Hallo! I’m Sarah, and I’ll be doing my best to embody the Cailleach this Samhuinn.
I’m very fond of birds, and watching people do wonderful things they didn’t think they could do. I spend far-too-much-and-nowhere-near-enough time in my little garden, and my funeral plan mostly revolves around stealing small triangular sandwiches.
I’d like to ramble for a little while on what the Cailleach means to me, and what I hope to create over the next few months with you.
For many (including me), the Cailleach is the same Maiden who brought in the Spring so long ago: the Goddess, who grew into the Mother, and now, at last, into the Crone. She means a hundred things to a hundred people, and we each see her in our own way – a Goddess, a concept, yer Granny, a good story, a newly-forged legend, an ancient myth.
For me, fundamentally, the Cailleach is the personification of Winter – no more or less a God than Death itself.
Winter is when the land rests.
For me, the Cailleach doesn’t pull the leaves off the trees, or colour the hares in white, but reminds us to prepare for the winter She inevitably brings. She is Certainty. She is the tester of lessons learned. She is the voice that says “It is time to do what needs done, and do it well.”
As the summer weather fizzles from stifling heat to torrential rain and back, the new year is already growing. You can find it, right now, deep inside a thousand green fruits – on the trees, on the weeds.
And when I consider Her – the Goddess, now, as the fruits ripen and the world starts to look towards what comes after – I can’t help but consider what seeds I’m growing within myself. Plans, hopes. Half-finished stories.
What is perennial within you? What inside you needs to drop its leaves to get through winter, and what is evergreen?
What is ephemeral within you? What will you let go of, when winter comes? Those things whose vines are doomed to wither in the first frost – what do their green fruits look like?
I feel the Cailleach in the urge to save seeds. In the urge to mend my winter clothes. In the stubborn urge to find some kind of closure. To find out which stories I make a bed for, and for which stories I dig a grave. I feel Her most in the urge to obstinately, cantankerously cajole YOU into doing the same thing; so that’s what I’ll do.
Winter is when the sky wakes.
The wild dance of the winter wind. The pounding rain swallowed up by the roaring sea. The clouds that bubble and roil as if tumbling out of a great boiling cauldron. The cackling lightning crack, and the deep, rich, long midnight it bursts through. The brilliant, beautiful, blinding snow that screams through the silver sky – or drifts, soft and silent, into a blanket, over the slumbering land.
I see the Cailleach in the storms.
And She comes clad in the songs of thunder.
Come save your seeds, mend your coats, seek the place where something ends and begins all at once. Come and celebrate the last beautiful moments of the stories we’ll let go of, come and revel in the joy of the stories we’ll keep with us.
Come and dance to the songs of thunder.
Image copyright Katherine Bradley for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.