Exit the Cailleach

I am well aware that parts of the earth are gripped in a polar vortex, but here in Ireland the old signs of season’s changes still seem to be holding. I woke before full daylight this morning to let the old dog out to find that all the Cailleach’s beautiful snow and ice had melted. It is Imbolc New Moon and this feels especially auspicious that the frost will now be over and the growing can begin to happen in earnest. Mary Pat Lynch in her WordPress blog I read this morning says this is a particularly good new moon for wishes ( http://www.risingmoonastrology.com/new-moon-in-aquarius-brave-new-world.)

But to poetry practice…oh, and Happy Chinese New Year of the Earth Pig! May all your wishes for new projects, beginnings, and prospects come true!

Imbolc New Moon

the Cailleach gave up
Her fight.
The rain melted away
all her will for frost and ice.

The maiden insinuated in
Her light.
She shakes her green skirts out
to dry on bare tree branches.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Nikolai Voelcker on Unsplash

Cailleach Conditions

Poetry practice is a bit hurried (and slightly harried) this morning. I have a workshop this morning and need to get out early and set up the space for the poetry reading and storytelling. Meanwhile, overnight, we have had a generous dollop of snow. Just a couple of inches. But that means extra time clearing off the car, warming the engine…stuff that people in Chicago and Philadelphia do as winter time second nature. But it is rare here in Ireland. Except at this time of year, when the Cailleach really does like to bare her winter teeth. But it is a bit freaky in a land without snow tyres. Because who would have them when you only need them for one morning a year?!

Cailleach Conditions

We are both old(er) girls now,
Ellie the dog and I, and we treasure
our bladders. So we see a lot
of morning dark. But even in today's
peach slice of crescent moon,
it's frail light, the snow overnight
is reflecting just enough
illumination. There is no cloud.
Venus is up there all twinkly bright.
So is Jupiter and that little moon.
It is just Ellie, Aphrodite and Zeus
and me here
with the Cailleach's cold
standing in the porch doorway
with rapidly cooling cup of tea.
I softly call Ellie to come back in
out from the snow. Not to linger.
Now we are both old(er)
there is this fascination with
darkness, cold,
the company of starry gods.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Two-faced January

Just as I was rejoicing the gorse being back in bloom yesterday and the coming of spring…we woke up to this.

two-faced January
The Cailleach likes her little jokes…

and you really know why January is named for the two-faced God. We even have a stone idol of Janus in Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Obviously, that resonated with typical January weather here. So they erected a god to appease.

Fermanagh Janus in Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark
Fermanagh Janus figure

It’s that typically wet, slushy Irish snow. It won’t last the day. Or most of it won’t down where we live. Up on the mountains it will cling on in the Cailleach’s natural habitat. Then some proper snow begins to drift down, which makes me wonder will it accumulate.

But it was time to get down to poetry practice.

I noodled with some haiku. Watched the birds visit the feeders, which my dear husband replenished first thing. Watched the sky change and change again. Refused to let the cats out to worry the birds. Wondered at how the Cailleach really does like to jerk our chains by throwing sleet and slushy snow at us just as the bulbs are coming up and the days get brighter and we are beginning to come out of our winter hidey holes. Watched how the dreary grey dueled with a feisty bolt of sunshine, which then would retreat. The Maiden Brigid is still flexing up for this fight.

Then this…


If we could map the sky
from that flash of sun bursting
briefly on the western horizon
and the passing grey plummeting,
its iron curtain in the east.

If we could map the shifting of cloud
the patches of azure blue
that then go sallow all
within the space of an hour,
and less.

But who's marking time
like you would count a stitch?
Change is constant. Time slips.
I watch the morning snow melt
drips from the eaves.

Minutes matter. They are also all for naught.
We think that we can map the sky,
plot our direction and make a path.
But we have no Fate immunity.
Plans cannot out run getting caught.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image for the haiku meme today – Photo by Anthony Ievlev on Unsplash

The Cailleach in Her Winter Cave

cailleach in cave

In Irish and Scottish lore, the Cailleach (sounds a bit like Cal-yuk) is Mother Winter. In some myth she is credited with creating this known part of the world by emptying her apron of stones to build these island kingdoms. She is the crone, the aging year. In springtime there is a stand off with the maiden at Imbolc and the struggle between the old and the new life is played out until the vernal equinox, when the maiden clearly ought to be the victor.

This primordial crone has echoes in other cultures goddess myths. I see her in a keening Demeter bereft of her daughter. I see her in Hecate who has the wisdom to help lead the world back to some kind of equilibrium with Persephone restored and the earth renewed and fruitful. Those who have never known food shortages, especially over winter, can barely imagine the desperation that our ancestors must have felt as they implored the earth to provide sustenance and succour. Our Midwinter feasts are based on using up perishable foodstuffs; and then comes time for preserving energy until the new planting season arrives. That’s when our ancestors did take a cue from bears and hibernate to conserve energy and food.

Today’s image is a photo I took when visiting Mother Shipton’s Cave in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire in 2016. Mother Shipton, with her living in the king’s woodland and this cave, with her prophecying, is a more modern embodiment of the crone or cailleach energy. She is a wise woman, as well as the cunning woman. And she is old, old, old.

The Cailleach in Her Cave
Deep in her winter cave
the Cailleach sits and croons.
She keeps with her a dog
whose coat is black at pitch.
She keeps the dog to have
company. But she has
with her a silver wolf
to keep strangers at bay.
Deep in her winter cave
the crone has her own light.
It is not a lantern.
Her right palm is alight.
She tosses that fire
like she would her dog’s ball.
She plays with it and it’s
not for warmth or cooking pot.
She has other needs. Look!
She watches it play out
bouncing on the walls like
a metronome for tunes.
She croons to the shadows.
She croons to winter cold.
She croons to her wolf pal.
She croons to her black dog.
She holds a tinderbox
in her other palm. It will
never scorch or cinder burn.
She keeps the need fire.
Deep in her winter cave
the Cailleach plays the light
and no matter how small
it shines on winter nights.
Copyright© Bee Smith 2018

Winter is Coming

Have you heard  about the Cailleach? She is well known in Celtic lands. She is not only the bringer of winter, she was the creatrix of this land. She emptied her apron full of stones to make these islands on the fringe of Europe. Like a Pictish warrior she is sometimes imagined with a blue face. She is older than everything and only yields to the maiden Brigid in springtime when it is time for the world to resurrect and grow.  So she is death and endings, before she reinvents herself as the fertile maiden in springtime.

Looking at photos from years past I can tell that winter has advanced by comparison to previous years. The outer is mirroring the inner reality. The weather is matching the world climate.  To make your self feel better you might want to refer to an earlier post inspired by Traci Yorke Freezer Spell.

One must take one’s cheer where one can find it and make it. The Cailleach is a crone. Old women can be dangerous.

Winter is Coming


There is a cold wind this morning

and a leaden sky.

I cannot but help to think winter

is coming early.


The leaves are being shaken down

piling on the ground.

Early frost has blackened bracken

leaving it face down.


The Cailleach once upon a time

built this world of stone,

comes once more with her apron

of stones she will hurl.


The Cailleach comes in stone cold rage.

Winter is coming.

Hail stone fists will begin to fly.

Winter is coming.


The Cailleach blows, her face gone blue.

Winter is coming.

The Cailleach buries and freezes out.

Winter is coming.


The Cailleach comes early this year.



Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith