Visions of the Cailleach

Visions of the Cailleach

By Sorita d’Este and David Rankine

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Standing astride the British landscape, looms the giant blue form of the Cailleach. Whether she is seen as a benevolent earth-shaping giantess, harsh winter hag goddess, shape-shifting crone, guardian of sacred wells and animals, or ancient bestower of sovereignty; the Cailleach appears in many roles and manifestations in myths and legends across the British Isles. Tracking the Cailleach across thousands of years through folklore, literature and place names, the authors have uncovered startling references which hint at a hidden priestess cult worshipping the Cailleach from ancient times through into the twentieth century. By exploring her myths and legends, they demonstrate the hugely significant role of the Cailleach in the early history of the British Isles. The demonization of the Cailleach through the Middle Ages by the Christian Church paralleled that of women and witches, and is reflected in various other supernatural hag figures possibly derived from her and discussed in detail, such as Black Annis, Gyre Carling, Mia Lia, Nicneven and the Old Woman of the Mountain. Looking beyond the veil of the sacred landscape, the vision of the Cailleach confronts the seeker, in hills and rocks, lakes and wells, burial chambers and stormy skies. Now finally the primal elemental power of the Cailleach is revealed in her full glory, in the tales and places of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man; as well as in traces of her presence in England, Wales, Jersey, Brittany, Spain and Norway. This unique and ground-breaking work brings together for the first time the wealth of folklore, stories and legends regarding this most significant of British supernatural figures, whose myths and wisdom are as relevant today as they have ever been.


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Extracts from Reviews:

“As a real bonus, the book is well written. The style is easy and intelligent. It wears its scholarship lightly, but is robust. There are plenty of references and a great bibliography. All this makes the book something of a rarity in times when many scholarly works are badly written and dreadfully biased (and professional academics are some of the worst culprits); and when many books on myth, folklore and spiritual matters seem to rely so heavily on something the author might once have seen on television or has written in their first flush of enthusiasm for a new found path without actually having any deeper understanding of the subject on which they expound.” G. Talboys, Author and Amazon Reviewer

“Authors Sorita d’Este and David Rankine present in this small but superbly researched tome a wealth of lore concerning the Cailleach. Tracing her myths back beyond the time of the Romans, they note how the land of Portugal acquired its name through the Cailleach myth, and they relate folktales of her from Iberia to Scotland. The Cailleach is a crone, perhaps the crone manifestation of the triple goddess. She is as old as the hills and a bit of a trickster, though she works her tricks for good and for the defense of those decent folk she favors. She is fair and always takes a payment for her deeds, in the manner of the faerie folk. She operates through nature. Her wealth is in the form of wool and grain, and her treasured red deer. She is undoubtedly a primal being who exists with the green world in a very profound and integrated sense. As I read this tome, I could not help but think of the Cailleach as the natural counterpart to the Green Man.” Cliff Seruntine, Author and Amazon Reviewer

“Authors Sorita d’este and David Rankine explore the roots of this ancient goddess, her many role and what exactly she represented. Her origins are believed to be derived from Iberian Celts who made their way from Spain to Ireland. Various linguistic etymologies speak of a people called the kalliechi or some similar word in Greek. This linguistic etymology could be referring to a group of people or a cult of priestesses dedicated to the Calliech. These would actually be deer priestesses who decked themselves out in deer skins and deer horns.” S. Cranow, Amazon Reviewer

“In short, this lovely book is a great primer to learning of the legendary Celtic Hag Goddess, the Cailleach by taking you on a walk through Her history and legends. Great for those interested in Celtic myth.”

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