Cailleach, The Queen of Winter by Judith Shaw
The Cailleach (KAL-y-ach), which literally translates as the “Veiled One” is an ancient Goddess whose origins are unknown. When the Celts arrived in Ireland and Scotland she was there. Over time Her name came to mean “old wife” or “old woman”. And yet she was thought to never grow old, an all powerful, ageless, Goddess of transformation.
In one of her stories, Cailleach, as an old hag, seeks love from the hero. If he accepts Her, She then transforms into a beautiful young woman, symbolizing the transformation occurring in the depths of winter when the seeds lay dormant in the earth. Yet alive within this dormancy is the promise of rebirth in the spring. She is the guardian of the life force, finding and nourishing the seeds, commanding the power of life and death. As the final phase of the Triple Goddess, she rules the eternal wheel of reincarnation. Cailleach personifies death and the transformative power of darkness. She leads us through death to rebirth.
The Cailleach, a Dark Goddess of nature, is clearly one with the land. Sometimes depicted with one eye, She sees beyond duality peering into the Oneness of all Being. She is the embodiment of winter, clothing the land with the whiteness of snow. The sacred stones are Her special places. She leaps from mountaintop to mountaintop, dropping rocks to create sacred hills, the Sidhe. 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.
Cailleach’s talismans are sacred stones, the slachdam or druidic rod, sacred hills, ravens, crows, the waning moon, and falling leaves.
As “The Veiled One”, in the quiet, dark of winter, she rules the hidden worlds, reigning over our dreams and inner realities. Accept Cailleach into your heart and feel the unity from which our world of duality springs. The Cailleach can be your guide through the many deaths and rebirths of our life transitions.
This year, 2012, has been heralded as one of great transformation. Now, as we reach that cusp of Winter Solstice on December 21, 2012, allow yourself time to dream, to mediate, to manifest. Allow the power of Cailleach into your soul as we cut through the old and dying ways. As cleansing storms both physical and symbolic sweep over the Earth, remember the promise of Cailleach, the promise of rebirth. May we all find our way safely through these transformative times into a new age of deep connections, harmony, and unity.
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. From a college paper on Beauty and the Beast to a much later series of paintings on Beauty and the Beast…From a student painting of circles to her current fascination with the interlocking circles of sacred geometry…From reading When God Was A Woman in the early 70′s to her ongoing visual exploration of the role of the Goddess in our modern world…From her very first oil painting of a tree to her most current painting, The Mother Tree— her early influences of Jackson Pollack’s abandon, and Van Gogh’s emotionality are evident. Originally from New Orleans, she has traveled in Mexico, Central America, China, Europe and Greece and lived in Mexico and Greece. The passion and bright colors of many of these places have affected her palette and style. Judith makes art, dances with abandon and experiences the world through travel and study. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at