Festivals, Days, and Times Sacred to The Cailleach
The Days of The Cailleach won’t be found on most calendars, but I have been able to discover a lot by looking back at regional folklore from Scotland and Ireland, and also through quiet contemplation.
Broadly speaking, the days between Samhain and Beltane are when She is most powerful. She is a Being of ice and snow, and winter’s freezing wind come down from the North. She is the shriek in the night during a winter storm.
In some stories, The Cailleach can be seen riding a wolf, or a wild pig, across the sky bring snow and ice and winds in her wake, covering any signs of plant life as She goes. She is the Destroyer of life, but also the source for new life as She shelters the seeds of new growth safe and warm beneath the Earth.
Traditional Days of The Cailleach in the British Isles
After the 1st Full Moon of February, Orkney Isles: Once upon a time, to signal the coming end of winter, residents on the Orkey Island of Papay would celebrate Gyro Night. The last known celebration took place in 1914, though in recent times it has been revived in part as the Papay Gryo Arts Festival. Read more about Gyro Night here.
25th March, Scotland: This was once called Latha na Caillich, Cailleach Day or Lady Day. Up until the 17th Century this date was celebrated as New Year’s Day in Scotland. Gatherings, feasts, and contests of strength would have been held to drive The Cailleach away.
1st May, Isle of Man: Mock fights would be held between the forces of winter and the promise of summer, with summer winning.
1st November and 1st February, Ireland: Day of the Bean Sidhe (Banshee)
Personal Sacred Days of The Cailleach
These are the days which I have discovered to be special to The Cailleach in my own service as Her priestess. I have looked at the Wheel of the Year and the calendar, but have based these mostly on personal feelings and insights gained while journeying to sit with The Cailleach.
21st – 23rd September, Mabon
The Cailleach begins to stir in Her sleep.
Brigid returns to Her home.
31st October, Samhain
The Cailleach wakes.
Brigid prepares for sleep
Winter, first frost
The Cailleach walks over the land.
2 February, Imbolc
Brigid begins to stir in Her sleep
The Cailleach returns home.
21 – 23 March, Oestara
The Cailleach prepares for sleep
Summer, last frost
Brigid walks the land.
The Cailleach sleeps.
These dates are moveable, because nature does not follow a calendar. Where I live here in the UK, first frost can come any time between October and December, though generally it is some time in November and last frost any time between April and June, though it is generally some time in May. Further north into Scotland, first frost would come earlier and last frost later.
I have also linked The Cailleach and Brigid in a kind of dance between waking and sleeping as Each presides over half of the year. Some stories say that the Cailleach transforms into Brigid in the spring, other says She is turned to stone. I am more inclined towards believing that She sleeps during this time. But perhaps it is a sleep so still that it appears She has turned to stone.
What I have not yet worked out is how I will mark each of these events as the Wheel turns in the year. That will come with time.