Visions of the Cailleach: The Myths, Stories and History of the British / Celtic Earth Shaping Crone Goddess of Winter by Sorita D'este
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Throughout the British Isles there is a figure or motif that is commonly know as the Cailleach. She is depicted as an old hag , she is referred to many times as the old crone. Her depiction reflects her great age. She is reputed to be well over 2,000 years old. Cailleach is thought to be the old earth mother who gave birth to all life.
Just what are the origins of the Cailleach and where did her worship originate? Author's Sorita d'este and David Rankine explore the roots of this ancient goddess, her many role and what exactly she represented. Her origins are believed to be derived from Iberian Celts who made their way from Spain to Ireland. Various linguistic etymologies speak of a people called the kalliechi or some similiar word in Greek. This linguistic etymology could be referring to a group of people or a cult of priestesses dedicated to the Calliech. These would actually be deer priestesses who decked themselves out in deer skins and deer horns. The deer are sacred to the Caileach. The origins of the Cailleach may extend even further back than Spain. She may have originated from the Maltese Goddess, Sansura. Sansura was the Earth mother who bore all creation yet like the Cailleach she has darker aspects and is connected to winter and the forces that take away life. No one can make this connection for certain.
The exact identity of the Cailleach is open to interpretation as well. Is she just one giant hag or was there a race of hags. Is the term maybe a reference to a group of people or a deer cult comprised of priestesses said to roam about the British Isles. That intetpretation is ultimately left up to you. The authors of this work examine the many stories involving the Cailleach and give an examination of the over all picture. These Caileach or Crones go by a variety of different names which may indicate that there could be more than one Cailleach.
As discussed previously the Cailleach was the earth mother. In the examination of stories and myths surrounding her other associations arise as well. The first association has to do with rocks and the Earth. She is responsible for moving rock and earth which results in creation of islands and other landforms. In several of the stories she carries the rocks in her apron and then drops them because the apron strings are cut or break. In one story a land formation is made from a rock war between two Cailleachs.
The Cailleach in most of the Celtic legends does not appear with other gods to often. She is rather seperate.There is one god that she is depicted with and that is Manan the Celtic sea god. She is martied to him. The Cailleach is a goddess who can predict the weather and control how bodies of water behave. In some of the stories she turns maidens into lakes and streams. She causes storms to trouble those that have angered her. The Cailleach is known to warn sailors of impending danger.
As mentioned earlier there is talk of a deer cult that roamed around Scotland. Several animals were held sacred to the Caileach. The deer being the most prominent. Many legends have here protecting herd of deer from hunter and woe to the one who killec the wrong one. Goats and boars also fall under her protection. Different legends say that Cailleach would wander the countryside with her herds of goats and open up different wells to help water the landscape.
Christian legends also darken her. In several tales she is depictec as evil. In many of these tales she traps human beings and eats them. Only after terrible battle is she finally slain. Her connection with winter gives her many associate her with Frau Hulda, the Nordic winter goddess. Cailleacb can aldo make predictions when she feels up to it.
This little book is fact filled and informative. Easy quick read. I am sure you will enjoy it ss much as I did. This book gets 5 stars out of five.
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