The Old One Washes Her Plaid

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“There are three great ages; the age of the yew tree, the age of the eagle, the age of the Cailleach.” -An ancient Celtic poem

The Great Mother Cailleach is an Ancestral Mother who shaped the land. It is said she once lived in the Beara jut in the south of Ireland. Her name means, old woman, crone. An Cailleach Bhéarra is very old. She herself does not know her own age, nor does anyone else. The Cailleach was a young girl when the ocean was a forest covered with trees. There are many places named for her, craggy, mountainous places, and many stories told about her existence. Numerous mountains have formed from stones dropped from her wicker basket. With her hammer she shapes the hills and valleys. She is found in the high mountains, the wild places with her deer, the fairy cattle. She sings to them a loving Mother’s lullaby. She keeps them safe from hunters and only allows a kill when there is great need. With a Black Elder slachdan, a wand of power, she walks the hills. When she strikes the earth with her staff, mountains are formed, cold winds blow and the earth is covered with frost. 

Once in a hundred years she goes to the water to wash her plaid and renew herself. The Corryvreckan whirlpool off the west coast of Scotland is named “the Cauldron of the Plaid.” It is said to be the washtub of the Cailleach. It is here she washes her plaid till it turns white. She wraps it around herself and the earth is covered with an apron of snow. Read more