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


Advertisements

Bear in Winter

bear in winter

Winter arrived yesterday with a hard frost and black ice on our lane that did not melt off until late morning. We had errands to run.Our industry was rewarded on the drive back home with the most exquisite exhibition of low lying mist under the karst backdrop of Boleybrack. We stopped for me to take a snap on my phone, one of which is today’s featured photo. Sadly, I couldn’t get an angle that would have shown off the full profile of the sphinx-like mountain that broodingly guards over the region where the Shannon River starts its journey to the sea. It really does look like an Anubis and locals refer to it  by nicknames like  The Dog Mountain, or just The Big Dog. Such are the marvels of this internationally designated region. We live in a Geopark community and we certainly live with a bounty of natural and built heritage and its abundant beauty.

West Cavan Cattle,  curious and  very keen for news

So my poetry daily harkens back to that trip along the R207 as we approached Dowra. I was delayed by a few chatty cows who were eager for a photo call. I realise that a herd of differant species are cramming into both the post and the poem, but that’s my life out here living in a geopark.


Bear in Winter

Wait patiently in thedark, Rumi has said.
Even in the winter dawn’s half-light.
The sun’s dimmer switch is set just on glow.
It watches us from behind net curtains,
filtering light through banks of mistiness,
making the world seem muffled in whiteness.
The Anubis in our local mountain
snoozes, content under a month’s long frost
and more, the ice and snow an enfeebled
sun cannot melt down with its golden horde.
We settle under theheft of layers-
Sweaters, fleeces, duvets and blankets.
The whole weight of this passing year bears down.
It is time to lay it down. And, for us,
to curl up and recline, to rest and sleep,
to behave like our childhood’s cuddly toy.
To make like the bears for our souls to keep.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018
dog mountain
Playbank, aka the  Dog Mountain


Winter

Winter

Once upon a time I was very effective at multi-tasking. We women joke about how it is our default setting. But as I age, I just find I have less talent for it. Today is a case in point. I overslept, which meant I missed my dawn writing practice. Which in turn made me feel out of joint.  Also under-cafeinated. I needed to make a 9 am appointment and then a 10:30 appointment and then a 12:30 pick up. Also, make it to the post office before 1pm, when it closes for lunch. I skidded in at 12:54 and had it all wrapped up by 1pm.

By which time I felt ready for a lie down! Living in the country we tend to cluster our daily ‘missions’ to make sure that we minimise our auto emissions. Also, to keep the auto fuel bill reasonable. Where we live it is eight miles to the doctor’s surgery, and twenty miles to anywhere for a ‘big shop’ – clothing stores, shoe shops, the wool shop, plant pots and anything that is not obtainable is our, admittedly very good, local Spar shop in the village. So this multi-tasking on daily missions sometimes feels like the logistics for military maneuvers.  I used to be able to do it without thinking twice. Now I  think twice before launching myself into any day.

It’s tiring. And I have been feeling my age lately. It has been pointed out to me (by someone who is only three days younger than me) that this is now the wintertime of our lives. Which is a thought to conjure and ponder.

Today’s poetry daily includes a featured picture of my very favourite tree in all the world. Because sometimes your favourite tree needs to be celebrated.

In the Winter of a Lifetime

I want a den down a hole
like the one that is the portal
at  the base of the beech tree.

I'll use sphagnum for a cushion
that is plumped up ten inches thick.
a bolster made of lichen.

I'll live like any cunning woman.
I'll spin thread from scraps in the hedge.
Knit a shawl of angel's hair.

I'll commune with the dark night-
the owl, cat and hare. I will wane
like Mother Moon.  Until comes

the day of no rising dawn.
The owl will announce my demise.
The beech tree will close its door.

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith
















Fox and Mother Winter

We had our first flurries of snow this morning just after dawn. And it made me feel happy. Just as I realised that making sure that I write a poem a day – good, bad, indifferant – that I keep at the poetry practice – also makes me deeply happy. It has become the stake in the ground that is keeping me centred in this Crazy Train world, where who knows what will happen where and to whom.

I woke up just as dawn was breaking, which is a rare occasion for me.  And I had more leisure to doodle on the page. I posted a haiku on Facebook for my friends. And then two poems emerged, which I will share. Neither are profound, but they do act as a poetry journal entry for what is happening in my world. Which is real to me, woo woo and all. I have kept at a daily entry now for six weeks and this just feels so right. It gives me joy.

 

Fox At Twilight

 

At twilight as we drove along our road

we saw it stop, stilling on the lane’s verge –

tail erect, tip a snowball or pompom,

head turned towards us, eyes glittering.

Then, a graceful duck and dive into hedge.

It was an instant’s benediction.

Be aware. Stay wise. And wild, quick and free.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

 

Mother Winter

 

Crept over our threshold

trailing pink cloud

and the shadow of ghostly moonset.

She arrived with a flurry of crystal pebbles

that glimmered on my dog’s coat,

making it into an old girl’s Princess cloak.

It’s official when you send up smoke signals

from the chimney with a morning fire.

With ceremony, the purple gloves,

the hand-knitted cowl come out from

their special seasonal drawer full of

ritual winter gear.  Even the hot water bottles

have knitted sweaters to keep us all cozy.

The light shall fail early now,

the chill beginning to seep in at three.

Mother Winter breathed it ice cold

at dawn with that ghostly white moon set.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

Featured image:

Photo by Nam Hoang on Unsplash

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