Offerings to The Cailleach
Every Deity has something that they prefer to receive as an offering of devotion. What works quite well for One though may be completely inappropriate for the next.
When I made a daily offering to Brigid and Herne, She received a shot of clear water while He received a shot of blended whisky. They were both quite pleased, but had I reversed things, neither would have been very happy.
Sometimes, it can get tricky trying to figure out what it is They want. Other times, it comes to you in such a flash you wonder why people think it’s so difficult. What do you do when all the lore and “experts” are saying you have to offer a rare or expensive incense and you can’t afford or access those things?
There are loads of books and on-line resources that can tell you the best, most appropriate, and sometimes only (their words not mine) offering to be made for a particular Deity. When it comes right down to it though, after careful study of a Deity your best reference is to ask Them yourself. What would You like to receive as an offering?
When you have centuries of worship and devotion to a Deity/Deities, such as within Hinduism, where the accepted offerings have been handed down through tradition and practise this makes sense. When it came to discovering what offering The Cailleach would like, my choices were not so clear.
Tradition and Lore vs UPG
We just don’t know enough about The Cailleach to know definitively what offerings She would have received, if any, in the past.
In Rachel Patterson’s excellent book, The Cailleach she has provided an entire chapter entitled “Working Magic with The Cailleach”where she lists out a wide range of attributes and symbols that she has discovered through her own studies and working with The Cailleach. She tells you straight up, “Because of the lack of records telling us how the ancient people worshipped the Cailleach there aren’t really any ‘traditional’ symbols or correspondences, these are my personal opinion.”
In other words, it’s all UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis)
- Unverified – I can’t prove it with any historical evidence
- Personal – It’s come from my own studies and meditations
- Gnosis – Knowledge (See this wikipedia entry for a further breakdown on the meaning of Gnosis)
As I began my own search, I looked closely at what animals, plants, and objects were associated with The Cailleach. She is considered to be a protector of deer and the wild boar. She created the lands by letting water flow from uncapped springs and wells, and by dropping boulders (or flinging them). She rules over the winter season.I meditated and journeyed and I asked The Cailleach to guide me in finding the most appropriate offerings.
This is an excerpt from some of the notes I made at the time…
- Incense/offerings – mugwort or wormwood, juniper, mistletoe, club moss?
- Staff – from storage – thorn tree
- Deer skin/leather?
- Stones – hag stones
- Veil – grey?
- Need to call upon ancestors for protection
- Research – oil/herbs/blends for Cailleach, deer goddess cults of the British Isles, nicnevin, spaewives, black annis, cally berry,
- Holly and gorse, thorn
For my first journey to speak with The Cailleach I came up with a selection of offerings including club moss, mugwort, juniper berries, and a hag stone. At a later time when I went to speak with Her again, I made an offering of a small piece of (cooked) venison.
With each of these offerings, afterwards I took them out into a wooded area and left the offering for Her animals and other animals of the woods to find. Even if the foxes didn’t find and enjoy that strip of venison the beetles, worms, and other tiny creatures would have done.
At other times, when I have been out in the woodlands I have left spontaneous offerings of a bit of my lunch (whole foods, not processed, usually fruits or vegetables) or a particularly nice stone or leaf or seed that I have found. Any time I am gifted with something, I make a point of leaving a gift in return. Not every plant-based offering is native to these lands, and I make a point of not leaving behind seeds with the offering. So far, I’ve not had any complaints about the pineapple chunks or mango slices I’ve given as an offering.
Beyond anything else though, I believe that if your experience and instincts are telling you to give something for an offering that completely goes against all of the accumulated writing and UPG of published authors, bloggers, and other “experts”, that’s okay. Give it.