How did you become first aware of The Cailleach?
Answering this question will seem like I am trying to explain how I first became aware of trees or chairs or people. While I may not have been fully aware of it at the time, in retrospect, The Cailleach has been a part of my life for a very long time.
The Cailleach is a being that I have known about for some time, having found brief reference to Her in books about Crone Goddesses and “Dark” Goddesses. Other than noticing an interesting similarity in name sounds between Kali (Ca (as in cat)-lee, and Cailleach (Ca (as in at)-lee-och), I tended to gloss over those sections and moved on to look at other Deities that were wanting my attention.
Brigid stood with my briefly, but let me know that She was not there as a Patron but to give me support and strength at a time when I most needed it. In looking at Brigid however, I was once again finding references to The Cailleach.
Finally, about a year ago I began catching glimpses of a new presence in my life. I began getting little hints. For instance, while looking for connections between owls and butterflies, I came across the word, cailleach-oidhche, which is Scots-Gaelic for owl. Slowly I put these hints together, and I went to my Spirit Allies to sit with them and ask questions.
When I began approaching my 50th birthday at the beginning of this year, I was hit by an urge to claim my place as a crone in this world. I has been in full menopause for 2 years, and the time had come to take my place with the Elders.
The Cailleach starting coming into my awareness in more blatant ways, and I began coming across references to Her in more and more places. I began looking for more information about Her and slowly began to build a connection with Her.
Last March, with the help of a friend who drummed for me, I journeyed into Other World space to speak with The Cailleach directly. I had an offering for her comprised of dried herbs, a hag stone, and dried berries. I carried a hand-size piece of deer antler and my staff, made by me over 20 years ago. My friend knew I was going to speak with Someone, but did not know who it was.
What I saw -or sensed since I don’t usually see with my eyes while journeying –
I met with the Cailleach in my Sacred Garden, where we greeted each other. I asked her purpose, and She told me that She wished for me to take my place as Her priestess. I asked what she offered me in exchange, and She told me that She offered Her guidance and assistance in the work I was training to do as a Soul Midwife. I accepted this exchange and was given a new name/title as Her Priestess. We then said our goodbyes and I returned to real time space.
What my friend saw –
She saw a very old woman with red hair come swirling in the room with a herd of deer around Her. The woman stood before my altar and looked at the offering that had been placed there for Her, then she nodded her head looking pleased. And after a few moments, disappeared again in another swirl.
I later found an image of the Cailleach, which I do not have permission to share publicly, that depicts her with a round, deeply lined face and bright red hair. I showed this image to my friend and she told me, “That’s who I saw!”
Having realised The Cailleach had chosen me, I began to see the subtle and not so subtle ways in which She had been influencing and guiding me over the years.
- Nights as a child, watching out the window as I lay in my bed at an owl perched on the edge of the porch roof.
- The circumstances around finding my staff.
On a spring day, nearly 25 years ago I drove from my home to my grandparents old
farm about 60 miles away. I took with me a small saw for cutting. As I walked amongst the trees at the edge of a meadow looking for a dead fall branch I could use, a small sapling spoke to me in my head. “Take me,” it said. “I am your staff.” I expressed reluctance, but again and again it told me that it was meant to be my staff.
This staff was made from the sapling of a honey locust tree. This is a deciduous tree, native to central North America with singular and branched thorns growing all over it’s trunk and branches.
Honey locust bark and fruit are eaten by deer in North America during the winter. In Great Britain, deer eat the bark and fruit of the blackthorn tree, another tree with thorns on its trunk and branches. The deer is sacred to The Cailleach. 25 years ago I had no idea why that sapling had called to me, today I know it was The Cailleach guiding me from afar.
- Hag stones
Over the years I have collected various holed stones found on the beaches of Kent. I had no reason for keeping them but did, and dutifully have carried them from home to home.
Turns out the hag stone (a stone with a hole worn through it) is a symbol of The Cailleach.
- Covering my head
While I’ve not felt the need to cover my hair for over a year now, I have shared how I first began this practice after it was suggested to me by Brigid.
Cailleach is sometimes translated as “Veiled woman” and she is usually depicted with a scarf or other covering over her head.
Some stories link Brigid with The Cailleach, either as Mother (The Cailleach) and Daughter (Brigid) or as two aspects of the same Deity.
I have no doubt that over time I will discover more ways in which She has been guiding me to this point in my life.