30 Days of Deity Devotion: Days 16 & 17

  • How do you think The Cailleach represents the values of Her pantheon and cultural origins?

  • How does The Cailleach relate to other gods and other pantheons?

These two topics are closely related so I have decided to combine them into a single post.

I’m not sure if one could say that The Cailleach represents the values of Her pantheon and cultural origins, or if it is the pantheon and culture which have moulded themselves to represent the values of The Cailleach.

It is my belief that the Cailleach was not brought here by the earliest humans to the British Isles hundreds of thousands of years age, She was here to greet them.

three-great-agesIt is also my belief that while The Cailleach is often lumped in with the Gods of the Celts, this was a later addition trying to find a space for Her with the Gods the Celts had brought with them from across Europe and the Near East. As such, She is always somewhat separate from the Celtic Gods. She is an elemental force of Earth and Water.

The Cailleach of Scotland is as harsh and unyielding as the land She formed. It’s not that She doesn’t care for the humans that live there, but She knows the mountains and the winter storms and the swirling waters of the deepest lochs can be harsh. This is not a land for those who are seeking an easy life. This is reflected in the people who have made Scotland their home over the centuries.

The Cailleach was/is a Being that one could interact with just as easily as I am communicating with you here. Easier, perhaps. After all, I exist here outside my computer screen, writing, but I have no way of knowing there is really another person on the other end reading.

Stories and legends abound of chance encounters with The Cailleach by regular, every day people. When they find Her, they don’t bow down in worship. They don’t offer up prayers with requests or songs of praise and thanks giving. Often times, you will find a system of negotiating in place.

This is precisely what happened when I spoke to the Cailleach about becoming Her priestess. We negotiated what She would expect from me, and also what I could expect from Her in exchange.

When I think of The Cailleach, I see an old woman who is tough as nails, living on her own as She has done for centuries. Once upon a time, perhaps, she was young and beautiful. Once upon a time, perhaps, she had a husband or children. Perhaps she is someone’s grandmother, or great-grandmother. That was all long ago now, and She remains. Alone, but never lonely, for she has the animals around her to keep her company. The wind and the rain and the snow speak to her, as do the rocks and trees.

Some stories of The Cailleach link her to various Celtic Gods. In Ireland, the Cailleach Beara is said to be wife of Mannannon. In Scotland, she is the Mother of Angus. In both countries, She is said to have been married multiple times, spending a lifetime with each husband, and to have had multiple children by each of them.

Stories also link The Cailleach to the Goddess Brigid, presenting them as either separate Beings with each ruling over one half of the year, or as the same Being with one transforming into the other with the changing of the seasons. My own thought here, having worked with each of Them, is that They are separate Beings.

Attempts have been made to try to link The Cailleach with Deities from other Pantheons

the cailleach

Image @Rachel Patterson

across Europe and into Asia.

I talked in a previous post about the Kallakoi (Greek) or Callaeci (Latin) tribes of the ancient Iberian Peninsula. These tribes were written and spoken about by Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy, with the suggestion by Ptolemy that this name meant “worshippers of the Cailleach”.

In parts of Scandinavia you could find a triple Goddess called the Mo Braido, the Mamma/Omma and the Kaelling/Karring. (Note the similarity to the Scottish Carling, another name for an ancient crone.) The Karring is described as a crone who controls the winter storms, guards fresh water wells, and has a black rod that spreads ice and frost. It is said that she creates the landscapes by dropping boulders and stones from her apron.

I suspect that the Scottish Cailleach Bheur, the Irish Cailleach Beara, and the Scandinavian Kaelling/Karring are the same Deity with regional variations on the spelling. We know that there was, and continues to be a great deal of interactions and influences between these three regions.

Undoubtedly, the people who have lived in these parts of the world have the same fierce determination and independence as The Cailleach who dwells alongside them there.

 

 

 

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