Goddesses in the Dirt: Cailleach, the Queen of Winter

unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time
Issue #25: Cailleach, the Queen of Winter

Cailleach is the personification of the depth of winter ~ a goddess who manifests as a crone and reverse ages to a young bride in springtime. It is the theme of winter holding spring captive until the days warm and it is time for her release.

Cailleach derives from the word "veiled one" and means "old woman" or "hag" in Gaelic. Her nature is not as a goddess of fertility or death, but of transcendence. She is the star of many a Gaelic myth throughout the British Isles, most often as an old hag who is considered a goddess of sovereignty giving the mortal king the right to rule her lands. In stories she appears as an old hag who asks the hero to sleep with her: if he does she transforms into a beautiful young woman. This represents the ancient belief of a magical transformation that occurs in the depth of winter, promising that spring will return with its warmth and bringing rebirth to the earth's cold depths.

As the embodiment of winter, her special places are sacred stones, considered the bones of the earth. She carries a slachdam, or Druidic rod which gives her power over the weather and the elements. Cailleach is the goddess of the sacred hill, or Sidhe, and she is the one who governs dreams and inner realities. She is connected to the 'bean Sidhe' or 'banshees' which means supernatural women.

On a recent trip to Ireland I felt the presence of Cailleach, where the wind does a good job of veiling you naturally...

...and on the Cliffs of Moher, where Cailleach's force grows to tempest strength.

On this wintry day it felt like she was inviting my daughter and me to lean into her arms and feel her power,

enjoying a bit of windsurfing on the land.

The depth of winter is a sacred time. The earth is quiet and resting for another season. Somewhere deep beneath the surface the seeds are waiting for Cailleach's grip to release and begin their march towards the warmth of the sun.

Until then, enjoy the beauty of this season.

Mia the Airedale veiled in snow

Photos courtesy of the author and Google images


  1. wonderful pictures. thank you for this interesting escape. please have you all a blessed holiday season and great new year.

  2. I like hearing how the depth of winter is a sacred time. These are great pictures.

    Best wishes for a happy new year and transformation.

  3. The two of you against the wind is precious! Yes, transcendence is the name of the season, for sure, as well as faith in the future. This is a new myth for me, and I thank you for this.

  4. I didn't know much about this and loved reading it. And I also remember the power of those winds off the cliffs - amazing place.

    Happy new year Amanda and spring is now just around the corner - right?

  5. A lovely, thoughtful post. 'The depth of winter is a sacred time'.... Indeed it is!

  6. oh, i love the photos of you and your daughter giving yourselves over like that. how wonderful to feel her (Cailleach's) strength and have her carry you.

    just now, i sit and wonder on the possibility of winter not coming. we had snow just before christmas, snow christmas day, and today i awoke to the morning as dark as the night, rain held off by just a veil. i read this and remember the hope that is born inside of me every year in the heart of winter, the quiet hope based on belief, that spring will come. what if winter does not come? this causes chills. how we need winter. how we need the death of all things to grant us life. i take this small realization and hope to carry it with me on the larger scale that it deserves.

    happy holidays to you, amanda.

    ireland! oh, will you please take me with you in your pocket:)


  7. the cliffs look monumental! it's so windy there!

  8. i love the Goddess series and here is another great one. wow that wind looks powerful! x

  9. i'm catching up. after the holidays- it felt so good to come here and read five/six posts and dwell the way you dwell. thank you for the way you share!


  10. This goddess is new to me.

    I like the idea of reverse aging! And leaning into the wind is luscious trust...mmmm....

  11. There is something about Eire and its Myths. Even in Australia you find the traces, in Natsy who has an Irish grandmother and can sense things behind the veil... and I love just EVERY Irish writer.
    There is this beautiful poem by Walt Whitman about the Irish mother who kneels by her son`s grave but is told, Your son, your heir, he is not dead, but risen in another country, full of life.
    The Irish influence on the US is really overwhelming! Even the language, the hospitality, there is so much once you look for it.
    Am I rambling? I love your post, as always, Amanda. And your last one was beautiful, too.

  12. transcendence....

    okay, count me in :^)

    i can't believe what erin said about winter and snow! i don't like either, and yet i'm rethinking this winter thanks to her and you.

    you and your girl are wind statues! too funny. imagine the feeling of almost flying--is that what it was like?

    thanks for the wanderlust, amanda. so so so nice to know you.
    love ♥

  13. Panda-when did you get snow? Still no snow up here in the Northland. I especially love the photo of Mia-was she snorkeling in the snow, too.

  14. What fun to play in the windy arms of Cailleach with your daughter ...and those cliffs...phew I might pass out standing on that cliff.
    Beautiful photos sweet Amanda!!Thank you for sharing with us the magic of the Queen of Winter.

  15. some really precious pictures here
    love how you see it all

    Happy New Year greetings from sunny summery South Africa

  16. Ah, Amanda...now you have visited my other *home*...(I am half-Irish...but my family lives on the other coast in County Wexford.) Lovely story - lovely legend...and beautiful photos! You and your daughter - the *Wind Goddesses*...the cliffs, the lake amid the mountains....AND....Mia in the Snow! (She is ADORABLE!)

    So happy you visited and adventured in Erin!

    Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Love, always,

    ♥ Robin ♥

  17. Marvellous photos!

    Bonne Année!

  18. May 2012 be filled with the strong seeds of change and the wind of the goddess' be always at your back*!*

  19. happily back online and here to wish you a happy blessed new year and all the best in 2012, divine amanda. :)

  20. Dear Amanda, she seems like a very powerful Goddess.;) So fitting the land where I live. I have never visited Ireland (despite being once in a relationship with an Irishman for 3 years;), but I am sure it is an intriguing country.
    I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and i woudl like to wish you and yours all the best in 2012,

  21. What a breathtaking and spiritually beautiful post! one of my favorites I hold in my heart..your tribute to her is spectacular! Gorgeous photos!
    Thanks for this magical adventure and all the magic you share! Your posts are deeply appreciated and celebrated..thankyou kindred!

  22. I love this goddess. In a way she personifies my life.


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