Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Cailleach as the Samhain Eclipse

On 23rd October we will celebrate both Lunar Samhain and a partial solar eclipse in Scorpio.  Scorpio is the zodiac sign that encapsulates some of the cailleach, or hag's, qualities.  Scorpio not only understands shadows, but often prefers shade. Scorpio has a fondness for the occult, deep psychology, sex. The eighth house in a horoscope is ruled by Scorpio, the eighth sign, and is often referred to as the house of sex, regeneration and death. Loss, grief, transformation, these are Scorpio themes.  Like the snake that swallows its tail, Scorpio knows how to shed its skin, reinvent itself and reach for infinity.  This is also the Cailleach's tale: wisdom/dementia, destruction/rebuilding, beauty/horror, gain/loss, giving/receiving. She is the polarity and the third way.

Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic winter season. After a prolonged warm and summery Equinox, the wind is blustery, stripping all the crimson Virgina creeper from our house's southwest wall.  The hag is speaking. She has arrived. We scurry to light the fire during the day to ward off the dampness; the rain hurls itself off the Atlantic. There was thunder at dawn this morning. The Cailleach has come.

Solar eclipses always herald change, but what they take with one hand they give with the other. With the Cailleach you will need to give Her something before she will reciprocate with Her gift.  This is very like the reciprocity that I associate as fairy morality.  Offer them something shiny or precious and they will give you something special in return.  Let go of your anger, shame or other destructive behavior at Samhain; these are, after all, 'precious' attachments of ours so are suitable offerings to the Cailleach.  The Cailleach will support you and repay you threefold; my good friend had his final drink on Halloween night in 2009.  It had taken him nearly a year to make his long goodbye to alcohol, but that Shadow embrace was what could be described as a shamanic purging. He remains sober and also has no desire for alcohol.

We will also inevitably grieve for those who don't make the transition into transformation. Not everyone can face becoming a phoenix rising from ashes.  Not everyone can face the fear and horror and kiss their Hag. There is no blame attached to this. Love them and maintain safe boundaries for yourself and for them as much as is practicable. Mourn for them but also know you cannot do their reshaping; that is their spiritual work. Bear witness to their Hag, be respectful, show courage in its face but do not flinch. The Cailleach has no truck with flinching.

Samhain Nighthawk

The owl needs the mouse.

So too does the mouse need owl.

The owl is not the enemy of mouse.

Owl and mouse dance over the midnight landscape,

are each others destiny, culminating

in a bleak but righteous beauty.

Just as clouds obliterate

the moon in its longing for earth,

or the sun shielding it at eclipse.

Just as the Cailleach sets us free.

Her razor winds blow us to bits.

She loves us enough

to remake us out of all

our unloved pieces into

one new beloved whole.

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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Tuesday, 21 October 2014

    Bee, wonderful! This all resonates with my current experiences, as a triple Scorpio working with Cailleach. I have been very much looking at my scorpionic attributes, as part of that. That includes my Phoenix rebirth earlier this year. It proves the joy and victory that we can reach if we embrace rough times and grow from them. If you want to see the piece, sister, here it is. I did both the Phoenix paintings:

  • Danielle Blackwood
    Danielle Blackwood Thursday, 23 October 2014

    Bee, this is lovely stuff!

    I really appreciate what you said about not being able to do another's "reshaping". Your poem is also spot on. Thank you.

  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith Thursday, 23 October 2014

    Thanks for the appreciation. It is mutual incidentally. I routinely check into your blog to give myself a planetary 'heads up.'

  • Unckle Bug
    Unckle Bug Friday, 24 October 2014

    Love this! One important thing, though... The Pagan Wheel has two seasons: Summer and Winter. The Pagan winter starts when the Holly King defeats the Oak King at Midsummer and begins his reign of Winter. Midsummer and Yule are the only holidays that actually mark the change of a season. At Samhain, the God thins the veil so the Lady can visit him in the Underworld, where their coupling creates the seed of Summer in her Womb.

  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith Friday, 24 October 2014

    I have to say that I am much more in tune with the four Celtic fire festivals; they seem to define my life and wheel of the year. But the Samhain seed planting works, too. If you see my blog from last month about Embracing the Hag, the hag/cailleach morphs into a beautiful maiden. Many metaphors can be drawn from a single source.

  • Unckle Bug
    Unckle Bug Friday, 24 October 2014

    I agree. And the lessons and metaphors are drawn from specific parts of our mythology and lore. I find that a basic, common understanding of the story (but not the lessons! That's how church gets made) leads to a more cohesive community. As Lay Elder in a large Pagan community, I am constantly told that there is a hunger to understand the Lore of the Wheel as a gestalt, rather than a colleciton of stories centered around specific holidays and exisiting as pieces of a pie on cool-looking wheel. The lessons of the Fire Festivals mean less when they are not part of the story of the whole.

    Mind you, this is the Wheel as described in Celtic/Welsh lore. Other tribes had different interpretations.

    Thank you for your work. I read it a lot, and this is my first time commenting. This entry, like all of them, is awesome. I hope I didn't sound critical.

  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith Friday, 24 October 2014

    Thank you for reading. And commenting and felt no criticism implied. I just wanted to let you know where my personal spiritual journey/path has informed the writing. In short pieces that isn't always apparent.

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