Following from yesterday's post . . .

Yeah, the 'reality' within the mythology does get problematic - not least because we are routinised to think in terms of pinning down figures and narratives into neat compartments; while less semantic, more symbolic Gaelic narratives, in image or word, involve connecting up and fluidly moving, notionally dancing, from on set of understandings to another. Druid's - proper critical thinking - what were they like :)

That there is more to the Cailleach than meets the eye, and the Christian monks' stated agenda, is, perhaps, clear in what is rarely mentioned . . .

"A creator god" -…/297-the-shrine-of-the-cail…

Hardly a meaning conveyed by 'hag' or 'old crone'.

Unpacking this is tricky, as it can get a bit overwhelming . . . but, in terms of how we might look at the fuller picture of the Cailleach, she shares certain traits and associations with others . . .

Nine Maidens (List from Wikipedia)

Brìde – goddess in England, Ireland and Scotland who was the origin of the Irish St Brigid

Cailleach – The Winter Hag aspect of the Mother Goddess in Scotland. Similarly known in Ireland

Cerridwen – the Welsh Goddess who had a cauldron of poetry and inspiration

Monenna – an early Scottish saint who supposedly had chapels on Dumbarton, Edinburgh and Stirling Rocks, and Traprain Law – all important Dark Age sites.

Morgan - leader of the nine sisters of Avalon.

Rán - Norse goddess of the sea

. . . and the Morrigan - who, unlike Morgan or the Cailleach made into a witch or hag, is instead still a cluster of personified allegories and understandings with more information available and, at least on the surface, more direct routes into the broad regional 'backstory'/ mythography.

We can look to trace Manannan and the Veiled One, in some instances his wife, to pre-Celtic / Morrigan understandings through these layers seemingly added along the way, which see the Christianised Lady of the Lake handing out Manannan's Sword of Truth to the solar hero of whichever evolution of these concepts you wish to go for.

Beyond that, it starts to get . . .

Philologist Rudolf Simek offers the following summary:

…[N]ine is the mythical number of the Germanic tribes. Documentation for the significance of the number nine is found in both myth and cult. In Odin’s self-sacrifice he hung for nine nights on the windy tree (Hávamál), there are nine worlds to Niflhel (Vafþrúðnismál 43), Heimdallr was born to nine mothers (Hyndluljóð 35), Freyr had to wait for nine nights for his marriage to Gerd (Skírnismál 41), and eight nights (= nine days?) was the time of betrothal given also in the Þrymskviða. Literary embellishments in the Eddas similarly use the number nine: Skaði and Njörðr lived alternately for nine days in Nóatún and in Þrymheimr; every ninth night eight equally heavy rings drip from the ring Draupnir; Menglöð has nine maidens to serve her (Fjólsvinnsmál 35ff.), and Ægir had as many daughters. Thor can take nine steps at the Ragnarök after his battle with the Midgard serpent before he falls down dead. Sacrificial feasts lasting nine days are mentioned for both Uppsala and Lejre and at these supposedly nine victims were sacrificed each day.

He speculates that this number’s importance could be derived from the lunar calendar’s 27 days being a multiple of nine.[1]

I will attempt to unravel this a bit later, as it may help to consider the Silver Branch with 3 or 9 apples, which is v much at the heart of the matter and takes us round to the Scathach, who received a mention along the way,

[1] Simek, Rudolf. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. p. 232-233

Sleeping Beauty

The images are composite - so they are accurate representations of multiple angles combined into one. You'd need to be an eagle flying over and in front of the standing stones to get the angle on the first one. The second image maps the moon against video footage and is accurate apart from the apparent depth of the foreground relative to the female figure.

The tell in terms of the labeling of the reclining female figure within the landscape is maybe in the scorn heaped on a figure to the point where she becomes a caricature. In this case the over zealous efforts of early monks and/ or later revisionists righteously editing the past.

In Scottish myth the Cailleach Bheur personifies winter and gives birth to the gods and goddesses. Through the association with winter her name is typically translated as 'Old Hag' across numerous websites - but she was more than an old crone. Her role can/ should be seen as comparable to Thor's mother Jord or the Greek's Gaia - both personifications of the Earth.

Cailleach na Mointeach from Callanish - from left: knee - thigh - breast - face

Equally, she can be understood as the destructive aspect of the triple goddess/ es of Scottish and Irish myth, which are familiar from within Celtic-influenced, or dispersed, culture. But hold on again; that was all about birth - death - rebirth; and places her as part of a cycle instead of as some sort of one dimensional witch figure.

And, eh, wait another minute, the Cailleach was here way before the Celts existed or went wandering around during the Atlantic Bronze Age. She participates in the display of the Lunar Standstill at Callanish on Lewis, which places her - in terms of monuments - back beyond 3,000BC with the 'Atlantic Culture'.

Major Lunar Standstill at Callanish with the moon sinking towards the face of Cailleach na Mointeach

It seems more likely such a figure would be respected and spoken of more along the positive lines of the recent 'Sleeping Beauty' tag applied by some at Callanish - if likely more in terms of a respected 'priestess'.

Which appears to be how it was. In pre-modern Gaelic the title clearly translates as the Veiled One and the form or function is that of a spiritualised or 'wise' woman. We meet her again and again over 5,000 years and, as the feminine 'Veiled One' or 'Veiled Lady', she may re-emerge in the figure of the Virgin Mary upon the Picts' Hilton Stone.

The term Mointeach added at Callanish also yields more information in so far as the current usage/ adaptation to 'Old Woman/ Hag or Lady of the Moors' is using a generic Germanic term to loosely label understanding of highland terrain. It's proving hard to get it quite right conceptually, but roughly translated - Lady wise in the flowers of the peatlands might be closer to the meaning prior to the overwriting of later systems of belief.

More about the 'Celtic' Cailleach, (through the Christian monks' lens), a couple of posts down, as she was mentioned concerning/ is the original Halloween. (While the monks' fought against what they understood as paganism a darker or 'Old Hag' concept may retain a distant echo of the darker side to some of the concoctions offered as remedies. Seeking the advice of a wise woman could save your life by applying an antiseptic to a wound, but the side effects might amount to poisoning).


Was looking at alternative names for the Cailleach, Scotland's ancient naturalistic 'goddess' since it appears Callanish, (so 2600BC if not before), and the various associations with sovereignty of the land, corn dollies, the possible composite between her and Bride . . .

For myself some of this article is a bit too let's interpret on top of the myth and worship rather than study the 'goddess' aka collective mental representation ta v much. However, I mustn't let my preference for crunchy psychology discard experiential psychology . . . please make your own mind up :)

The article certainly seems more informed on some of the detail than almost all of the blog articles on the topic.

The figure is identified as the Veiled One; her presence before the Celtic cultural horizon/ 'Celts' is noted; and her multifaceted nature - as an expression of her communities' understandings - is touched on.

This Cailleach who is also The Girl in the Wheat and the Lady of the Moors is no static character. She's more like a player upon many stages -  in many costumes. A force of nature acting upon, within and with the world.

There's also this:

"She carries a slachdam, the Druidic rod or a hammer with which she wields power over the seasons and the weather, unleashing powerful and cleansing storms."

V speculative to connect 2600BC to 'Druidic', but hammers were part of the high status goods trade of the Neolithic period and as metals arrived myth and folklore would have had to adapt to survive. Perhaps ancient figures such as Manannan and the Cailleach persisted on some levels because, as ideas and understandings portrayed as figures, they were readily open to moving with the times/ held some fairly 'universal' or 'timeless' appeal.