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
The goddess known as Cailleach in Scotland and parts of Ireland is the embodiment of the dark mother, the harvest goddess, the divine hag or crone entity. She appears in the late fall, as the earth is dying, and is known as a bringer of storms. She is also commonly known as the Cailleach Bhéara or Bheur, Queen of Winter.
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.