Coming Home for Samhain by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Tigh nan Cailleach, House of the Cailleach, Glen Lyon, Scotland

Samhain is the beginning of winter according to the Celtic calendar. On this day, people brought their livestock in from the pastures and settled by their hearths to survive the coming cold until the magical renewal of spring. Here in New England, leaves are beginning to blaze red-gold, plants to brown as nutrients fill their roots, and animals to nestle underground to hibernate. Across the northern hemisphere, we should once again begin our own retreat below the the busyness of our lives to re-energize and plan for the fruition of spring works.

I’ve usually thought of winter as a time of withdrawal from other beings and the world, but maybe Celtic tradition offers us a more nuanced way of perceiving this season. A wonderful Scottish Samhain story has made me rethink of winter as a time to also reconnect and re-vitalize each other and chart our course to spring’s promise together. I cannot say what the story means to those from whose land it emerged, but I can share the thoughts it evokes in me. Settle in, get comfy, and listen…

Continue reading “Coming Home for Samhain by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

The Appalachian Cailleach Speaks by Annelinde Metzner   

The Cailleach is a Celtic Ancestor-Goddess, a Divine Hag, a Crone who controls the winter winds in the far reaches of remote places. Living in the still-wild mountains of Western North Carolina, I’ve found it is easy to conjure up the Cailleach rising up through a rhododendron “hell.” She certainly took my breath away, and captured my consciousness, when I wrote this poem in 1995. Some years later, Lisa Sturz of the Red Herring Puppets created for me the eight-foot tall, wearable Grandmother puppet you see here. She has appeared in a number of my theater productions to the Goddess, while the poem was being dramatically read, with improvised music on the psaltery. Grandmother is happy to be coming out of my basement once more, for the Samhain service at our Unitarian church here in Black Mountain.

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Slaying Dragons Our Own Way, Part II by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Cailleach Beira
Cailleach Beira

Assipattle and the Mester Stoorworm is a Scottish dragon-slayer folk tale with many enticing details linking it to elements of an older culture centering the Earth with a reverence for female spiritual power. You can read a summary of the story and these clues in Part I.

While the tale was obviously not originally meant to reflect the 21st century, it has echoes of our own society’s challenges today, including inequality, injustice, violence, and ecological disaster. It may be a revision of an older story but, not knowing what that story was, we can perhaps re-envision the story to be meaningful for our own time with the characters and practices hinted at in the details. Maybe something like this (I’ve named Assipattle’s unnamed sister Morag) …

Continue reading “Slaying Dragons Our Own Way, Part II by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Slaying Dragons Our Own Way, Part I by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Monster of the Sea

In winter people traditionally gather around the fire to enjoy stories as the stormy winds thunder outside. Come closer to the hearth as I regale you with Assipattle and the Mester Stoorworm, a centuries-old dragon-slayer folk story from Scotland’s Orkney Islands with many Norse elements. On the surface, it is a fairy tale about a village threatened by a gigantic sea serpent and how they responded to this existential threat. Though meant to entertain with its adventure and romance, it also has many details that perhaps link it to older roots of a culture that centered the Earth and healing and revered female spiritual power, all of which are profoundly needed in our own time. If we re-envision the tale through the lens of these clues, we may be able to find guidance for how our own communities — local, national, and global — can more successfully confront profound challenges.

Here is the summarized original tale:

Continue reading “Slaying Dragons Our Own Way, Part I by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Brigit and the Cailleach by Christine Irving

Today, I bring you an old old story from Scotland.  It explains how and why winter became spring.   Cailleach is another name for the Hag – the archetypal Crone.  She represents winter. Brigit is the forever Maiden and stands for spring.  There are many ways to spell her name, all of them correct.  Ben Nevis is a mountain in Scotland and the word bairns means “babies”.

It’s always important to remember that myths come to us through retellings by countless bards and storytellers.  They are layered one on top of the other like palimpsests and sometimes appear contradictory.  I think of stories- particularly the ones who have existed for millennia as three-dimensional puzzles to be slowly played with and unlocked in increments.  Furthermore, what we see and hear in a story means different things to us at different times and circumstances.  There is always something new to be gleaned. Continue reading “Brigit and the Cailleach by Christine Irving”

Cailleach, The Queen of Winter by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoThe 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. Continue reading “Cailleach, The Queen of Winter by Judith Shaw”

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