A Selection of Cailleach Entities

(🌼Originally posted on 25th March, 2021)

For Là na Caillich I thought I’d make a wee post to try illustrate a bit of the variety of Cailleach entities we have in Scotland 😊 This is only a brief – as possible lol…- selection but hopefully it gives people the idea 📚🌱

📖 Firstly here’s couple of quotes from an article Donald MacKenzie wrote for The Celtic Review (1912, so pre-Wonder Tales lol). This was edited by Ella Carmichael, daughter of Alexander Carmichael, who was known as Mrs W J Watson after she married, so I’m going to start with some of her words on the first week in April:

" ' Cailleach ' as a period of time is the first week of April, and 
is represented as a wild hag with a venomous temper hurrying
about with a magic wand in her, withered hand switching the grass
and keeping down vegetation to the detriment of man and beast.
When, however, the grass, upborne by the warm sun, the gentle
dew, and the fragrant rain, overcomes the ' Cailleach ' she flies
into a terrible temper, and, throwing away her wand into the root
of a whin bush, she disappears in a whirling cloud of angry passion,
saying as she goes...”

📖 Now, some quotes from MacKenzie featuring various Cailleachan. The article is actually mainly about ‘Gentle Annie’ in Cromarty, but he mentions several Gaelic entities in passing:

“In the History of Glenurquhart, Mr. William Mackay tells that 
a hag sits on a rock and snatches off the caps of way-farers.
These she rubs on a rock until holes are worn through ; then
the unfortunate men fall dead.”

“Other Hags are engaged making mountains. Two Hags
went from Knockfarrel with great creels on their back.
The bottom fell out of one of the creels, and the earth which
was let loose formed Little Wyvis.”

“...she throws
boulders like the hag of Beinn na Caillich in Skye, who combats against another hag in Raasay.”

📚 Here’s the link for anyone who wants to read the whole thing, though I wouldn’t pay too much attention to some of the historical conclusions drawn about Picts etc. His article “A Highland Goddess” starts p344 onwards: https://archive.org/stream/no28celticrev07edinuoft/no28celticrev07edinuoft_djvu.txt

📖 Next, a mention of a different Cailleach in Ross by Ella’s husband, William J Watson in his “Celtic Place-Names of Scotland” (2011 edition, p427):

“In Ross ‘Cailleach na h-abhann’, the river hag, was dreaded at the fords of the river Orrin.” (MacKenzie states in Scottish Folk Lore & Folk Life, 1935, p159 that Watson told him She is dreaded because she “drowned unwary people”)

🎧 Lastly, here are some recordings from the ever useful Tobar an Dualchais ~ Kist o Riches:

🎙 The Death of Cailleach Bheur: http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/2743?backURL=/en/search%3Fpage%3D1%23track_2743

🎙 Cailleach Beinn a’ Bhric (local spirit who protected deer): http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/13238?backURL=/en/search%3Fpage%3D1%23track_13238

🎙 Finn McCool meets the Hag of Russet stream: http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/33845?backURL=/en/search%3Fpage%3D1%23track_33845

🎙 Cailleach of the Golden Mountain: http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/26987?backURL=/en/search%3Fpage%3D1%23track_26987

🎙 Violent story about Hag spirit who murders a woman while the other survives by staying in a circle with a cross: http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/39542?backURL=/en/search%3Fpage%3D2%23track_39542

🎙 Cailleach spirit attacks people in cave: http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/42253?backURL=/en/search%3Fpage%3D2%23track_42253

Thanks for reading/listening if you made it to the end lol 😊

(📸 Featured Photo credit: Me)

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