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Posts Tagged ‘Cailleach’

A Winter Travel Prayer

An Cailleach, I call to you

On this wintry, snowy day.

Please be gentle with my kin

As we drive from work or play.

By Grey Catsidhe

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Even though I had to work during the Winter Solstice, I made the most of it by greeting the sun from my darkened office.  I put on “Here Comes the Sun” and sang along.  It was an offering and a devotional. When the song ended, I stood in quiet contemplation at the blue sky streaked with yellow and blush.  Later, I poured wine, gave bread, lit candles, and had a lovely feast with my family before opening gifts.

Today, I once more thought of the sun as I rose for work.  Today, he was hiding behind gray clouds.  I was reluctant to go in since it was snowing a lot and the roads were dangerous.  When I reached work, I was distracted by prayers of gratitude for making it in safely.

In keeping with our 12 Days of Solstice, we’re honoring the Nature Spirits today at my home. It’s hard to ignore the beings of the season when they’re literally smacking you in the face and piling up in front of your home.  The spirits simultaneously threaten our lives with ice and kiss our cheeks with cold.  Now that I’m home safe and off the roads, I look forward to taking a walk  in the woods later.  There’s something calming about the frosted, still trees in such weather.

When I returned home yesterday, I saw a deer at the entrance of the trail.  She was eating a pumpkin left there.  I immediately knew where I would later make offerings to An Cailleach.  This morning, I left my home to hear the call of an owl before I headed out into her storm.  The Winter Crone is definitely all around us. She is on my mind quite a bit this time of year.  She calls, as she does each wintertime, demanding my attention.  She teaches humility.

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Each week, I draw a card from my Druid Animal Oracle deck as an omen for the week.  I pray for guidance as I go forward.  During this week’s ritual, I pulled the owl card. I’m not used to seeing this omen, so the meaning didn’t come to me right away.  At first I thought about wisdom, stealth in the dark, and change because of the myth of Blodeuwedd the flower maiden.  She is transformed into an owl for betraying Lugh.  

This made me stop and think a lot about change.  The frog card can signify change, but it’s a total change – inside and out, possibly including one’s environment.  Snake can also indicate change, but more superficial.  One must shed one’s skin in order to grow.  What kind of change is the owl, then?  A punishing change?  An unwanted change?  Change via divine intervention?

I then thought about the link between owls and An Cailleach, as the Scottish-Gaelic cailleach-oidhche refers to owls.  An Cailleach transforms from old to young in several stories.  Could the owl card refer to a change via age or even a spiritual transformation?

I asked for more clarification and drew another card after shuffling.  This time the cat card came to me.  I associate this card with protecting the home and, at times, sensuality.  The former meaning comes from some Irish stories in which cats guard treasure, especially in fairy realms.  As I have cats at home, I see them as protectors and very hearth-centric.  I thought more about the connection between the cards.  They are both predators capable of seeing in the dark, yet I felt more confused.

Although I feel I have a good sense of the cards, their meanings, the symbolism of the animals, and my own understanding of their lore and biology most of the time, I occasionally turn to the companion book for further insight. I might have forgotten something.  Interestingly, another meaning for both cards is “detachment.”  Well, when both cards have literally the same word in their symbolic description, it’s hard to overlook the emphasis.

I’m not sure what this omen means to me yet.  Is it a blessing?  A warning before something comes up?  Maybe it means that, in order to engage with the spiritual change I seek, I need to take some time for myself.  This would make sense given my last post about  once more delving into trance practice.  Only time will tell.

Learning a divination system can be a complex process, but I love how rich and thought-provoking it is.

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Offerings of love, corn, oats, tea, and an apple at the foot of the oak tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

As promised, I brought An Cailleach fresh, homemade bread. I wanted to make it extra special for the Winter Hag, so I stamped it with a snowflake cookie cutter before baking. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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An Cailleach is wide awake in Northern New York, ready to teach us humility and patience. May we all learn gracefully this season! Hail and welcome!

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Despite what the modern calendar tells you, winter is here in Upstate NY.  We’ve received snow.  An Cailleach is wide awake, shaking the dust out of her skirts and cloaks.  While she has yet to show her full power, it’s coming.  You can feel it in the chilly air.  While the snow isn’t sticking for long in most places, it clings longer in the forest shadows.  I went there today to visit and take in the sights and sounds.

Snow on the ferns. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The oak tree was bare save for a few straggling, brown leaves, clinging on for dear life. The forest seemed very gray today except for the hemlock and lingering ferns. Although the plant world is very sleepy, the animals who share the realm were quite awake! Some blue jays got into a shouting match while I was doing my devotional ritual. I couldn’t help but stop and observe. Smaller birds darted through the evergreens – one bearing some broken branches that could betray the position of a porcupine. In the distance, red squirrels tittered.

Offerings at the shrine on a chilly November day. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I left my offerings at the base of the oak – fruit, seeds, oats, and sweet red wine poured on rocks.  I also left a crow feather I found on my way there.  It felt right to give it back to Nature.

As I left, I promised An Cailleach some bread next time.  UPG I’ve experienced the last few years I’ve made offerings to her have taught me that our regional winter hag loves fresh bread.  Good thing I enjoy making it!  What’s more, it adds some extra warmth to our home while An Cailleach dances outside.

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Thanksgiving has come and gone.  In a fitting shift of energy, snow once more entered my world, swirling through the air, sprinkling the grass like powdered sugar, and filling my family with excitement.    It is interesting how our modern comforts have turned this time of year into something joyous.  To our northern ancestors, there was real danger in the winter, physically, of course, and spiritually.  Snuggled in our heated homes with plenty of food and access to more just a car ride away, it’s easy to forget the threat of snow.

And yet we remember the importance of coming together.  I did a lot of that this weekend.  My family gathered to feast and visit.  We shared our food and drink.  Outside, the Cailleach was waking up and chilling the world.

Now I’m home once more and am thinking about the Winter Solstice.  As is traditional, I am plotting to bring in evergreens to remind me of the green world hidden under the snow.  That’s one of my favorite Yuletide traditions, really.  Despite the cold and the now downplayed threat it brings, there is still the promise that it will end and the green will return.  It is part of what makes the cold season so beautiful to this modern Druid.  It is fleeting and must be enjoyed.  It’s like the fire we dance around in the summer – something to be celebrated and respected at the same time for it’s creative and destructive properties.  And here in the North Country, winter is a huge part of life.  Some people up here complain about it to the point where they become tedious.  The cold season is part of this land and everyone who lives here.  The Cailleach is part of this land and touches each of us.  It is best not to fight it but to embrace it – the light and dark of it together.

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