The Cailleach, Queen of Winter and the Holy Nights
01.0: First Night – December 24: Embracing Darkness; Dreaming For January 2020 (preview) – Silver edition
Her bright blue eye pierces into mine. She carefully examines me. I feel a bit uneasy but I look back at her. A tall woman, short grey hairs and one eye. Behind her is a chandelier covered by a grey silk cloth. The fabric of the veil feels soft, warm and inviting but as I touch it, I also feel the hard cold crystal of the chandelier. I know that I am supposed to hang it up but I am not able to do that alone… It’s too heavy. Just as I sigh, I feel other people present. I look up and see that I am part of a circle. Together we can make the light shine.
(From a dream I had while preparing the Holy Nights).
Welcome to this years’ celebration of the Holy Nights. Twelve days and 13 nights dedicated to turning inwards and searching for your inner light. It’s a special time in which, according to ancient beliefs, the veil between worlds of reality is thin. Rudolf Steiner related the twelve days surrounding Christmas to the months of the new year. In 1909 Ingeborg Möller made a German translation of an old Norwegian poem about Olaf Åsteson who slept for 13 nights. In Steiner’s eyes those nights were an initiation into the deeper mysteries of the Universe. He explains it like this in the book ‘Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom: Eight Lectures Given in Dornach’:
‘All the secrets of the earth, the earth spirit, concentrated within itself, experiences within the eternal. All the secrets of the earth’s life of soul, and that of human beings enter into this experience at the point of time when the macrocosm sends least light and warmth to the earth, they learn the holiest secrets. This is why the days around Christmas were always kept so sacred because while his organism was still capable of sharing in the experience of the earth, man could meet the spirit of the earth during the point of time when it was most concentrated.’
The spirit of the Earth in the Holy Nights event is personified by the Cailleach. The Cailleach is the ancient Mother Goddess. In the next paragraph you can read more about her.
The aim of this event is not only to have precognitive dreams about the months ahead. I invite you to a spiritual journey inside your own soul, exploring light and darkness within yourself.
This table gives you an oversight of the nights and the corresponding months. I have also made a column dedicated to the position of the month. In this way you can see if and how the moon affects your dreams.
|Dec 26-27||March||new moon Capricorn|
|Dec 31-Jan 01||August||Pisces|
The Cailleach is an old Goddess. A Celtic poem says: There are three great ages; the age of the yew tree, the age of the eagle, the age of the Cailleach. She is shaper of the Earth, older as time, she guards the well of youth and rules the wind. She is also the Lady of the Beasts: she has a special connection with the wolf, like Winter-Goddesses Frau Holla and Hecate who guided previous Holy Nights. She is also connected with the deer and the cow.
The Romans named Gallaecia, now known as Galicia in Spain after the worshippers of the Cailleach: the Callaeci. Genetic research has shown something surprising: some Celts originated from Iberian fisherman. Professor of human genetics Bryan Sykes* did the research. ‘A team from Oxford University has discovered that the Celts, Britains indigenous people, are descended from a tribe of Iberian fishermen who crossed the Bay of Biscay 6,000 years ago. DNA analysis reveals they have an almost generic “fingerprint” to the inhabitants of coastal regions of Spain, whose own ancestors migrated north between 4,000 and 5,000 BC’ .
(*Guy Adams the Independent, for full article click link).
There are three waves of invasion in Ireland. The Fire Bolgs, the Tuatha De Danann from Scandinavia and the Galecians known as Milesians or Sons of Mil. The Irish started to settle in Scotland around 350 CE. So the stories are tales from a mix of counties: north from Spain to Ireland and south from Norway to Scotland.
There is also a similarity with the Giant Neolithic Ggantija temples in Malta that were build overnight by Giant Sansuna. This story is similar to that of the Cailleach carrying stones in her apron and dropping them to create mountains.
I will call her the Cailleach but in some stories she is named differently. Here is what Wikipedia says about that: In Gaelic mythology the Cailleach is a divine hag, a creator deity and weather deity, and an ancestor deity. She is also commonly known as the Cailleach Bhéara or Bheur. In Scotland she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter. The word literally means “old woman, hag, or the veiled one”, and is found with this meaning in modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and has been applied to numerous mythological figures in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.
Rachel Patterson, in her book Pagan Portals The Cailleach tells us that the name Cailleach can be pronounced in different ways:
In the audio tapes I pronounce her name as cail-leach.
Each day I will present a blog, a mythological story, my interpretation of that story and an incubation. This incubation helps to give your dream focus and remember it better. Allow me to guide you to dance to the music your soul is playing. Let’s explore the pattern that light and darkness create. I hope that after this online retreat you have a new concept of your life as a work of art. The Holy Nights, these 12 days and 13 nights will help you get more insight into your own potential, your own inner struggles and your own ability to create the future you want.
My aim is to keep the Facebook group alive and inquire each new month if and how dreams during that month of the Holy Nights have manifested in waking life. If you have bought the silver or golden package I will offer you my vision on your five dreams with a special eye for mythological and archetypical aspects and you will get all your dreams shared during the Holy Nights in a Word Document via email.
The dream that opened this chapter was a gift from the Cailleach. Her message is clear to me: the crystals in the chandelier contain the wisdom of the earth and the light is meant to shine through them in the sky. But I cannot do it alone. I need your help. Let’s join our energy for the best possible spiritual growth in 2020, the start of a new decade.
I have set up the structure of the Holy Nights Event as a Spiritual Journey, to look inside the darkness and find the light within.
In the first night you will embrace an inner fear we all have: we are meeting our own death.
From this dark place we candle our inner light.
After we dive into our own darkness, we will, in the second night, celebrate Christmas with a sleigh ride across the sky.
The Cailleach and her 12 elks will guide you to a feast to nurture your soul.
In the third night, we will concentrate on stones and their ancient wisdom, the rock on which our belief system is build.
In the fourth night we will tune into the wisdom of our inner animal nature.
In the fifth night we will dive into the eternal waters of our emotions: happiness, sadness, anger and fear.
The Cailleach is associated with the healing properties of water and this night we will focus on an emotionally stable 2020.
In the sixth night you will lift the veil of the Goddess to search for the best perception of your world in 2020.
In the seventh night we will focus on the Cailleach as Earth Goddess and invite her to dream the land together.
Is the Cailleach dreaming you, or are you dreaming the Cailleach?
In night number eight We will fight the Cailleach as a Black Bull, the symbol of life fighting the Earth Goddess of Death.
In the ninth night we will descend to our inner sanctuary under guidance of the nine maidens.
Sisters and helpers of the Cailleach. In this night we will align our spirit with the nine worlds of the Celts.
In night number ten we will ascend onto the mountain of our inner spirit and meet the Cailleach in her natural realm.
In night eleven The Cailleach as bestower of Sovereignty will connect you with your inner kingdom.
In the last night we will take a closer look at the Eye of the Cailleach.
And in the night of epiphany we will look back at the past nights, share experiences and evaluate.
First Evening Dec 24: Dreams of the month of January 2020. This evening the moon is in Sagittarius and dreams will have the tendency to occupy themselves with religious themes, spirituality, scientific testing, and especially teaching.
It’s an old practice to go out and find yourself a piece of wood that you intend to burn tonight, to celebrate the death of winter and the return of the light. Burning the log will keep the angel of death from your household for a year. It was custom to keep the fire burning all night and, in the morning, break off a little piece so that next year the new fire could be started with that piece of wood.
Clean your house of old stuff and old energy. Spend some quiet time meditating about how you are connected with your community and with your ancestors. Feel the energy lines of the present and the past coming together in your being. Feel how the wisdom of your ancestors gives you guidance and how it protects you from the cold, not only from the weather outside but also the cold you endure as a member of society. Feel the energy in being part of the society you participate in. Feel the give and take; feel how you contribute as a member. Take a moment to appreciate yourself and all your hard work.
During the day make some time to go out in nature. Take a walk in the forest and while walking take long deep breaths. Try to prolong breathing out and while doing that relax your mind. Usually our brain needs to be entertained and as a result it often seeks out problems to ponder over. It’s a natural process, you are trying to help yourself by rethinking and rehearsing so that old pain will not happen to you again. But today, each time a painful memory comes into your awareness, just say ‘hi!’ to it and breath on. Don’t get involved in inner discussions, just observe your thoughts.
When the walking and meditating has put you into a state of peaceful awareness, start to observe the trees around you. Look for a good branch of wood that you can take home with you to create the Cailleach. Don’t get to obsessed about it, you will find the perfect branch with ease today.
Once you have found your branch take it home with you. If you want to you can carve it into the figure of the Cailleach, you can rub some oil on it and give it a place on your altar. If you have some way to burn it safely, you can do so. Just remember that once burned it brings good luck to break off a piece to start next year’s fire with.
The Cailleach is an elderly woman with a blue skin because of the cold. The Cailleach is sometimes depicted as having only one eye in the centre of her forehead. Sometimes as having three eyes, and sometimes she is a one-eyed witch. The loss of vision enabled her to foresee the future and to have a vision of the world that lies beyond physical perception. She has, like Odin, inner vision that enables her to see in the future.
The Cailleach rejuvenates. She starts out a wrinkled one-eyed hag, but either finds a prince who loves her, which rejuvenates her or she drinks the Water of Life every year from a Magic Well. And well, water of life of course brings live to her! So this way she stays young, fertile and alive.
The story of tonight tells another remarkable tale a variation of this theme. Each year the Cailleach drinks the water near Loch Ba in the Death of Night ‘before bird tasted the water or dog was heard to bark’. This way she kept herself always at sixteen years of age. At last when making her way to the well on a calm morning (and such mornings are very beautiful in the west-Highlands) she heard a dog bark. She exclaimed:
Little knows any living wight
When mischance may befall him;
For me early has the dog called
In the calm morn above Loch Ba.
I had enough of spells
To serve the seed of Adam,
But when the mischance was ripe
It could not be warded off.
Having said that she fell crumbling into dust. She lived so long that she had more than five hundred children.
It’s a lesson often told in mythology: there is no escaping destiny. When you meditate or contemplate today’s lesson think about what your Water of Youth is. Meditation? Drawing? Creating? Writing? What dehydrates your soul?
Dogs are commonly associated with the afterlife. Hecate, our companion in last years’ Holy Nights was often in the company of dogs. A dog will be able to tell when death is approaching.
Here the dog barking foretells the demise of the Cailleach. She crumbles to dust. Ashes to ashes. If even a creature as powerful as the Cailleach can vanish into dust, we must take time to acknowledge our own death.
Being diabetic at the age of 11 I had a bad ear infection. The infection did not heal and spread throughout my skull into an abscess behind my left ear. My doctor put me in the hospital immediately and operated. About thirty years later I found out that in that procedure he took out my auditory ossicles. I hoped that I could get artificial auditory ossicles so an x-ray of my head was made. It turned out there was nothing left in my ear to attach them on, my whole ear had been cleaned out. That had been the reason why I never fully recovered.
But in that proceedure I saw the xray of my face: it was frightful to see my own skull. Even though I was in my forties I had never realized that I would turn into a skeleton after my death. And even though I was sad beyond words that my hearing was lost forever, this picture of my own bones opened up a new reality for me. Death was knocking on my door just very softly, gently whispering ‘hi’. After the first shock, I started to educate myself about death. I learned about the brain and how it creates awareness and the sense of self. I came to terms with the scientific vision that the brain is the cause of awareness. But I am aware that this is my personal vision. I also truly believe in the fact that everything you see is composed of energy and that energy will never be lost. In that way, I am still connected with my ancestors, with the land I live on and eat from. The land my body will return to when my time has come. This night is an invitation to meet your death and become friends. It’s only when you understand and appreciate the Darkness of Death that you discover the Water of Life to hydrate your soul.
No new life can arise say the alchemists, without the death of the old. They liken the work of the art of the sower, who buries the grain in the earth: it dies only to waken to new life.
Carl Jung Collected Works 16, ¶467
(audio and transcript only in paid version: 01.1)
What message has death for me?
The Gaelic word for January is Am Faoilleach, “wolf month”
This night when you go to bed, relax your mind and your body.
— transcript hidden —
You will remember and understand your dreams. If you have dreams, feel invited to share them in the Facebook group.
Silver member privilege
I will reflect on Five of your Dreams shared in The Forum Using the ‘If It Were My Dream’ Technique. My Aim is Always to Enhance your Insight In the most Respectful Way. I will look for Mythological Themes in your Dreams that re-occur. At the end of the Holy Nights you will get your dreams as a word document sent by email. In this way you will have a book for the next year with a deeper analysis of archetypes and mythological themes that are active in your unconscious. This upgrade was frequently requested by previous participants in their evaluation last year.