We haven’t accumulated much snow in the North Country, but we’ve had some dustings. I love the forest at wintertime. Truly, I love it for different reasons each season, but there’s something very magical about the forest in the winter. Everything is so quiet and sleepy. The deciduous trees are especially hushed save the occasional creak. The stillness makes the noises that do occur all the more dramatic. The red squirrels dominate as they ninja dive from tree to tree and scold everyone and everything around them. Occasionally the call of a jay will cut through the air. As I sat at the base of an Eastern Hemlock, the wind howled through the trees and made me shiver. It was as if it belonged to the Cailleach. Perhaps it did.
To me, this time of year belongs to her. Each winter, I find myself fascinated by the crone of blizzards. Some stories describe her as the hag/winter version of Brighid who regains her youth at Imbolc. I’m not sure about that myself but it is something for me to research and meditate on. There is a tree in the forest – well, the large remains of one. I’ve come to think of it as the Hag Tree and sometimes bring offerings to Cailleach in the winter to pray that she is kind to us as she has her fun. I have yet to bring any offerings this year, but I felt her call on my walk yesterday.
After Solstice, although the sun is regaining strength, it remains cold and dark for a time. Cailleach will have her way until March or April. In the bitter cold, Cailleach calls to me and forces me to consider the darkness in me, my inevitable journey to cronehood, and death. As a young woman, I embrace her lessons now in the hopes that my path there is less startling.