Day 12: 30 Days of Deity Devotion

Places associated with The Cailleach and Her worship

I’ll start by saying this straight up. The Cailleach is not the sort of Deity who wants or needs worship. The early Scots and possibly the Irish had a lot of respect for the Deities around them, but didn’t tend to go in for the whole worshipping them bit.

You would think, as a priestess of The Cailleach, that this would entail in some way the idea of worhip.

It doesn’t. I serve as Her priestess, I honour Her. But, no where in my agreement with The Cailleach is there an expectation of worship. She does not need it.

Having said this, The Cailleach has long been associated with natural land formations, rocks and hills, mountains, and caves and also water in the form of natural wells, rivers, lochs, and whirlpools. You see this in the dozens of place names across the British Isles that incorporate Her name. You can also see it in the myths and legends and traditions associated with The Cailleach.

hag2

The Hag of Beara at Coulagh Bay, Ireland

Natural Land Formations

Scotland

  • Beinn Cailleach Bheur in Argyllshire
  • Beinn na Cailliach on the Isle of Skye

There is a large furrow down the side of Beinn na Cailliach called Sgriob ne Calliach (furrow of the Cailleach) which it is said was created when She stumbled and slid down the hill.

  • Loch Awe in Argyll and Bute
  • Cailleach Vear, a rock off the coast of Mull
  • Sgeir Cailleach on Jura
  • Ceum na Caillich in Arran
  • Cailleach Head in Ross
  • Carlin’s Loup near Carlop
  • Creadan Biorach na Cailliche on the Isle of Lewis
  • Calliean na Mointeach on the Isle of Lewis –

“Old woman of the moors” The surrounding area of Callanish holds several stone circles dating back at least 5000 years that are positioned to link the Cailleach na Mointeach with the moon.

  • Stepping stones at the mouth of Loch Etive, Connel Ferry at the Falls of Lora.

These are the stones that The Cailleach and Her goats would walk across to get to Benderloch and Acha-nam-ba (Cow field). Circular green hollows in the fields were known as Cailleach Bheur’s cheese vats.

Ireland

  • Ceann Cailli “The Hag’s Head” at the cliffs of Moher in County Clare
  • Sliabh na Cailli “The Hag’s Mountain” in County Meath

The megalithic chambers of Loughcrew are found at the top of a low range of mountains in eastern Meath. Remains from cremations have been found within the Loughcrew passages and it is thought they may have been collective burial sites.

This entire range is known as “the old woman’s mountains”.

  • Slieve Gullion in County Armach

Sliabh Gullinn means “steep-sloped mountain”.

The Cailleach Bhéarra lives here in a chamber beneath a hilltop megalith, called Calliah Birra’s House. This megalith is the highest placed of all the Irish megaliths and is aligned with the movement of the sun.

On the western side of Slieve Gullion can be found the Ballykeel dolmen, known as Cathoir na Caillí, or “The Hag’s Chair”.

  • Slieve Gallion in County Derry
  • Sloc nna Caillagh on Rathlin
  • Carnacally in County Armagh, with the River Callan
  • Caislean na Caillighe on Lough Carra
  • Carrownamaddoo (Castledargon) in Sligo, is also called Cailliagh A Vera’s House
  • The House of the Cailleach in Western Tipperary in the moutains  above Kilross
  • The Labbacallee Wedge Tomb in Cork, Leabhadh Chailligh or Leabo Caillighe, “the Old Woman’s Bed” is said to be the burial place of The Cailleach.
  • The Hag of Beara above Coulagh Bay
the_corryvreckan_whirlpool_-_geograph-2404815-by-walter-baxter

The Corryvreckan Whirlpool, photo by Walter Baxter [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Natural Waters

Scotland

  • Mountain springs are especially important to The Cailleach as She would visit them to renew Her strength or to perform rites of passage for the seasons.
  • Taber Cailleach, a fountain in Banffshire – “Well of the Old Woman”
  • Ailsa Craig – The Cailleach was wading across the ocean with Her apron filled with rocks when a French sailor tried to sail between Her legs. The sail touched Her thigh and made her jump. She dropped some of Her rocks, and these formed the island of Ailsa Craig.
  • The Corryvreckan WhirlpoolCoire Bhreacain – “The Cauldron of the Plaid”, found between Jura and Scarba. The Cailleach would wash her plaid of wool in the Gulf of Corryvreckan. As she washed the whirlpool would be formed, making a great roar and bring with it the first storms of winter. Once cleaned, the plaid was pure white and The Cailleach would spread it over the mountain tops to dry.
  • The well at the top of Ben Crauchan in Argyll – She would remove the cap to allow the water to flow each morning and replace it each night. One night She fell asleep before recapping the well. This water flowed from the well unchecked, broke through the Pass of Pander to create Loch Awe. Sadly, many residents and cattle were drowned during the deluge. She was so horrified when She woke and realised what had happened that She turned to stone.

Ireland

  • Many of the above mentioned land formations have nearby lakes and rivers which are also named after The Cailleach Bhearra
  • Other stone formations, such as The Hag of Beara at Coulagh Bay looks out over the bay. Here, She is said to be waiting her husband, Manannon, God of the Sea, to return to Her.
  • The Lake of Two Geese is the deepest loch in Sligo. The Cailleach was so tall that she could wade across all of Ireland’s lakes and rivers, but even She succumbed to the depths of the Lake of Two Geese and was drowned when She tried to cross it.

I am certain there are dozens of other natural land formations, rivers, and lakes across the whole of the British Isles that I have left out, or not discovered yet. If you know of one I have not mentioned, or have more information about any that are mentioned above, please tell us about it in the comments.

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