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CAILLEACH, the weather goddess, AND IMBOLC

In Gaelic mythology, Cailleach is a divine hag and ancestor, associated with the creation of the landscape and with the weather, especially storms and winter. In modern Scottish folklore studies, she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter. The word literally means 'old woman, hag'.

Imbolc, 1 February, is the day the Cailleach 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 1 February is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood to keep herself warm in the coming months. As a result, people are generally relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep, will soon run out of firewood, and therefore winter is almost over.

Excerpt from “The Missionary.”

The next day dawned bright and dry. Daithi was gloomy.

“What’s up, have you got toothache? I thought you were looking forward to today.”

“Aye, but just look at the weather!”

“But the weather’s fine!”

“Aye, exactly!”


“It’s Imbolc! Cailleach gathers her firewood today for the rest of the winter. If the weather’s bright and sunny, it’s because the winter’s going to last a good while longer, and she wants to make sure she can gather plenty of firewood. If the weather’s foul, then Cailleach is asleep and winter’s almost over.”

“Who’s Cailleach?”

“The weather Goddess! So we’re in for a long winter. That’s no good for the lambs.”

julia strittmatterjulia strittmatter -



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