Embracing the descent – facing the darkness together with our Cailleach

Meet our Cailleach, the Winter goddess who will be embodied by Helen at this year’s Samhuinn Fire Festival.

She came calling from the depths of illness and grief; bare-knuckle thumping at my door and hissing like a snake around my ankles. Through nocturnal realms of skin, fungi and hair and waking visits from moths, jays and mugwort.

It was Samhuinn 2005, curious and wide-eyed that I first found myself caught up in the maelstrom of the Cailleach and Winter Drummers and have since thought of that as the night I was ‘shook alive’. I have been weaving in and out of Beltane Fire Society in many guises since – I enjoy consciously marking the turning of the wheel in many different ways but always with connection to the wild nature of things and the goddess in Her limitless forms.

Helen performing in Samhuinn Fire Festival 2017. Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved.

This year the Cailleach is demanding that we pay attention, hone our awareness and act from a place of fierce unbridled love. 

I’m interested in how we welcome the descent in a society that so values the ascent. How do we travel down into the dark earth, into Winter, facing our pain, loss and sorrow? And is it only then that we are able to metabolise this into something which holds great potential for renewal, deep connection and healing? How must we honour the abundance we’ve shared, the land that supports us and pay respect to those places that have been neglected, destroyed and are crying out for attention? How do we do this as responsible guardians of our Earth?

I wish to dedicate time and space for those who feel drawn to grief (in its broadest sense), tending and providing the opportunity to simply gather and explore the darkness – its necessity, beauty and potential for transformation. I’m committed to discovering where this is held in my body, endeavouring to meet it with courage, curiosity and wild rage – dancing through the vulnerability and shame. I will move with it and allow it to move me until the work is done and invite you all to join me in this sacred dance. 

Helen as a Blue at Samhuinn Fire Festival 2013. Copyright Anna Chaney for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved.

I hope that through our sincere, sublime and spectacular ritual theatre, we will together create something that not only tells our story of Summer’s final breath and the inevitable return of Winter but that ultimately unifies and inspires how we all continue together on this precious planet.

I’m honoured and thrilled to have the opportunity (as my flesh and bone human self) to embody the Cailleach for Beltane Fire Society this Samhuinn Fire Festival. I’m thrilled in anticipation of all the threads that are already being spun, those yet to form and enticing visions of them all binding together.

She loves fiercely. 
She is still angry.
She loves fiercely.

Featured image by Vince Graham, Anna Chaney, and Helen Copley for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.

Tickets for Samhuinn Fire Festival are available to buy online from Citizen Ticket. Join the Facebook event here.

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