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Author Topic: The Cailleach  (Read 12124 times)
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« Topic Start: October 30, 2010, 08:39:30 pm »

As the weather (finally) turns cool, I'm musing about the seasons and it occurred to me that we (the TC Cill and other interested posters) haven't really discussed the Cailleach and the lore that links Her with Brighid/Bride.

There are different ways to approach the legend -- basically, that the Cailleach imprisons Bride during the winter or that the two are the same Being. 

So, how do y'all approach this aspect of Brighid's story?  Or do you?
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« Reply #1: November 01, 2010, 02:56:05 am »

So, how do y'all approach this aspect of Brighid's story?  Or do you?
It's nothing I personally incorporate, but an interesting link that can be made looking at Cailleach's early role as a land goddess. Her old name was Boí(linked with bó, cow). Cailleach was a Latin loan word in Irish for veil, like the one old ladies&nuns wear on their heads, which is how it became affiliated with old hags&witches. West Munster is known as barren, hard to work land, which is why the Beara Peninsula was linked the the hag form of the Goddess, but being a Goddess linked with a cow(like Brighid's day&Oímelg/lactation/animals) shows her relation to the land.

She's been linked with other Goddesses, and even outside of Munster she's a patroness of wild animals&the harvest, similar to Brighid, even though she's more associated with domestic farm animals, but as we see in the lore previously posted, it shows how they are the same being in some traditions.
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« Reply #2: November 01, 2010, 03:56:26 am »

As the weather (finally) turns cool, I'm musing about the seasons and it occurred to me that we (the TC Cill and other interested posters) haven't really discussed the Cailleach and the lore that links Her with Brighid/Bride.

There are different ways to approach the legend -- basically, that the Cailleach imprisons Bride during the winter or that the two are the same Being. 

So, how do y'all approach this aspect of Brighid's story?  Or do you?

I was actually thinking about posting this, but I never worked up the nerve to do so.  Cheesy

I've been really interested in Cailleach (how is it pronounced, anyways? I'm saying CALL-EE-ACK, but it's probably not right) for a little while now, after pretty much shedding any sort of pretense that I'm going to be following a religious path set by others, only by me. And it might have also not helped that one of the blogs I'm addicted to reading right now (Graveyard Dirt; please be warned some of the images and text are NSFW) and the idea of a very feral, personal witchcraft and connecting with your land as well as your ancestry. I'm also really intrigued by her relationship with the Cailleach and the Bride, as it seems very um.. non-traditional, compared to at least how I've seen others talk about Brighid, but then again if you read the blog, you'll see why.

About 1/4 of my ancestry is Scottish (each of my grandparents came from a different ancestry, these being Irish, Scottish, English, and French, although 3/4 of my grandparents were born and raised here in Canada) and thats been something I've really been interested in as well. The Irish side I'm still working with, because I'm still working on trying to seperate the idea that if I look into Irish mythology and culture, I'm somehow going to lose my mind and descend into a madly "fluffy celtic wiccan witch" mode. Which is irrational, I know.  Cheesy Hence why I'm working on it!

Er, sorry about that tangent. Anyways, I've been thinking about her a lot lately, and I came upon a bit of folklore attributed to her, that it takes her three days of washing her plaid apron in her whirlpool to turn it white, and in those three days the weather becomes very windy, cold, rainy, etc. Ironically thats what happened here. We had I think at one point a windstorm warning (of up to 80 km/h), which ended up breaking our fence (and finding out that the posts had rotted in the ground). After the third day, it began snowing.  Cheesy I ended up running outside like a bit of a loon, poured out all of my whiskey offerings on the ground, and put a bowl outside to capture the first snowfall of the "new year".

I actually ended up having the exact amount of water to put in one of these vials I picked up, when I thought that I wouldn't have enough, and was going to give up and try again after Samhain, but tonight when I tried it out all the water fit exactly. The reason for my previous panic was that I neglected to remember that water evaporates, so when I had left it indoors during the day while I was at work (after bringing it in just before going to work), I think quite a bit of it evaporated.  Cheesy

.. Soo, what does this have to do with the Cailleach? Uh.. after re-reading this, probably not much I guess on the surface. After I recent bout of abandoning yet another path, I got incredibly pissed off and went "FINE. I'LL DO MY OWN THING. I'LL BE MY OWN FIGURE OF WORSHIP." and I came face to face with the idea of the Cailleach. And I said "Well, we'll see." not wanting to go back down another road just to be met with "Sorry, your gods are not in this castle.". I looked her up a little, but didn't do anything. And then the wicked wind and raining happened, something which hasn't happened in almost a month, possibly more considering how long it lasted. The day it snowed (which is day 3 or 4, depending on how you're counting here) was when I remembered that bit of folklore I mentioned two paragraphs up, and things just kind of "clicked". As well as tonight, when I decided to see, after sitting there for two days, if I had enough water to fill the vial (and I did) and things "clicked" again.

Right now I'm going "Well, obviously I'm not getting a "NO! GO AWAY!" response, right?", so I'm being cautiously optimistic.

That's about as "close" as I've gotten with Cailleach so far. I'm very, very intrigued by ideas of Sovereignty and the Hag (although every since I read that Raven Kaldera article, I've never been able to automatically assume hag = old woman, but rather hag = hagia = holy/wise woman. Not that hag = old is wrong! .. Just, not my first internal reaction to the word.) and Ancestors and Death and her duality/relationship She has with the Bride. That's about all I have, beyond a couple articles and first-hand accounts by other people with Her. I don't have much in the way (right now!) of factual/historical evidence, if thats what you happen to be looking for as well. Beyond well Wikipedia.

I'm really interested to see in what others have to say.
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« Reply #3: November 01, 2010, 04:00:52 am »

It's nothing I personally incorporate, but an interesting link that can be made looking at Cailleach's early role as a land goddess. Her old name was Boí(linked with bó, cow). Cailleach was a Latin loan word in Irish for veil, like the one old ladies&nuns wear on their heads, which is how it became affiliated with old hags&witches. West Munster is known as barren, hard to work land, which is why the Beara Peninsula was linked the the hag form of the Goddess, but being a Goddess linked with a cow(like Brighid's day&Oímelg/lactation/animals) shows her relation to the land.

She's been linked with other Goddesses, and even outside of Munster she's a patroness of wild animals&the harvest, similar to Brighid, even though she's more associated with domestic farm animals, but as we see in the lore previously posted, it shows how they are the same being in some traditions.

Is Beira considered a different goddess/figure in mythology, or is that just a title for the Cailleach? I'm leaning towards the latter, but I don't have anything to back that up other than reading about what you've said about the Beara Peninsula.

Also, about her older name... I've read that the Cailleach was known to herd deer, or were at least considered one of her more sacred animals, and that they were even called her cattle.  I wonder if that has any connection to the name "Boí"?
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« Reply #4: November 01, 2010, 04:05:18 am »

I'm really interested to see in what others have to say.

Your post, quite uncannily, hit on a lot of thoughts that have been swirling around in my head recently, and as I was reading, a wind and rain storm started.

So there's something there. I'm not sure what that something is, however. I need time to think and read. So I'm also quite interested in seeing what others have to say.
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« Reply #5: November 01, 2010, 04:25:30 am »

Your post, quite uncannily, hit on a lot of thoughts that have been swirling around in my head recently, and as I was reading, a wind and rain storm started.

So there's something there. I'm not sure what that something is, however. I need time to think and read. So I'm also quite interested in seeing what others have to say.

Glad to have helped?  Cheesy

I'm letting things percolate right now, too. I'm trying out this whole "follow my gut/instinct" thing right now, and so far it's going... not horrible.  Smiley
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« Reply #6: November 01, 2010, 02:34:39 pm »

As the weather (finally) turns cool, I'm musing about the seasons and it occurred to me that we (the TC Cill and other interested posters) haven't really discussed the Cailleach and the lore that links Her with Brighid/Bride.

There are different ways to approach the legend -- basically, that the Cailleach imprisons Bride during the winter or that the two are the same Being. 

So, how do y'all approach this aspect of Brighid's story?  Or do you?

While I sometimes look to the Scottish folklore rather than the Irish (climate being much more appropriate), the Bride-Cailleach connection there doesn't always touch me in the same way. I almost feel that those particular stories are to be read more metaphorically than otherwise.

That said, a brilliant book on Cailleach Irish folklore is Gearóid Ó Crualaoic's "Book of the Cailleach". Very dense, very rich, lots of food for thought.

http://www.corkuniversitypress.com/Book_of_the_Cailleach:_Stories_of_the_Wise_Woman_Healer/21/
http://www.jstor.org/pss/20520872

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« Reply #7: November 01, 2010, 05:35:42 pm »

how is it pronounced, anyways? I'm saying CALL-EE-ACK

I think it's more like Cayl-yuck, but I'm just guessing, really.

Thanks for posting your thoughts.  I'm not sure where my brain is going with this yet -- still mulling.  I've never gotten much of a "click" from the Cailleach stories...until very recently.
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« Reply #8: November 01, 2010, 05:51:32 pm »

I've been really interested in Cailleach (how is it pronounced, anyways? I'm saying CALL-EE-ACK, but it's probably not right)
It could be, it's hard to tell regional accents when reading phonetics  Cheesy.
It sounds like "Kyle-yackt". Kyle like the name, "ya" like the English yacht, and ends like oct as in octagon, or if you know they Irish for eight, "ocht."

Is Beira considered a different goddess/figure in mythology, or is that just a title for the Cailleach? I'm leaning towards the latter, but I don't have anything to back that up other than reading about what you've said about the Beara Peninsula.

Also, about her older name... I've read that the Cailleach was known to herd deer, or were at least considered one of her more sacred animals, and that they were even called her cattle.  I wonder if that has any connection to the name "Boí"?
It's her title, Cailleach Bhéarra(Hag of Beara). Even though she's found throughout the rest of Ireland&Scotland, the Cailleach has roots in West Cork, associated with the Beara Peninsula, as the Cailleach is a reference to the Hag of Beara. Cailleach being associated with a hag, stemming from nuns' veils is a medieval creation.

That could be a connection. Being a patroness of wild animals in some regions, Boí being a variant of bó(cows&cattle), on top of the fact she was related to a cow-Goddess on Inis Boí, and in some legends said to own a big bull called Tarbh Conraidh.
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« Reply #9: November 01, 2010, 07:36:36 pm »

...
It's her title, Cailleach Bhéarra(Hag of Beara). Even though she's found throughout the rest of Ireland&Scotland, the Cailleach has roots in West Cork, associated with the Beara Peninsula, as the Cailleach is a reference to the Hag of Beara. Cailleach being associated with a hag, stemming from nuns' veils is a medieval creation.
...

Funny, I was just about to ask if the Cailleach was related to the Hag of Beara.
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« Reply #10: November 01, 2010, 08:03:22 pm »

(although every since I read that Raven Kaldera article, I've never been able to automatically assume hag = old woman, but rather hag = hagia = holy/wise woman. Not that hag = old is wrong! .. Just, not my first internal reaction to the word.)
Raven's no linguist - that's a positive/inspiring retcon, but it's still a retcon, and one with no linguistic underpinning at all.  The Online Etymological Dictionary has this to say, which has similar implications (and some additional ones that seem to fit rather better in a discussion about Cailleach) without dragging in unrelated Greek.

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« Reply #11: November 01, 2010, 10:25:42 pm »

It sounds like "Kyle-yackt". Kyle like the name, "ya" like the English yacht, and ends like oct as in octagon, or if you know they Irish for eight, "ocht."

I'm glad Riverdance wasn't far off.  Here is a link to youtube of the song Shivna.  The first instance is at 1:26.
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« Reply #12: November 01, 2010, 11:53:26 pm »

Raven's no linguist - that's a positive/inspiring retcon, but it's still a retcon, and one with no linguistic underpinning at all.  The Online Etymological Dictionary has this to say, which has similar implications (and some additional ones that seem to fit rather better in a discussion about Cailleach) without dragging in unrelated Greek.

Sunflower

Mm, I figured. Thanks for that article. It definitely puts things into a better perspective, but I don't think the entry per se says he is completely wrong, but it kind of looks more like a UPG spin on the whole idea? Or maybe thats just because I'm looking at it from that angle.
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« Reply #13: November 02, 2010, 12:03:34 am »

It could be, it's hard to tell regional accents when reading phonetics  Cheesy.
It sounds like "Kyle-yackt". Kyle like the name, "ya" like the English yacht, and ends like oct as in octagon, or if you know they Irish for eight, "ocht."

Wow thats so.. different.  Shocked I have a feeling I'm never going to get used to the idea of how things can sound so different from the way they're spelled in English.

Thanks! Smiley

Quote
It's her title, Cailleach Bhéarra(Hag of Beara). Even though she's found throughout the rest of Ireland&Scotland, the Cailleach has roots in West Cork, associated with the Beara Peninsula, as the Cailleach is a reference to the Hag of Beara. Cailleach being associated with a hag, stemming from nuns' veils is a medieval creation.

Yeah, see thats why I was wondering why Wikipedia had a seperate article on her, or at least why some people had them as seperate goddesses/figures, rather than just as one.

Quote
That could be a connection. Being a patroness of wild animals in some regions, Boí being a variant of bó(cows&cattle), on top of the fact she was related to a cow-Goddess on Inis Boí, and in some legends said to own a big bull called Tarbh Conraidh.

I don't suppose Boí is pronouced like "boy", is it? That would make it too easy.  Cheesy

I read about the bull story on Monstropedia. Thats a uh.. very virile bull.  Cheesy Not exactly too sure how verifiable the website is, but then again a lot of the info on the page are referenced to MacKenzie and Briggs, so I'm taking those ones with a smaller grain of salt than usual (I know Catja recommends Briggs highly; not sure about MacKenzie, as he's the one whose mainly referenced in Beira's scant Wikipedia article).

Thanks for all the information. Cheesy
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« Reply #14: November 02, 2010, 02:37:27 am »

No worries! 

I don't suppose Boí is pronouced like "boy", is it? That would make it too easy.  Cheesy
That's it  Cheesy Anytime a fada pops up, it takes over the sound of another vowel, so that "í=ee" is what comes through, like "boy", or "bwee."
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