Cailleach the great Gaelic Goddess of Winter

In Gaelic mythology (Irish, Scottish and Manx) Cailleach is a creation goddess. She is commonly known as the Cailleach Bhéara and in Scotland also as Beira, Queen of Winter.  In partnership with the goddess Brìghde, they rule the seasons. Cailleach governs the winter months between Samhainn (1 November ) and Bealltainn (1 May), while Brìghde rules the summer months between Bealltainn and Samhainn. It is said that Cailleach carries a staff that freezes the ground.

Cailleach is credited with making numerous mountains and large hills. Across the Gaelic world there are a number of locations named after her such as Ceann Caillí the southernmost tip of the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. There are also ancient stones and burial mounds that are associated with Cailleach and have legends attached to them. Such as Glen Cailleach which joins to Glen Lyon in Perthshire, Scotland. The glen has a stream named Alt nan Cailleach. There is a small Shieling (hut) in the Glen, known as Tigh nan Cailleach which has a number of carved stones. Local legend says they represent the Cailleach, her husband the Bodach, and their children. It is said that Cailleach and her family were given shelter in the glen by local people. When they left they gave the stones to the locals and vowed that as long as the stones were put out to look over the glen at Bealltainn then placed put back into the shelter for the winter at Samhainn then the glen would continue to be fertile. This is a ritual that continues to be followed.

Another of the many places associated with Cailleach is the Gulf of Corryvreckan which is a narrow strait between the islands of Jura and Scarba, in Argyll and Bute, off the west coast of mainland Scotland. It is notorius for powerful Atlantic currents and fast flowing tides. Combined with a number of under water features this creates whirlpools. This includes the Corryvreckan which is the third largest whirlpool in the world and a very dangerous place for people who do not know to avoid it. In Scottish mythology Cailleach washes her great plaid in the Corryvreckan as winter approaches. The plaid being a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket. This is the sign that autumn is changing to winter. When she is finished washing, the cloth is pure white, and becomes the blanket of snow that covers the land.

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