The Cailleach

cailleachThis can be a difficult time of the year: the crazy, obnoxious days between Imbolc (Feb 1) and the Spring Equinox, which occurs on March 20th this year. It’s a season marked by relentless change and brought to bear by the stormy power of the Cailleach as she grudgingly yields her might and majesty to gentle spring breezes; the old god or goddess now must die so the new goddess may be born.

The Cailleach herself was born at Samhain (Halloween), as depicted in the image (above left). Winter is her glory. The dark half of the year is hers alone to rule, and she does so with stubborn scepter and iron thumb. Has anybody really accomplished much since November?

Now, as Maggie Lukowski brilliantly notes in a recent blog, people are squirreling around cleaning out their closets, both literally and metaphorically. Imbolc begins the season of purification. It has been so for thousands of years. It’s in our genes. People have a mysterious, nagging urge to rid themselves of all kinds of clutter that have outlived their usefulness and symbolic essence, as well they should.

C47In Chrysalis Tarot, the Cailleach is represented by The Watcher. While we might think she doth protest springtime, she doth not. Whatever has happened, or is happening, in these days of transition was in her plan all along. It was written in the shadowy spark of her eyes and hidden in the crevices of well worn wrinkles.

The secret to coping with change is acceptance; wholesale acceptance with neither resignation nor regret. Become a wise watcher who dresses in the ubiquitous cycles of life that govern everything in the cosmos. Wear your change well!

If you find yourself fighting off negativity, the Cailleach suggests white sage incense, a talisman and some fresh air.

The half of the year – the half that basks in brilliance – will begin with Beltane (May 1), which means “bright fire” in Gaelic. This is Brigid’s season as the maiden aspect of the goddess ascends her throne. Brigid is born each year at Imbolc as the last breaths of life leave the old Cailleach, the haggard old crone of darkness.


This lovely image is from the new Chrysalis Tarot companion book. It depicts Papa Legba assisting Psyche into his ferryboat for the short journey to the Isle of the Blessed. The meaning and symbolism of this sketch by Holly Sierra, at least as it pertains to this blog, teaches us the importance of enduring the robust darkness of the chrysalis so true personal transformation can occur. Psyche in Greek means both butterfly and soul. In this sketch, Psyche is the transmuted soul of the Cailleach departing into the brightness of the Sun.

She will be gone but for a little while!


For the book, I asked Holly for a sketch of Papa Legba as Charon the Ferryman based upon John Stanhope’s famous painting. I like her interpretation much better!


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