An Cailleach - The Wise Woman

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An Cailleach - The Wise Woman

As we prepare to journey with an Cailleach this Samhain, I wanted to write a bit about who she is an why we should emabark on such a journey with her. 

“The Cailleach has universal qualities. She is not a goddess of “fertility or death” or of any single thing. She is a primordial being who is both transcendent and immanent.”

The Cailleach has been associated with Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. These places are covered in shrines, sacred sites and natural landscapes named after her.

Stories tell of how the Cailleach constructed cairns, and megalithic tombs all in one night. In Ireland the most famous of these is Sliabh na Caillighe, at Loughcrew in County West Meath, Ireland. 

They are also known as the old Woman’s mountains or the hill of the Witch. On top of these 3 hills are Cairns or Passage graves, and they are also known as “womb tombs”. At the hilltop surrounded by the Cairns sits the Hag’s chair. Local lore says that one who sits on this chair will be granted one wish.

An Cailleach has many stories written about her, that of an amazing powerful woman who leaped from hill to hill to magically create Cairns and monuments. She is associated with longevity, strength and wisdom.

Later stories depict her as a hag, a witch.

There is an old Irish proverb where a boy asks “ how do you know if it’s going to rain?”, “ because the scald crow screamed it and the deer spoke it”, this proverb then evolves into “ heed not the scald crow nor the deer and heed not a woman’s words, whether its early or late the sun rises, the day will be as God wills it”.

The efforts of those to drown out the stories of an Cailleach and to demonise her have not succeeded. She is ever present and ready to guide us within to reclaim the Wise Woman that resides within all of us. 

There is a story about an Cailleach when she met St Patrick and he asked her how did she manage to live so long, she replied “ I didn’t ever carry the muddy dirt of one place beyond that of another place without washing my feet first”.

So on this Samhain journey to the womb tomb of an Cailleach it is time for us Women to follow in the footsteps of an Cailleach, it’s time to wash our feet and let go of all that has gone by and dream a new world.

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