The Hag is Here and the World is Descending into Darkness
Shocking Sight in the Scrying Mirror
With candlelight dancing, the fragrance incense enveloping my nose, I gazed into the black glass. I could feel a presence — the hairs on the back of my neck were raised, chills trickled up and down my back, and the subtle feeling of an energy poking at my aura was stronger than anything I’ve ever felt. I cast a protective circle, called upon my gods to stand guard against the malicious, and i had the power of the land, sea and sky coursing through my body like water gushing through canyons. Now, in the past when I used a mirror to scry the messages received were with my Third Eye, the pictures or words flashed in my mind as if projecting onto a screen in my head. This time was different. I was gazing into my reflection, through my reflection into the black void of mystery and it happened.My face began to change — my left eye twitched in the reflection and when I brought my hand to my face to see if it was really happening my heart began to pound against my chest when my face was not actually moving. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that i was in my safe place, that nothing malicious could get through so there was no need to lose concentration. I watched, and to my horror and fascination my eye twitched for another few moments then was gone. My face…was not my face…the face in the reflection looked discolored, and a deep shadow was cast over the part of the face where the left eye should be. I heard her raspy cackle in my mind, and I knew I was no longer looking at myself, but the Cailleach.
She has many names: the hag of winter, the bone mother, the goddess of death, the dark mother, the harvest goddess. The Cailleach is the one who brings the frost, the one who sends the world into winter, but this is indicative of a bigger theme. She rules over transformation, the cycles of death and rebirth, overcoming fear, darkness and silence. (Patterson, 2015) She is said to be a Dark Goddess, and while she did freak me out with the picture in the mirror, she is not one to be feared…not necessarily anyways.
Dark gods and goddesses are often feared, not because they are scary but because the realms over which they rule are frightening concepts. Change, death, facing and conquering our fears, exploring our Shadow — all things most people try to avoid. The Cailleach is making an appearance in my life because, I believe, I have reached a phase in my spiritual transformation where I would benefit from her wisdom and guidance. I am delving deeper into the Spiritual realm, seeking the wisdom of the mysteries of the universe and magick. According to The Cailleach by Rachel Patterson, there are many lessons to be learned from this old Crone:
The sense of life, death and rebirth — the cycle of life
Protection, as she looks after the earth in its deepest slumber
Life must go on even if threads are cut you can mend them and move forward…
Let go of the old and that which holds you back to be able to move forward…
Work with empathy, love and compassion
Whatever you are doing, give it your all
Look beneath the surface
Shape-shifting — you can be whatever you want to…
Knowledge from our ancestors…
Patterson, Rachel. Pagan Portals — The Cailleach (p. 78). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
The dark gods and goddesses should be embraced rather than hidden from because you need to understand the dark, immerse yoruself in it, in order to appreciate the light. The dark is a place of mystery, and we fear the shadows because we can’t know what is lurking there. Now, please note that by darkness I am not referring to malicious or baneful concepts. The darkness, or the Shadow self is a concept introduced by Carl Jung, inspired by Sigmund Freuds’ theory of the unconscious. The shadow is the part of ourselves that we ignore, hide from even, because it is born of our shame. Taboos, failures, fears, mistakes, trauma — all and more contribute to the Shadow. We cannot grow, much less transform and transcend until we have confronted, connected and come to accept our Shadows. The winter is a time for introspection, so it only makes sense that the Goddess of Winter can help with this.
Goddess of the Water and Land
The Cailleach rules over fresh and salt water in the form of streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean. Water can calm and cleanse. But it is something that should be respected as water can be a powerful force. The devastation of the tsunami several years ago serves as a tragic reminder of how powerful water can be. The element of water rules our emotions. Emotions are certainly stirred up when we delve into the darkness. Cailleach can help us face our fears, understand our emotions, and cleanse us of our shame. Lastly, the shores of the lakes and oceans, as well as the banks of rivers are liminal locatons — places that are in-between. The Celtic people believed that magic was most potent in liminal times and locations. As a goddess of the sea and land, the Cailleach is said to be a powerful magician. She can bring about and help us attain transformation and enlightenment. (Patterson, 2015)
One of the myths surround the Cailleach is that she formed the mountains when stones in her apron pocket fell out and landed upon the earth. This myth depicts her as a giantess, alluding to her divinity (Celtic myths often reveal a god/desses divinity by describing them as giant in stature). This myth also tells us that she rules over the land, the element of earth. This is the element of strength and stability. Being a goddess who balances between the earth and sea, Cailleach has the ability to provide us with wisdom from our ancestors as well. (Patterson, 2015)
My Experience with the Cailleach
The Cailleach is one of the gentlest goddesses I’ve worked with, despite her assignment as a Dark Goddess. Some dark goddesses, such as the Morrigan, show love by stabbing you with the truth, her words often as sharp as a blade. Hecate, a Greek Titaness, is intimdating because of her sheer size, and being older than time gives her a somewhat daunting energy. My first thought when I was introduced to the Cailleach (by the Morrigan actually) was that she reminded me of the run-away granny from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Age has withered her bones, so she stood hunched leaning on a walking stick. Her skin has a pale blueish tint, and her left eye was just a shadow. She’s funny and sweet though. One time while pathworking I asked her how she lost her eye and she chuckled and told me “ah, I was young and learned the hard way not to run while holding a stick”. It made me laugh, which was what I needed. She knew that — she’s a goddess, so of course she knew.
She is a great goddess to turn to when you need someone who will be delicate with your feelings but strict enough that you gain the discipline you need to accomplish your transformation. If you make a promise to the Cailleach — any god or goddess actually — you better be prepared to keep it. The gods are not here to serve us, they have their own perogative. When humans fail to keep a promise it will piss them off and they will either reak havok until you fulfull your end of the bargain, punish you, or drop you like a hot potatoe. I have not yet made any bargains with the Cailleach, only sought her out to build a relationship and ask her if I am doing what I must to attain the transformation I need. When I do, though, trust I will not make any promises I can’t keep. Always keep in mind that you do not have to do what the gods ask of you, you can negotiate, ask to know why, and ask them for something in exchange.
Working with the Cailleach
Being a goddess of the land and sea, offerings representing either element have gone well for me. She appreciates offerings that have significance, but will happily accept offerings of food or herbs if you haven’t time to prepare something with sentimental value. I’ve offered pebbles and dried reeds that washed ashore from a local pond, patchouli, cloves, drawings or clay sculpted to depict a spiral, sea shells and sea glass. I’ve offered soil and fresh flowers from my garden as well.
Working with the Cailleach is not unlike working with any other goddess. Before going right to holding out your hands like a small child begging for candy, take time to get to know her. Rachel Patterson’s Pagan Portals book is a great reference.She provides a meditation to meet the Crone, and it is really helpful in learning about her, getting a sense of her personality and energy. She is an easy goddess to approach, and has a sense of humor so don’t take yourself too seriously when working with her. She is associated with veils, and can see right throughthe veils we put up to hide our true selves. This means don’t try to put on an act, she already sees into your soul. Be yourself, be honest, and don’t be afraid to ask her questions. Ask about the sea, about ancestors, about herself. Just like any other relationship — get to know each other.
This goddess was most definitely trying to get my attention so I started on a journey with her that I have never regretted, not even on the bad days when she kicks my butt because I don’t listen…
Patterson, Rachel. Pagan Portals — The Cailleach (p. 1). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.