Goddess of Winter, Goddess of Spring…

 It may have been a year ago that I started this necklace. And as another turn of the wheel goes by, I am finally finished this necklace. I want to thank my friend, and our hostess – Sally Russick, for the incentive and inspiration to finish this!

I have been working loosely in a series lately – necklaces inspired by goddesses. Trying to embody the concepts of the feminine divinity and also incorporate the attributes of that goddess, in that certain culture, in that mythos. My heritage is Celtic and I am most often drawn to the Goddesses of that culture.  This necklace was started with a focal of vintage lace in resin – symbolizing the ice/snow/frost of winter. 

Winter focal

The Cailleach

“Cailleach” derives from the old Irish caillech, or “the veiled one.” The modern word cailleach means “old woman” or “hag” in Gaelic. The Cailleach is a widespread form of Celtic hag Goddess tied to the land and the weather Who has many variants in the British Isles.

The Caillagh ny Groamagh (“Gloomy Old Woman”, also called the Caillagh ny Gueshag, “Old Woman of the Spells”) of the Isle of Man is a winter and storm spirit whose actions on the 1st of February are said to foretell the year’s weather–if it is a nice day, She will come out into the sun, which brings bad luck for the year. The Cailleach Uragaig, of the Isle of Colonsay in Scotland, is also a winter spirit who holds a young woman captive, away from her lover. (Thanks to Thalia Took of “A-musing Grace” )

In Scotland, where she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter, she is credited with making numerous mountains and large hills, which are said to have been formed when she was striding across the land and accidentally dropped rocks from her apron. In other cases she is said to have built the mountains intentionally, to serve as her stepping stones. She carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys, and is said to be the mother of all the goddesses and gods.

The Cailleach displays several traits befitting the personification of Winter: she herds deer, she fights Spring, and her staff freezes the ground. (Wiki)

The snow, the rocks, the ice… the frost patterns on a cottage window; here is my “inspired by winter” necklace – 

Cailleach necklace

Spiral charm – K. Totten/Starry Road Studio

Lamwork – Anne Gardanne

materials: moonstone, blue ribbon jasper, chandelier crystal, smoky quartz, mother-of-pearl, river rocks, chain and seed beads. 

Cailleach necklace

 

Thanks to Anne Gardanne for her gorgeous lampwork – they inspired the palette of this piece!

The Cailleach is related to another Celtic Goddess – Bride (or Brigid). Her “day” is February 1, known as Imbolc on the ancient Celtic calendar. I have included a bit of her story, as it is her time of year, and the two goddesses are often seen as associated…

Thalia Took's Cailleach  Thalia Took's Bride

“Bride (or Brigid) is a beloved goddess of the Celts known by many names, Bride being the Scots Gaelic variant. Her names mean “the Exalted One.” She tends the triple fires of smithcraft (physical fire), healing (the fire of life within), and poetry (the fire of the spirit). In balance to this She also presides over many healing springs. Cattle are sacred to Her, green is Her color, and, perhaps one of the reasons She is so beloved is that She is said to have invented beer! Her feast day of February 1st is called Imbolc (the Christian Candlemas), when the predictions for the coming spring’s weather were made, a remnant of which is seen in the modern Groundhog Day. She is daughter to the Dagda, and invented the first keening when her son Rúadán was killed.

The Cailleach, crone Goddess of winter, is said to imprison Bride in a mountain each winter; She is released on the 1st of February, traditionally the first day of Spring in parts of the British Isles.

Bride the Goddess proved so popular that when Christianity came by, they converted Her to a saint. Called “Mary of the Gaels” by the Irish, St. Brigid is believed to be the midwife to Mary at the birth of Jesus, and so was thought the patroness of childbirth. Her importance is such that She is one of the three patron saints of Ireland, with St. Patrick and St. Columcille. Her nineteen nuns (a solar number) kept an eternal flame burning at Her monastery at St. Kildare.” (from Thalia Took at A-musing Grace)

Now – a necklace for Bride? Fire, a woven wire Bride’s cross, green gems… that may be next… Thanks for stopping by. Please visit my friends and colleagues also participating on this hop:

B is for Brigid – Happy Imbolc

Brigid

Imbolc – the Feast Day of Brigid – goddess and saint. Marking the halfway point from mid-winter to the coming of spring, days are a bit longer, early blooms are soon to bud. Brigid, the goddess of fire, of inspiration, healing, poetry, smithcraft. St Brigid – keeper of the flame, Abbess of Kildare. 

The above image is from my Encyclopedia of Goddesses – my submission for the Sketchbook Project. I included many of Brigid’s symbols – the snowdrop, the Brigid’s cross…and of course a triskele design to reference her Celtic nature. To me this marks a time to start things anew. Sweeping out the old, coming out of the winter hibernation to clean, refresh, and become ready. A new outlook, a new fresh start. Time to undertake new projects and endeavors, time to come out and start to blossom. I spent today with my attention on hearth and home. Cleaning and puttering around the house, neatening, organizing.  And I spend a good bit of the morning in the ceramics studio – purging, sorting, and making ready. Ready to do new work, ready to make the magic happen. Here’s to a fresh month, a dose of inspiration – the fire in the head of the Celtic bard! ( Yeats used the phrase to reference a visionary experience. I use it to refer to the fire of creative inspiration.)

Here are a few links if you are interested in more information or celebrating Brigid’s Day today…

Brigid – Celtic Goddess

Brigid of Kildare

Imbolc 

The Wild Hunt – Brigid article

Montage video for Brigid

And let me close with this lovely peom by the wise and wonderful Caitlin Matthews: 

HEARTH OF BRIGHID PRAYER by Caitlin Matthews

Brighid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.

Mothers of our mother,
Foremothers strong,
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how
To kindle the hearth,
To keep it bright,
To preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light,
Both day and night.

The Mantle of Brighid about us,
The Memory of Brighid within us,
The Protection of Brighid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness,
This day and night,
From dawn til dark,
From dark til dawn.

Shadows and Light

February 2. 

Groundhog’s Day. Candlemas. Imbolc. 

Its all over the news. Respectable looking, white bearded men, dressed in coats and top hats, perform a ritual involving a groundhog – named Phil – and weather divination. We have seen it all before… But did you ever stop to wonder? 

Wikipedia offers us this: The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication.

Apparently Groundhog lodges abound in southeastern PA; who knew. We have Harold Ramis and Bill Murray to thank for making Punxsatawney so famous…And sadly, badgers arent living in the hedgerow over here. (Do badgers live in the hedgerow?) So the groundhog seems a better selection than a bear (!); easier to keep, and handle…

Seriously – back to the lore – 

From Scotland: 

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

And going more into myth – we get closer to the origins – in my opinion…

“Imbolc is the day the Cailleach — the hag of Gaelic tradition — gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she intends to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people are generally relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over”… That sound familiar, doesnt it… (Thanks again, Wikipedia.)

Putting aside the weather lore for a moment – Imbolc/Candlemas is halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. We ( and my Celtic far distant ancestors) have to this point gone through a cold harsh winter. It is wonderful to mark time, that winter is half complete, that spring is near. Whether we have snowdrops blooming through a thin crust of snow, or piles left behind by the plow – the light is increasing; Spring is near. 

 snowdrops

 

Imbolc is associated with the Celtic Goddess and Saint Brigid. (I find it very interesting how the ancient goddess of the creative fire evolved into a saint and abbess tending a perpetual flame at her monastery…) And I think I will have to save her for another post. She is deeply inspirational to me, and I would like to give her her due. 

So from the shadows – to the light…

Wishing you a bright Imbolc. 

Articles of interest: 

Article: “St Brigid; no better woman for the times we live in”. The Irish Times. 

Blog: “Beyond the fields we know.” Gorgeous photography, and a thoughtful in depth article in Brigid from the artist C. Kerr