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In tales and myths of the Cailleach it is said that at the end of winter when the great greening unfurls the Cailleach's job is done and off she heads to Tir na nog where she drinks from the fountain of youth and renews herself. 

Her story has changed and morphed over the years in line with people's beliefs. She was one and the mighty hag in a pre-Celtic era who represented a primordial cosmology. She offers the only origin story through the great boulders she dropped from her skirts, which created the landscape. 

As societies story of women and old women changed so did the story of the Cailleach. In some tales, she is viewed as this evil old hag who tries to hold onto her power of winter - a reign of death and cold and misery. This tale tells of her holding Bride (representing the Goddess Brighid) prisoner, who represents the young energy of the year - the greening and in patriarchies eyes - the more attractive and desirable.  

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Needle felted doll by Jude Lally

There are other stories in which the Cailleach herself renews herself - stepping under the water before any bird, insect or human has made a noise. Symbolically she slips beneath the waves, water symbolizing her primordial origins. Water holds the very essence of life and she emerges as a young girl. Over and over the folktale says she plays out this ritual every 100 years. 

My Cailleach is the hag of the earliest stories, or rather the stories that seem most 'Cailleachan' to me. The hag that wants nor needs anything from humanity, the hag who plays out her role in winter - to ensure life is struck down - for without life there cannot be rebirth. It is the hag who at autumn calls for the plants and trees to take their energy back down to their roots and join the great network of roots and bones deep underground. She tucks the greenery into her skirts holding it safe over the winter months. 

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'She Carried the Greening' by Irish painter Jane Brideson (click on image to view on her website) 

Image used with the artists permission 

Spring Equinox

At Spring Equinox the great crone brings us out of the months of darkness, drawing us into the light half of the year again. This event is marked by the spring equinox sunrise shining into the chamber of Cairn T. (The same ritual is played out at Autumn Equinox when the great crone draws us over the threshold of Autumn Equinox and into the dark of the year - with the morning sunrise shining into the chamber of Cairn T (Loughcrew, Ireland) again. 

My Cailleach hasn't gone anywhere, she didn't fight with anyone. As spring unfurls in the great greening she merely took off that winter plaid and released that tender green she has been carrying all winter. She spends her spring and summer days walking the mountains and hanging out with her herds of deer, her fairy cattle. Enjoying the births and death. In fact, if you climb to the heights of a Scottish or Irish mountain you might even hear the snoring of this great hag! 

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Throughout the year I always feel that this old hag has got my back. Summer, autumn, winter or spring - she's got my back. And so sometimes I put a call out for prayers or petitions. laments or gratitudes so other voices can join me as I spark a little fire and bring our worries and joys into sacredness. The scrolls of paper (see antler image at the top of this post) are attached to an antler I found lying in a peat bog on the journey to visit the Shrine of the Cailleach. I was perfectly happy to just leave the antler in the bog but I felt a push on my shoulder to reach down and take it. The vole or mice gnawings, or perhaps the scrapings of antler on stone when it was attached to the stag's head read like symbols and markings of a secret language waiting to be read. 

 

And so I offer the many heartfelt prayers, sad felt prayers, songs of gratitude and requests for clarity....

 

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