The Cailleach

At home in Scotland and Ireland, she is the Old Woman of Winter who regains her youth each Spring. She is the holder of ancestral wisdom, sitting in meditation on cliffs and mountaintops, through snow and storm. She is the spirit of the land, the possessor of the land's true sovereignty. She is lichen on rock, slow and tenacious; she is the raven taking flight into the cold wind. She is the creator goddess, and her consort is the sun god.


Madame One Tree said...

Do the rock formations in the field somehow resemble people looking into a cave?

Bronwyn said...

Yes, that is actually a rock structure called The Cailleach's House, in remote rural Scotland. Here is the full description, quoted from www.phillipcoppens.com:

"The Cailleach was the Celtic creator goddess, encountered throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. In the Lothians, she is particularly linked with another conical hill, Berwick Law. But deep inside the Glen, an almost unique structure can be found to the creator goddess: the house of the Cailleach, or the Tigh Nam Bodach. This small stone structure, located high up the mountains at the head of Glen Lyon, is probably the only surviving shrine to the pagan Mother Goddess, the Cailleach. Until his death some years ago, the last “servant” of the Mother Goddess was Bob Bissett, head stalker of the Invermeran estate.

The house was the home of the Cailleach (Mother Goddess), the Bodach (old Man) and the smaller Nighean (the Daughter), while two smaller children remained inside the house. The Creator Goddess only lived in her house from May 1 to October 30, from Beltane to Halloween, the Celtic festivals that mark the beginning and end of summer.
The Cailleach and her family is symbolised by very heavy water-worn stones shaped like dumb-bells. The Cailleach herself is some 18 inches high, while her Daughter is only 3 inches tall.
The Cailleach resided past Loch Lyon, up Glen Cailleach, named after her. Fresh thatch was placed on the roof, and the stones were brought outside to watch over the herds during the summer. When the herds moved in October, the divine family were sealed up for the winter and the house was made weather tight. The ritual was said to have been performed for centuries until the pattern of farming changed, and as sheep replaced cattle, and the people moved away, the cult diminished – but Bob Bissett continued the custom.
The two glens show the relationship between the Mother Goddess, the Creator, Cailleach, and the Sun God, Lugh, Glen Lyon. That it is in this remote region that worship of the Cailleach has persevered into the 21st century should not come as a surprise.

The name of the House is known both as 'Tigh na Cailliche' (A L F Rivet, 1961) or 'Taigh-nam- Bodach' (A C Thomas and A Ross), depending on which deity would take precedence, the Cailleach or the Bodan.
Archaeological reports from 1967 stated that originally, there were 12 stones inside, which one source felt could be linked with St Meuran and his eleven disciples. If this was ever the case, it is clear that it were the locals trying to put some Christian veneer on their pagan worship – and not the other way around…
The house is measured at 2.0m x 1.3m with walls 0.4m high, with an entrance to the east, and roughly roofed with stone slabs.
In 1962, two other possible shielings were visible to the east and north-east, but they were deemed to be too ruinous for certain identification.


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