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Cailleach, The Queen of Winter

By Judith Shaw

The Cailleach (KAL-y-ach), which literally translates as the “Veiled One” is an ancient Goddess whose origins are unknown. When the Celts arrived in Ireland and Scotland she was there. Over time Her name came to mean “old wife” or “old woman”. And yet she was thought to never grow old, an all powerful, ageless, Goddess of transformation.

In one of her stories, Cailleach, as an old hag, seeks love from the hero. If he accepts Her, She then transforms into a beautiful young woman, symbolizing the transformation occurring in the depths of winter when the seeds lay dormant in the earth. Yet alive within this dormancy is the promise of rebirth in the spring. She is the guardian of the life force, finding and nourishing the seeds, commanding the power of life and death. As the final phase of the Triple Goddess, she rules the eternal wheel of reincarnation. Cailleach personifies death and the transformative power of darkness. She leads us through death to rebirth.

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