A Song of Cycles and The Wild Goddess

Words by Kat, who embodies the Winter goddess at this week’s Hearth Fire (Digital Samhuinn Fire Festival).

“From deep in the earth, a call was heard…”

The Cailleach hears that call, and starts her journey. 

Katie O’Neill, who embodied the May Queen for the last three years at Beltane Fire Festival, wrote this song with me, as she de-roled from May Queen, about the transition of the goddess into the Cailleach. We felt it important to mark this stage in the cycle with a simple song, recorded in the wild by a little fire, to express our thoughts on the journeys we’ve gone through while embodying the May Queen and the Cailleach. 

As the May Queen is to Spring and Summer, so the Cailleach is to Winter. They are aspects of the triple goddess – maiden, mother and crone – phases of life, and of the year. When the darker days creep upon us, as they do now, the crone steps into her power, and Winter creeps over the land. The archetype of the crone, the wise woman, and the hag, exists across many cultures globally, and is equally feared and revered for the lessons she teaches us about the cycles of life, death and rebirth. 

The May Queen at Beltane Fire Festival 2018. Copyright Asier Goikoetxea for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. http://www.beltane.org / http://www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

The Cailleach at Hearth Fire. Copyright Jacob Forsyth-Davies for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. http://www.beltane.org / http://www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

The Cailleach has taught me that there is a strange wild creature inside me, who longs to scamper about the forest, to rub earth and blackberry juice over her body, screech into a fire and be at peace with all the aches and pains and fragility of body and mind.

She is silly and rude, and wise and wrathful. She doesn’t care what you think of her stretch marks or her tangled hair, or the way she walks down the street adorned with bones and carrying a huge stick. She will not be silenced, or told she is “too much”.

She longs for the scream that bursts forth when she dashes into the freezing north sea in November, for the echoing boom of drums so loud it rattles her bones, for the earth to eat her up and a fire to wash her clean. If you too notice a creature like her somewhere inside, shrieking and howling to run free, the best thing you can do is let her out! 

The Cailleach this year is weird, and silly, and eerie, and powerful. She dances a spiral dance in and out of the earth. She is a wild and elemental force that lives and breathes with me on this journey.

The spiral is an ever-present theme in this year’s online version of Samhuinn Fire Festival. I feel that we are all always spiralling in and out, in and out, throughout our lives. The spiral journey is balance, it reminds us that we are always at one stage of a journey; from May Queen to Cailleach, from Autumn to Winter to Spring, from the light to the dark.

I hope it can be a source of solace, in these strange times, and that our festival lights a few fires for people, to keep warm on their journey into winter…

Hearth Fire takes place on Saturday 31 October from 7PM. You can watch it here on on our website, on Facebook and YouTube. Book your pay-what-you-can ticket from Citizen Ticket.

Featured image by Raini Scott for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.

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