The Cailleach (KAL-y-ach) is the Crone Goddess of Winter & transformation, said to control the weather & the winds. She strikes the ground with her staff, a Druidic white wand of power, made of birch, willow, bramble, or broom, causing the earth to be covered with a blanket of frost. She also determines the length & harshness of the season, which begins on October 31st, the Samhain festival, peaking just before the Cross-quarter of Imbolc, but often extending up till the Spring Equinox.
As a veiled Crone, with one eye & pale blue/grey skin, The Cailleach or twilight hag, has been feared & revered across Celtic cultures for over 3000 years. Depicted as a giant with a bow-legged stride, She leaps across mountains & plains with a power to shape & transform the landscape, rocks falling from Her gathered apron.
Her name means “Veiled One” & She is very old. No one knows for certain where She came from. When the Celts arrived in Ireland The Cailleach was already there.
Legend has it that ‘Fintan the Wise one of a 100 lives’ accompanied Noah’s granddaughter, Cessair, to Ireland before the great Biblical flood. He thought himself the first to set foot on the island but found Cailleach living there, & could see she was far more ancient than himself. He is said to have asked of her, “Are you the one, the grandmother who ate the apple in the beginning?” but received no answer.
There is a tale of a wandering friar & his scribe, who came to the old Crone’s stone domicile. He inquired as to her great age, which he had heard stories of. She replied that she didn’t know, but that every year she killed an ox & made soup from the bones—& perhaps they could gauge her age by the number of ox bones tossed up in the attic. The young scribe climbed the ladder & threw the bones down one by one for the friar to count. The friar duly made a mark on his paper for each bone, & the great pile of bones grew until he had run out of paper. He called up to the young scribe, who replied that he had not even cleared one corner of the pile of bones. Such was the great age of the Cailleach.
She has been called ‘Old Wife’, ‘Old Woman’ & the ‘Blue Hag of Winter’. In Celtic myth the Hag represents the spirit of the land, holding sovereign power over the earth. For a Celtic king to retain power, he was required to “marry” the Goddess of the earth. As ‘divine hag,’ she represents the dark side of the Mother who brings death & rebirth.
Some scholars believe “Cailleach” was more like a title of initiation, for the name is associated with various figures thru out history & mythology – passed down thru oral tradition.
In Irish mythology she is said to have had seven maidenhoods, before bearing children by many husbands, before becoming eternally aged, outliving all her husbands & children. She is the maternal ancestor of every Irish tribe.
The Cailleach is said to be responsible for raising mountains & creating the ancient burial cairns & barrow mounds. She is a Goddess of the Underworld, associated with the ancestors & the realms of death & rebirth. The Cailleach is connected to the bean sidhe (Banshee), the wild women of the Faeries, She oversees the faerie mounds & entrances to the realm of the Fey. You will also find Her near sacred standing stones, the “bones of the earth”. Her companion the Owl is associated with death, the underworld, magic, & the ability to see spirits. She is said to be a shapeshifter, & can transform into a giant bird – “cailleach-oidhche”, “the night hag”, old Gaelic for “owl”.
On Imbolc, legend has it that the Cailleach runs out of her store of winter firewood & goes to gather more. If the day is fine & dry, it means that she will be able to gather more firewood & prolong the harsh winter months, but if it rains, she will have no fuel & so will have to give way to Spring. This tradition traveled across the Atlantic & fed into what is known as Groundhog Day.
And so it is that on Imbolc the Cailleach is said to cast her staff under a holly bush; her way of handing it over to Brigid. She then, swirls around 3x’s, & turns into a grey boulder, until the Wheel again turns to Samhain. The stone she transforms into is said to remain moist despite the warmth of the summer months because of the life force it contains. Countless standing stones are said to be sacred to her.
The Cailleach is associated with more locations across the Gaelic-speaking world than any other deity. Her ability to form the landscape means that many prominent mountain landmarks are attributed to her. According to legend, she either dropped or threw stones from her apron as she passed thru the land & these grew into rock formations or mountains.
In daily life The Cailleach inspires the local healer, called bean feasa ‘wise woman, fortune-teller, sorceress, charm-worker – Witch.’
To reclaim the Crone, is to become synonymous with wisdom & sovereign female agency, operating outside the oppressive hand of patriarchy.
Many Gaelic oral narratives recount cures performed by the local bean feasa thru her gifts of prophecy & second-sight. Part herbalist, part oracle, the ‘wise woman’ is the representative of the Goddess who visits the spiritual world to gain insight. As healer she diagnoses & heals emotional traumas, both individual & communal. Like shamanic figures the world over, she treats illness by balancing the relationship between the human being & the spirits of the otherworlds. She restores well-being by bringing into harmony matter & Spirit.
As a Goddess of transformation & death, She oversees the culling of the old, & lets die all that is no longer needed. And also with the passing of the Winter months, the Cailleach finds & guards the seeds for the coming re-birth of Spring. She stands at the cusp of life & death, intimately connected to the wise women who preside as midwives over birthing, & who prepare the dead for burial.
As the “Veiled One” the Cailleach guides us through our inner realities & dreams. She teaches us to let go of (allow to die) all that no longer serves our higher purpose, & guides us thru the many deaths & rebirths of our life phases. She is the final face of the Triple Goddess who rules the wheel of reincarnation.
May we embrace the “Veiled One” knowing the transformative power of darkness, will lead us into the growing light of re-birth.
31 January 2021 – “Speaking with the Stars”
POD (Poem Of the Day)
~like a lotus
quiet upon the water
& repeat the silence…
‘Tree of Life’ Feast & ‘Candlemas’ Festival 2 February 2021 – 5:30-7pm
In the Schreinerei of the Rudolf Steiner Branch 4248 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago
The RSB Festivals Committee invites you to celebrate the Cross-quarter between Winter Solstice & Spring Equinox, called by some: Groundhogs Day, Brigid’s Day
or Imbolc – the lambing season, The Feast of the Purification of Mary, & Tu’B’Shavat*- the “New Year for the Trees”.
All are invited to a Potluck consisting of fruits & nuts & seeds-the gifts of the trees. And then Nancy Melvin will facilitate a beeswax candle making workshop – a Candlemas tradition.
*Tu B’Shvat offers a unique opportunity for insight into life & personal growth. Throughout the centuries, Kabbalists have used the tree as a metaphor to understand the One relationship to the spiritual & physical worlds. The higher spiritual realms are roots that ultimately manifest their influence through branches & leaves in the lower realms. In the 16th century, the Kabbalists compiled a Tu B’Shvat “Seder,” somewhat similar to the Seder for Passover. It involves enjoying the fruits & discussing philosophical & Kabbalistic concepts associated with the ‘Tree of Life’. Among other things, the Seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted, & to develop a good & generous eye for the world around us.
Suggestions for this special POTLUCK: lots of fruit! including: The seven species:
Figs, Dates, Pomegranates, Olives, Grapes (or raisins) wheat (Challah bread) &
Barley. Various nuts with the shells (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, coconut),
and fruits with peels (oranges, pomegranates, avocado)
Other fruits with edible seeds (e.g. blueberries)
Other fruits with inedible pits (e.g. peaches, plums)
Donations Welcome http://donate.rschicago.org/
For more info. contact Events & Festivals Coordinator Hazel Archer-Ginsberg firstname.lastname@example.org
Invitation: Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021, 6-8pm eastern (online using zoom)
“Candlemas Time with the Bee”
We will be celebrating a quiet and beautiful festival with the Bee. This ceremony will include artistic and meditative activity as we journey with the Bee into her connection to the Earth, the Cosmos, and the Human Soul.
Please have ready: some real honey and a spoon, a beeswax candle and matches, some seeds you plan to plant this year, paper and colored pencils.
Please email “email@example.com” before to register, and we will send you a zoom link. You may register any time before 5pm eastern on February 3rd.
May Humanity and Earth be Each Other’s Medicine
Celebrating Life during the nodal points of the seasons has given Humanity the opportunity to realign with the rhythms of Earth and the Cosmos for thousands of years… the “Festival Year” emerged, spanning all time and all cultures, traditions, and religions of the world. Today, possibly due to the increase in technology and fast pace, consumer-driven lifestyles, many people have found it difficult to connect with the seasons and rhythms of Life or have given up the culture of festival and ceremony altogether.
Yet we have entered a time during which our realignment with the Earth is more crucial than ever before… not only for our own health and wellbeing, but also for the renewal of the Earth herself. An opportunity for healing is created when we can hold in our conscious attention the nodal points of the year and the interconnected rhythms of Life… the animal, plant, and mineral beings.
These beings we share this planet with are ready for our consciousness and care. And when we create a space of openness and communication, we may just discover that they more than happily participate… for all of us do share the same “Festival Year” of Earth.
“May the Peace of the Heavens in our Earth-home we find… for all Stones, Plants, and Animals, and all of Humankind.”
Warmly, Ines Katharina Kinchen firstname.lastname@example.org