Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Cailleach, Winter Goddess of the Celts

The Cailleach was honored throughout the ancient British Isles as a Winter and crone or hag Goddess. She is the bringer of the long cold nights of winter, she is the mountains covered in snow, she is the bringer of death, the deciding factor of Spring and a very ancient Goddess. She has many faces as a Goddess. She is known in Scotland as Cailleach Bheur, or divine hag, who is said to be blue faced with long silver hair and grey clothing. She is said to be fierce and have a chilling appearance.

In Ireland she was known as the Cailleach Beara and was seen as a hag Goddess associated with weather and the mountains. There is a tale of the Cailleach Beara, similar to that of the Morrigan's, in Celtic legend, where an old hag near a river asks a hero of battle to make love to her, and if he does, she turns into a beautiful woman and the hero is handsomely rewarded. She is named for the cliffs and mountains in Ireland, like "The Hag's Head" on the Cliffs of Moher. She was seen as the land and the bringer of winter, an ancient Goddess or creatrix.

The Cailleach is the one who decides the fate of Spring to come. On the eve of Brigid's day, February 1st, the Cailleach hides in her snow covered mountains, and it is up to her whether or not Spring shall come, or if winter will last a little longer. She is said to gather firewood, and on February 1st if the sun is shining, it means that the Cailleach has fooled the desire of spring. If the weather is foul then it means that the Cailleach is sleeping and will soon need more wood for her fire, so winter will be over quickly.

This ancient Goddess or creatrix has many guises and is associated with many other Celtic Goddesses. This seems to be a theme in Celtic mythology. All of the Celtic Goddesses have different faces of one another, seeming to connect them all into one universal Great Mother deity.

The Cailleach is honored at winter and spring festivals and is even associated with Beltane and Samhain. She is associated with mountains and the landscape, winter, storms and the crone.

I hope you enjoyed learning about this ancient Goddess of Winter!

Photo courtesy of Michael Hickey


  1. A lovely image and very interesting as always. I am looking forward to Imbolc, just around the corner, there is always a celebration here in Glastonbury, despite the cold and it marks the early days of spring. Already there are bulbs poking through the earth.

  2. Such an interesting post, as usual! Thank you so much.


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