Crone Goddess of WinterBefore the male dominated Judeao-Christian-Islamic religions rose to power, primitive people the world over had their goddesses. The lands now called Ireland and Scotland are known for their Celtic culture, but even before the Celtic tribes arrived from the East, the people living in this area of northwest Europe honored the Great Goddess.
The most ancient pre-Celtic goddess, Cailleach, has many other names to describe her duties, including Mother of All, Goddess of Winter and Mistress of Wild Things. She is the crone archetype, the elder of the Triple Goddess, a wise healer and protector, yet at times a destroyer. I call her the Snow Crone because she reigns during the cold winter months. Men feared her because she was ugly and all-powerful, able to determine life and death. They called her the hag.
Cailleach controls the seasons. From November 1 to April 30, she brings rest and cleansing, both of which are needed for healing. One ancient story tells how she wanders the highest hills of Scotland throughout winter, wrapped in a tattered blue robe and carrying a staff of holly that makes frost and ice crystals. A crow rides upon her shoulder to witness life and death. Another story tells how Cailleach Bheare is the other face of Brighid, the Goddess of Spring, of fertility, renewal and all things light and lovely. Without the winter of rest that Cailleach brings, spring could not arrive. On the eve of May 1 (Fheill Bride), the crone puts down her holly staff, drinks from the Well of Youth and becomes Brighid, whose touch makes everything start growing again. On November eve (Samhain) they reverse the process and the crone goddess begins her reign once again. In her role as Mistress of Wild Things, Cailleach oversees and protects all the animals of the forest. With her they find sanctuary.
Although the goddess culture went underground for millennia, it enjoys a latter day renaissance as people search for a deeper connection to nature and a more feminine spiritual power.