She is said to have one eye that represents seeing beyond duality and recognizing the unity of all things. (5) She was also called "Woman of Stones", referring to the many stone circles throughout Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. She is said to walk about carrying stones in a basket, occasionally dropping them, thus creating islands and stone circles. (1) Cairns and mountains are said to have been created from stones dropped from Her apron as She wandered the Land.
She appears in a village as a weak old woman looking for farm help. She makes a deal with many young, healthy men that they will be paid only if they can outwork her. Judging from her frail appearance, this seems an easy task. However, the men soon found out that she was no frail old woman, and many men went to their deaths from exhaustion trying to outwork her. (4)
She appears in tales describing a knight being approached by an old hag for love, and when he accepts, she transforms into a beautiful maiden. (4) By kissing or mating with the Dark One, he understands the mysteries of life and.death as two sides of the same coin, and so will be able to draw upon the wisdom of the Otherworld. Embracing the Dark Goddess as an act of sacrifice for the greater good is also the theme of the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell, where the handsome Gawain promises to marry a loathly lady in order to save King Arthurs life. The court is filled with horror at what Gawain must do, so evil and hideous is his future bride, but when he kisses her on their wedding night she turns into a lovely young maiden of unsurpassed beauty. Initiation through the Dark Goddess occurs in many Celtic tales where an individual is transformed through contact with her. (7)
With her power to transform from hag to maiden, she had seven periods of youth. Her mates died of old age, while she had eternal life. Of these mates, her primary one was acclaimed to have been Lugh, Celtic Sun God. (6)
Castlerigg Stone Circle in Keswick, England
Photograph taken by Lotus Moonwise
|The Cailleach has a special place in my heart, for a few reasons. The first is her connection to stone circles, which speak to me strongly. In the early spring of 2004, I was able to visit Great Britain for the first time. I spent three wonderful weeks travelling through England and Scotland, visiting sacred sites. I visited the most famous stone circle, Stonehenge, of course, but I was even more captivated by the Castlerigg Stone Circle in Keswick. It sits on top of a hill, with mountain views in every direction. Entering the circle and touching the stones, I could feel the energy of this ancient place. The energies of all the people, through the centuries, who have used this place as a portal to another place and time; a world where magic and mystery are alive in everything.|
||I also have a personal ancestoral connection to The Cailleach. My family emigrated from Scotland to Canada (and then to the U.S.) in the 1700's. The Campbell Clan was very powerful and held many castles throughout the countryside. One particular branch of the Clan, the Campbells of Breadalbane (my ancestors) built Kilchurn Castle, on the shores of Loch Awe (pictured left). Highland legends tell of how The Cailleach was in charge of a well on the summit of the mountain, Ben Crauchan. Every sunset, she had to cap the flowing water with a large flat stone and then release it at sunrise. One night, weary from driving her goats across the mountains, she fell asleep by the side of the well. Unhindered, the water gushed forth, breaking through at the Pass of Brander creating Loch Awe, and drowning local people and cattle in its wake. She was so horrified by her mistake that she turned to stone. The overflowing well is a common folklore motif used to explain many lakes and lochs. (2)|
This ritual is best done at midnight, on the new moon closest to the Winter Solstice. If possible, do it outside, in a natural area to increase the power.
Begin by preparing your ritual space. Gather enough smooth stones to create a circle that is large enough for you to stand in. This is your POWER CIRCLE.
Wedge a stick of white sage into the rocks, and light it, so that it is burning at the opening to your circle.
After your power circle has been set up, cast a larger circle around your entire workspace, including a space just outside the power circle.
Call quarters in whatever way you choose.
Step into your power circle. As you do, the white sage purifies you. Once inside your circle, raise your arms and close your eyes. Breath deeply and reguarly. Feel the energy coming from the Earth, up through your legs and filling your entire body. Feel the energy from the sky coming through your crown chakra and filling you. Imagine that you are completely grounded, that you have released all fear patterns, and that you are completely embodying your POWER. If this is hard for you to do, try recalling a time when you felt completely empowered. What did it feel like? Take notice especially of what your body felt like? Were your hands or your crown tingling? Did you feel like you had a glowing ball of light in your chest? Take however long you need to fully embody this feeling. You are charging your circle of power with this energy.
Once you've charged your power circle, step out into the space just outside of it. (still within the larger circle) Now connect to your fears. You can do this by journalling, by speaking them outloud, or just going through them in your head. Ask yourself the questions: where do you let fear rule your life? What would you do/be if all your fears were just stepping stones to more growth? Allow yourself to fully embody your fear. Feel it in your body. Where in your body to you experience this fear? What does it feel like? Notice how your breathing is? Is it fast or slow? Take as much time as you need to fully step into your fear and hold it in your body.
With the fear held in your body, step into the POWER CIRCLE. As you move in, speak this affirmation:
"I access my fear and feel it grow.
Then step into my circle and let it go."
Feel the energy of empowerment wash through you. Don't force anything, just BE in the energy. OBSERVE how your body feels. Observe your breathing. What changes, if any, occur when you move into your circle? How has your feeling of fear transformed? Stay in your power circle, breathing calmly, until you once again feel the energy of total empowerment.
Step out of the power circle and try to call up that fear again.
See if anything has changed. Is it easy or hard to feel that same
fear? Continue to go through this process for any other fears
you need to work through. Continue the whole process for as long
as you need to. For very deep hidden fears, you may have to do
this ritual often, peeling away each layer as you come to it.
Eventually, you may get to the point where every time you feel
fear, you are able to immediately connect to the energy of your
personal power circle and transform it. You can do this anywhere,
even without a physical circle. Just close your eyes and imagine
yourself safe within your circle and breathe through the fears.
It's important to gradually expand your comfort zone and to simply
observe yourself, rather than force or push. Change comes naturally
when we allow it. Just be aware and open and let your natural
1) More Than Winter's Crone by Insa Thierling
2) The Cailleach Bheur
3) The Power of the Willow Tree by Glennie Kindred
4) The Cailleach
6) House Shadow Drake: The Cailleach Bhear
7) Queen of Air and Darkness