First Day of Winter
“Why is my face so dark, so dark? So dark, oho! So dark, ohee! Out in all weathers I wander alone In the mire, in the cold, ah me!
~ “Beira, Queen of Winter“, Scottish Folk Tale
Winter is coming! The goddess known as Cailleach (known as the Cailleach Bhéara or Bheur, Queen of Winter) is the embodiment of the dark mother, the divine hag or the old woman crone entity. She appears in the late fall, as the earth is dying, as the bringer of storms. She is credited with making numerous mountains and large hills, which are said to have been formed when she was striding across the land and accidentally dropped rocks from her creel or wicker basket. In other cases she is said to have built the mountains intentionally, to serve as her stepping stones. On the west coast of Scotland, the Cailleach ushers in winter by washing her great plaid in the Gulf of Corryvreckan. This process is said to take three days, during which the roar of the coming tempest can heard from miles away. When she is finished, her plaid is pure white and snow covers the land. ❄️ 🌨️ ❄️
The Cailleach Bheur, the Witch of Winter, also known as the Blue Hag, is a feminine spirit said to inhabit parts of the Scottish Highlands. Cailleach rules the dark half of the year, from Samhain to Beltane, while her young and fresh counterpart, Brighid or Bride, is the queen of the summer months.
Reborn every All Hallows Eve, she returns to bring the winter and the winter snows. She carries a magical staff, which freezes the ground with every tap. She is also guardian to animals, particularly the deer and the wolf, and returns to the earth by turning back into stone on Beltane Eve. Her sacred trees are the holly and the gorse bush, under which she traditionally throws her staff before turning to stone.
Legend says that she is in charge of a well on the summit of Ben Crauchan in Argyll. Every sunset she had to cap the flowing water with a large flat stone and then release it at sunrise.
In one legend, weary from driving her goats across the mountains, she fell asleep by the side of the well. Unhindered the water gushed forth, breaking through at the Pass of Brander creating Loch Awe, drowning the local people and cattle in its wake. She was so horrified by her mistake that she turned to stone.
From the designer's notes:
This tartan was designed in honour of the Goddess who is honoured and celebrated through the Winter: her face is the moon; her spirit, the force that draws the tides; her breath, the cold wind; her body, the very earth that rises above the sea. The colours signify the darkness of the Winter season; the deep ocean; the foam from the waves under the reflection of the moon with a touch of snow on the ground; the evergreens that live through the season and their fruits and berries which remind us that life will continue even through the darkest of days.
For more on the Witch of Winter as portrayed in literature and film, click the illustration of the Cailleach by GreenDragonArtist.