The Hag, The Old Woman, The Veiled One
Cailleach Dubh (Black Witch)
She licks her mucus stained lips
And strokes the feathers
With stick-like fingertips
The bird struggles in its tethers
Beside the snow-white sickly tree
Her spells are screamed at night
Her bloodshot eyes cannot see
But desperation gives her sight
She clasps the wildly shaking beak
Ice metal slashes, side to side
Blood splashes, a shuddering death shriek
The demons leave, satisfied
Hideous power for a twisted soul
She was meant to die and burn
Time changed her black diamonds to coal
It was meant to be his turn
One body lies split open, beneath the moon
The other will be leaving soon
So if you hear, my darlings,
A rapping at your chamber door
It won’t be the raven and it won’t be Lenore
It will be a cormorant, a black witch in disguise
So never look into its bloodshot sightless eyes.
(Mary Ella Ann Flanagan)
Cailleach was an important goddess for the Celtic tribe, the Cornovii, who occupied the Welsh Marches though their name for her is long lost.
She is the dark goddess of winter who brings the snow. A blue-faced ugly hag reborn on Samhain (October 31st) as an old hag, she becomes younger and younger. She herds deer, she fights spring, and her staff freezes the ground. She is the mother of all the goddesses and gods.
During Imbolc (February 1st) she gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. If she intends to make winter last a lot longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty. Sometimes she is a giant bird carrying sticks in her beak. She turns to stone on Beltane (May 1st) a stone which stays wet throughout the year.
She had fifty foster-children and seven periods of youth one after another, so that every man who had lived with her came to die of old age, and her grandsons and great-grandsons were tribes and races. She is the hills; she is time; the goddess of earth and sky, moon and sun; she controls the seasons and the weather.
She is an ugly giantess leaping from mountaintop to mountaintop. The rocks she drops from her apron become hills. She has a blue-black face with only one eye in the centre of her forehead. Her teeth are red and her hair is matted brushwood covered with frost. She wears grey clothes and a great plaid is wrapped around her shoulders.
The Cailleach, fierce though she may be, lives in all of us. She gives us the wisdom to let go of what is no longer needed, and keeps the seeds of what is yet to come. She stands at the cusp of death and life.