She came to me through a dream, like much of the bits of pollen the universe has shared with me over the years has come into my being. I was just about to walk to an ancient church in what felt like a European city, when I was told “Ah, just like the Cailleach. Enjoy the wilderness.”
I walked off to the church, pondering what those words meant. I know the Cailleach as a celtic crone, a hag, a witch, an ancient goddess, but I went to the church still not understanding. At the church, I just made it in as a nun was closing the door for a service. I walked up stairs and noticed a sort of standing stone as a memorial to indigenous people of the land. It felt fake and the energy was not good, yet people were standing around it and talking about how wonderful it was. I continued up the stairs and passed a mouse running down the stairs being chased by a cat. The mouse was caught and as much as the compassionate side of me wanted to help the mouse, it was balanced by the nourishing meal the cat would receive and I left them alone. A woman was singing from the front of the church and I continued to explore, eventually making it out and drove away on an extremely curvy road, another car in front of me, just out of sight around each bend.
Upon waking up, I looked up Cailleach. Cailleach “old woman” or “hag” in modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic comes from the Old Gaelic Caillech “veiled one.” Right away, my brains synapses brought back the concepts of bee “hymenoptera” which means veil-winged and the ancient veiled goddesses, beginning with the Egyptian goddess Neith. The inscription on Neith’s temple in Sais, the House of the Bee, reads, “I Am All That Has Been, That Is, and That Will Be. No Mortal Has Yet Been Able to Life the Veil that Covers Me”.
This leads me to the thought that both Neith and bees have been associated with both birth and death.
Neith was the mother goddess of all and birthed Ra and the other gods and goddesses into being, thereafter, inventing birth. Bees also have been known to a part of many creation stories, including the creation of humans in the the ancient areas of South Africa. Neith was also present for those at death, dressing their bodies and leading to the afterlife, just as bees have been known as guides of souls to the otherworld.
Even with this knowledge in my head, I am still unsure of what the comment meant in my dream, comparing either myself or the church to the Cailleach. The woman in my dream was a nun, a veiled woman, yet, the mystery seems deeper still and I am not sure. Maybe there is a clue in the name Cailleach that I have not found yet. This leads me to the Gaelic poem, Lament of an Old Woman, written about 800AD. There are so many interpretations of this poem and I find it best if I don’t get too much into my right brain and let my left brain lead with poetry. These three stanzas remain most in my mind:
I do not pour out sweet speech
rams are not killed for my wedding
it is sparse, my hair is grey
a poor veil over it is no cause for sorrow
It is not bad with me
although there may be a white veil on my head
there was a great many-coloured covering
on my head at drinking good ale
Nothing old do I envy
but Femin’s wide plains.
Storms rage – yet they
spring goldenhaired once again.
This poem was written as if the author was the Cailleach herself. These three versus speak of not only the veil, the covering of the land, but also as if the Cailleach is the land herself. She was sweet as honey as a maiden and had golden locks of hair in her youth, like the plains of Femin, but now her veil is white/grey and sparse. Nature has often been linked to be a goddess. For one example, Isis was sometimes compared with Artemis, and the Roman writer Macrobius, in the fourth century CE, wrote, “Isis is the earth or nature that is under the sun. That is why the goddess’s entire body bristles with a multitude of breasts placed close to one another (as the statue of Artemis), because all things are nourished by earth or by nature.” Of course, there is Gaia as mother nature as well.
So far, my wandering thoughts have me through the church, to birth and death and now I am perhaps back to the “wilderness” of the land.
None of this is new to me and so I wonder at the real message. My dream actually started with a debate on the three mysteries of life. I have always thought them to be birth, life, and death and of course the cycle continues so birth is also labeled as rebirth. I am wondering if this dream was about the life part of the mystery and how to live life. Live as if I am the land. I do this already as I believe each decision I make for my own body and for my own few acres on this earth ripples out into the larger world and makes a difference. So, again, I ask my dream what is the real meaning of this dream? I do believe that Cailleach has the answer. As she is close to putting down her staff until next cold season, I must ask her quickly!
The cycle continues. Perhaps that is the message?