Cailleach Bheur, also known as Cally Berry, ruled over the winter months in the north of Scotland. Cailleach means old hag or old woman and comes from the Gaelic caill-leach, which means a grey old woman. According to legend, she lived in a cave at the very top of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland. She was described as being hideous to look at, with warts on her face and wearing tattered rags for clothing.
Her origin story
Cailleach Bheur (or Cally Berry) is an ancient and cantankerous hag goddess who reigns over all things wintery and moody. Her name translates to old woman or old witch, and she was said to be as dangerous as she was feared. The word bheur means both ice and anger, so it’s likely that Cailleach Bheur is named for her tendency to bring freezing cold ice storms to those who cross her path. Legend has it that when young women would go out into the glens alone, they’d see a spinning wheel at their feet: if they were spun around on it three times, they would be whisked away by Cailleach herself. There are also tales of children dying in snowstorms that strike without warning; in these stories, Cailleach can be seen blowing across their cheeks before scooping them up in her cloak. While many say Cailleach Bheur is death itself, she can also healif you’re polite enough to ask nicely! At Samhain, it was traditional for people to leave food offerings outside their homes for any wandering spiritsand no one dared refuse them!
Her role in Scotland
Known as Cailleach Bheur, she was one of a number of female deities who appeared during Samhain as a bringer of death and pestilence, but also as a patroness. In other regions she was known as Morrigan. She is often associated with animals especially dogs and could transform into an animal shape to hunt, although its hard to know what her form was because so many animals were sacred to her. Her cauldron was said to have boiled over during battle at times when Scottish soldiers would go off fighting, leading their enemies to believe they had been driven mad by their goddess. According to lore, she once hid all the grain in Scotland in order that people would starve during famine. The great stones which can be found all over Scotland are said to have come from her bag when she tried to relieve herself after eating too much mutton.
What we can learn from her example
Ancient female goddesses like Cailleach Bheur were often associated with death, but not because they hated life. Instead, these deities ruled over mortality because its an undeniable part of life. Death has played an important role in all cultures throughout history and even today people celebrate their dead in religious traditions that remind us to respect our elders and honor them when they pass on to another plane. Instead of hating death, Cailleach Bheur reminds us that honoring our dead is also about respecting life so we can keep living forever! This isnt morbid or depressing; instead, it gives us something to strive for! It gives us goals so we can accomplish more! These goals are ones everyone should consider following.