The Cailleach


DeborahAnne MacGillivray

Cailleach (Call y-ach) is the Gaelic word for old woman, but used in a
most generic term to represent the third face of the Goddess, the Goddess
of Horses and War.  While manyportray her as old, this is really wrong. 
She is eternally beautiful, forever young.  She is called Carlin in the Lowlands
of Scotland, Hag of the Beare or Cailleach Bhuer (Blue woman - likely from
the Picts painting themselves with blue woad) in the Highlands,
Cally Berry in northern Ireland, Black Annis in England (Annis also being a
name for the Auld Pict Water Goddess predating the invasion of Pictland by
the Gaels from Dalriada), and Calleach ny Croamch on the Isle of Man, with
many, many variations. She is also called the Stone Woman, but I believe
this to be an incorrect translation and should be the Woman of the Stones,
referring to the many stone circles throughout Scotland, Ireland,
England and Wales.

Her name is in Scottish and Welsh Triads, even faery stories speak of her
as the final phase of the Triple Goddess, as the old woman who dies at
Samhaine, only to be reborn in the form of the maiden/bride at Beltaine.
The Book of Lecan stresses this continual wheel of reincarnation by saying
she has seen seven cycles of birth, life and death and has had seven mates.
Seven is considered a sacred number, the symbol of perfection attained.

She was thought to control the Seasons and the weather, and could
unleash terrible storms. The once all-powerful Goddess, Queen of
Samhaine, has been stripped of her role in the pagan drama of life, death
and rebirth, reduced to the evil blue-faced faery-giant, with green fangs
and dirty white fair, who brings death and Winter, or the feeble crone who
sits by fireside and protects the family and their cattle, wanting only a cup
of milk. Worse insult is the depicting of her as the cackling, black-clad,
green-faced, cartoonish, broom-riding witch of commercialised Halloween.
Despite this terrible perpetuated misrepresentation, she was thought never
to grow old, but remained ageless, womanhood fully realised, beauty, wisdom
and magickal powers at their peak.

Ravens, crows, the waning moon, Winter, turnips (Scots' for pumpkins
- in Scotland a turnip is neep!), the harvest, cider, mead and falling
leaves are associated with her.

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ęCopyright 2000
DeborahAnne MacGillivray
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