Cailleach Bheur & Mull

A’ Chailleach Bheur/the Cailleach Bheur is the arguably the most well-known of Scotland’s Cailleach entities. She has several locations associated with her, is associated with the creation of some landscape features such as Loch Awe & has stories regarding her activities in winter too ❄️

Mull is one such location Cailleach Bheur is associated with – I’d like to highlight a brilliant paper on place names associated with “The Cailleach” that focuses on Mull in particular: The Cailleach in Place-Names and Place-Lore, Whyte (2020) 📑

Quote from intro:

“The  principal  aim  of  this  article  is  to  refine  our  understanding  of  the  Gaelic place-name  element  cailleach.  This  will  be  done  primarily  through  analysis  of  a cluster  of  cailleach-names  and  associated  place-lore  from  one  area  of  the  island of  Muile/Mull  in  the  Inner  Hebrides. The  main  geographical  area  of  focus  is small  but  its  namescape  is  dynamic  and  the  analysis  has  implications  for  our understanding  of  this  place-name  element  furth  of  the  island  and,  indeed,  furth of  Scotland.  The  evidence  lies  in  a  range  of  published  and  unpublished  textual and  oral  sources;  in  place-names,  place-lore,  linguistics  and  song.  It  will  be argued  that,  when  considered  together,  these  sources  provide  evidence  of  a dynamic  namescape  which  has  been  shaped  by  its  associated  place-lore  and which  has,  in  turn,  fed  the  creative  imaginations  of  local  place-name  users.”

Quote regarding “The Cailleach” in Scotland:

“In folklore  studies  on  the  figure,  attention  has  been  drawn  to  the  relationship between  the  figure’s  complex  origins  and  the  complexity  manifest  in  the figure’s  known  localised  forms.  MacAonghuis  (2012)  refers  to  various  localised name-forms  within  a  Gaelic-language  context  in  Scotland;  for  example,  she  is Cailleach  Beinn  a’  Bhric  to  some  in  Loch  Abar/Lochaber  (see  also  MacPherson) and  Cailleach  Mhòr  Chlìbhric  to  some  in  Cataibh/Sutherland  (see  also Campbell 1860–62, 46). In Muile/Mull and in the wider area of Earra-Ghàidheal, the  figure  is  generally  known  as  A’  Chailleach  Bheur  (TAD  2743;  Stòrlann; Campbell  1915).”

Additionally on “The Cailleach” in Scotland:

“In  some  places  in  Scotland, the  figure  is  ‘spoken  of  in  the  plural  number,  as  staying  in  lochs  and  among rushes’  (Campbell 1915, 413).”

Hopefully the above wee quotes will make you want to go have a read of the whole article, which also includes photos & maps of some of the places mentioned 📸🗺

I’ll end this wee recommendation with a few further links related to Cailleach Bheur on Mull:

As always more info, stories, songs etc on our Cailleachan can be found by clicking/tapping “The Cailleach” topic tag 🏷

📸 Featured Photo credit: Me, Glencoe

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