Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism
The Cailleach Initiation
Since moving here to the depths of rural Ireland I've found that the seasonal and circadian rhythms rule me very intimately. This winter I have been truly initiated by the Cailleach. It's not that we have been snowed in. We are having the first flurries as I tap this blog. No, it's that when the dark descended, the cloud cover rolled in, the skies lowered, I settled into a long womb time.
I came to a full stop. I needed to just sit. Yes, there was activity happening but I felt at a bit of a remove. The real happening was the silence that descended inside me. The words wouldn't come. If I tried to force them they were clumsy. It felt as if even Spirit was incommunicado. Feeling directionless, without a sense of 'true north' I hunkered down into my still centre. In this space I sank into a powerful place of deep trust where I allowed myself to let go of some attachments.
Danu has always felt like an ancient Grandmother to me. Some people say she is Brigit's mother, but my personal encounters tell me she goes back further generations. For me She is one manifestation of the Hag Goddess, or Cailleach (say that Cal-yuck). I have an affinity to stone and there are many glacial erratics mimicking chairs that are known as The Hag's Chair. In a field about twenty yards from my home we have the Cailleach's Chaise Longue.
A chaise longue for the Cailleach in West Cavan
And for this season I sat surrendering to the silence, not forcing rivers, goals or agendas, but gathering energy quietly. What was coming next? While many think the crone is endings she is also gestation. Winter is a very pregnant time. What is going on is not visible. It is underground, which is the ultimate source of fruitfulness.
This hag's time of hibernation has ultimately revealed itself as initiation. At Imbolc I attended a women's celebration of Brigit in Galway. One of the rituals is the Crios Bhríde, a woven circle (of straw, in this case wool) where one crosses the threshold of renewal. Never before has a season been experienced so deeply and vividly.
The Crios Bhríde with the better known St. Brigit's Cross. The Crios is part of a threshold crossing and blessing that is part of the Imbolc rituals celebrated in Ireland.
Stones with holes in them are sometimes called Hag Stones. In Russia I am told they call them God's Eyes. This last season's Cailleach Initiation felt as if I walked through the eye of goddess as well as crossing the threshold symbolized by the Crios. Since Samhain I had felt as if I sank into a sort of renewing hibernation, which Imbolc has awakened.
Brigit's Eve began literally with a wake up call. Over the three days of Féile Bhríde I crossed a threshold and after a twenty years as a solitary have now found like-minded women who I can spiritually 'convenant'.
The Cailleach may storm, blow long an hard. But when she is in the place where there is no struggle she is also silence, initiation and liberation.
In these mountains of rock and glen where Danu's children chose to make landfall in Ireland, I felt the deep peace of the Hag's season. The Cailleach initiation is for me renewal but it is also birthing something completely new and magical, too. I trust and await Her manifestation with great joy.
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