What is Cailleach?
I ran across Cailleach in “A Celtic Book of Days” by Sarah Costly and Charles Kightly. I love the idea and image of a powerful hag/goddess!
From the book:
‘The Cailleach Beara is the third celebrated hag of Celtic folklore, found in Scotland, throughout Ireland, especially the Bear peninsula, and in the Isle of Man; she is of huge stature, the maker of mountains, islands and cairns, keeper of bitter weather.
It is narrated that on one occasion she turned Fionn MacCool into a decrepit old man, but his soldiers threatened to dig through Slieve Gullian in Armagh and drive her out of a cave in which she had her residence unless she restored Fionn to his form and symmetry.’
W.G. Wood-Martin, Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, 1902
In the eighth century she became the subject of a monk’s poem about the death of the old ways:‘I am the old Woman of Beare An ever-new smock I used to wear: Today – such is my mean estate – I wear not even a cast-off smock. It is riches Ye love, it is not men In the time we lived It was men we loved.’
Translated by Kuno Meyer, 1913