Brighid & Cailleach
"Brigid and the Cailleach," is depicting the legend that says every year, at the end of Winter, the ancient, grandmother Cailleach ascends the hill on the island of Iona. As she walks up the path to Brigid’s Well, the pounding of her walking stick creates the thunder and rain. Once there, having drunk the water of the Well, the beloved Cailleach transforms into youthful Brigid again. Brigid then rebirths Spring, awakening the blessings and possibilities of a new cycle of Life. ~ By Sue Ellen Parkinson
The legends of Brighid and the Cailleach are stories many follow. However we as an order take these as myths and not facts, so please don't feel you must believe in these stories to be a part of Ord Brighideach. It is our goal for this website to provide all information we can find on our beloved Brighid. It is your job as the reader seeking this information to decide what feels right to you. Take what resonates and leave behind what doesn't.
I as Abbess love the story of the Cailleach going to the well and transforming to the youthful Brighid. This reinforces the thought of rebirth and how life continues each year. However others may feel more connected to the story of Cailleach capturing Brighid and those who see Brighid as just Saint may not recognize the Cailleach as ever existing. All are correct.
The Return of Bride
The Cailleach, the Hag of Winter, had imprisoned a maiden named Bride in Her high mountain home.
She knew that Her son Angus-the-Ever-Young (a Sun God) had fallen in love with this fair girl. The Cailleach also knew that if these two ever married, Her own reign would be over: Angus would be the Summer King and Bride would be the Summer Queen.
Smitten and not to be deterred, Angus set out to find Bride. Irish weather in February could be treacherous, though, so Angus borrowed 3 days from August within which to search.
With this fine weather, he was riding and searching through deep woods. As it turned out, the Cailleach had sent Bride out to take advantage of the sunshine and gather in some more wood for the fire.
Angus searched high and low, and eventually he was led to Bride by the sound of Her singing.
She immediately loved the shining young man just as he loved Her. The two of them eloped.
The furious Cailleach chased after them riding on her shaggy black goat, sending wave after wave of terrible storms to slow them down.
In the end, though, She was forced to recognise that the rising tide of life was too powerful. She cast down her magick hammer at that moment, and turned into a boulder on the side of the mountain, where She had to stay until Winter returned.
The Cailleach is an ancient deity, far predating the arrival of the Celts in Ireland, and it could be that this story is thousands of years old. At any rate, this story illustrates the transition from Winter Goddess to Summer Goddess, the dark face of the year to the bright face of the year.
Source Information: wicca-spirituality.com
The celtics explanation of the seasons were through these two goddessesw. The Cailleach would keep Brigid hostage, locked in a tower for half of the year. That half being that winter season of the year. When the flowers begun to grow back and the sun started to come out more the Cailleach would transform into a rock and wait till winter came again to go back into her duties. While the Cailleach was in this rock form, Brigid would make a run out of the tower and then spring would flourish again once more. These are two in the same goddess. When winter started over again the Cailleach would just grab Brigid back up again and keep her captive in her tower. brigid being the more lighter version of the Callieach and the Callieach being the darker version of the Brigid.
Brigit and the Cailleach
Far away, long ago, in the folds behind Ben Nevis,
lived a Queen who knew her land, root to highest heaven.
She tallied every pebble – quartz, agate, flint or gneiss.
She recognized each magpie, osprey, lark and raven.
The towering Stag came to her hand, calm as any sheep,
salmon leaped against her palm, bear nuzzled at her feet,
babies gurgled in her presence, lying men blushed deep,
young mothers’ milk flowed faster, richer and more sweet.
The Cailleach was her title but her people called her Hag.
She wore no crown, no jewels bold, no cloth of golden thread,
bore a staff of elder wood and wore a homespun rag,
walked moor, field, crag and bog with silent barefoot tread.
At home her cauldron simmered slow, upon a stony hearth
where no one dared to stir the pot for fear of evil eye.
Healthy bairns tumbled soft against the hard-packed earth
but only daughters lived full-span, sons were raised to die.
The land demanded sacrifice to turn its seasons round,
The Cailleach paid a heavy price in kingly sons and proud;
brewed their limbs, cooked their blood and poured it on the ground,
walked the fields, strewed the bones, but never cried aloud.
Ten thousand generations passed as Cailleach kept the rite,
wild oxen calved, the house dogs whelped, each year produced a crop.
One day she heard a baby’s mew, faint with thirst and fright,
found it naked, starved and lone, upon the mountain top.
Blonde babe as fair as she was dark; blue eyes to snapping black,
Hag raised the girl child, bore her back to join the nursing brood;
of all the cubs that sucked her paps Brigit showed most knack
for following her mother’s lead, matching mood for mood.
The Cailleach taught her secret paths and passes through the peaks,
wet places where the wild herbs grow and roe deer bend to drink.
She darked the fairy skin with stain, dressed her in wool breeks,
disguised the beauty of the girl – golden, cream and pink.
But Brigit’s brother was not kin – he spied her at her bath.
Passion broke a lifetime’s bond in just a single hour,
he pressed his suit, revealed his fate, dared the Mother’s wrath,
long before the moon arose he forced her love to flower.
Foster daughter stole the cauldron. She stirred it as they fled;
fog rolled from the broth she spilled, thick, drab, enshrouding mist.
Cailleach followed close at hand, rage turned her black eyes red.
She badgered them with spitting sleet and brilliant lightening twist.
Bride whistled up a binding curse that hardened Hag to stone,
settled with her lover, changed moor to plow-tamed county.
Without its queen wild land grew dim, abandoned and alone,
without its blood the earth grew bare, refusing men its bounty.
Nature needs its wilderness, barbaric, savage, bleak,
unbroken woman, feral man, their wanton roaming child,
un-furrowed prairie, standing grove, boisterous, roiling creek
independent, never found housebroken or beguiled.
So Brigit whistled backward to release the stone-bound Hag.
Crone hissed at maid, she howled, they cried, moving toward reason;
the substitute for man-blood — a heart of ox or stag,
maiden to rejoin crone in spring and summer season.
We still call out sweet Brigit’s name when Imbolc day draws near
to pull her from her lover’s bed out into the field,
to charge the land with tenderness, revive what’s cold and sere,
call up green shoots, redden buds, bring us fruitful yield.
©2016 Christine Irving Sitting on the Hag Seat: A Celtic Knot of Poems