At Spring Equinox it is the great crone brings us out of the months of darkness, drawing us into the light half of the year again. Over the years her story has morphed and changed in reflection of people’s beliefs - this one and mighty crone who created the landscape is reduced to an evil old hag who becomes jealous of the new life and beauty of spring represented by Brighid.
This is not my story. My Cailleach hasn't gone anywhere, she didn't fight with anyone. As spring unfurls in the great greening she merely took off that winter plaid and released that tender green she has been carrying all winter. She spends her spring and summer days walking the mountains and hanging out with her herds of deer, her fairy cattle. Enjoying the births and death. In fact, if you climb to the heights of a Scottish or Irish mountain you might even hear the snoring of this great hag!
Throughout the year I always feel that this old hag has got my back - summer, autumn, winter or spring. So in the days leading up to the full moon I out out a call for anyone who wished to offer a prayer to the old one. I am not a priest or a priestess, I am no different to the women who sent their requests from all over the world. The only difference being I was born in the lands of the Cailleach, the lands whose very bedrock is formed from her bones. She is Scottish and Irish (much like myself), she does not walk the land of this continent (US), for the peoples of this land have other great giant women and sacred hags. The people of this land who do see the Cailleach it is because they have blood ties to the lands she was born of. There is no heather or peat, no great Scottish moor or mountains on this continent that belong to the Cailleach.
I gathered the antler (top photo) I found on the way to the Shrine of the Cailleach, I was perfectly happy to just leave the antler in the bog but I felt a push on my shoulder to reach down and take it. The vole or mice gnawings, or perhaps the scrapings of antler on stone when it was attached to the stag's head read like symbols and markings of a secret language waiting to be read.
Prayer for the Cailleach Vigil
I had envisaged a great fire whose sparks would fly up to the stars on the night I ritually burned all the little scrolls of paper but the weather here was torrential rain and the wood and fire pit had transformed into a little pool of water. So I had to improvise under a porch roof, at an angle I could just see the rising moon.
I walked a circle around the table holding the scrolls of paper, I do not call in directions or cast circles but walk the path of the Ancestral Mothers, the path of the year and as I walk those women join me - the wise women and the priestesses, the ancient ones. Not everyone turns up of course!
I lit the little scrolls of paper, there was no great flames but more a smoldering and sometimes that little line of fire circled the scrolls as if accepting the prayers and translated them into a fiery language - to exist just momentarily. Maybe just long enough to reach the old one’s ear, for I have known her to stand so tall that I can see her from this continent over the ocean.
One Samhain eve I was north in Maine walking by the ocean. I felt sad that I wasn’t in Scotland to awake in the morning to see if there was the first dusting of snow on the hills after the old one ushered in Winter wen she washes her great plaid int he whirlpool of Corryvrecken, the cailleach’s cauldron. Suddenly I noticed two clouds appear just over the horizon like two great eyebrows framing two eyes. The branch of a tree beside me formed a nose and a rock in the water resembled lips. I thought I was hallucinating as tis face emerged so I asked a friend and she too saw the face - the face of the cailleach standing so tall that I could see her on another continent!
After alighting all the scrolls I scanned the sky, the moon was now shining and the clouds racing by where illuminated a brilliant white against a dark sky. I practice neldoracht of reading by the clouds and I was surprised I didn’t see something in the clouds, I have seen great hag faces and owls peering down and the holes n the clouds which form their eyes are filled with dark skies and stars.
Then I realized the reading of the clouds wasn’t for me bit for all those whose scrolls were offered to the old hag. So i’m adding some photos below of the clouds and maybe you’ll see a figure or something that catches your imagination which is a message from the old hag to you!