Shopping for Deities in the Season of the Crone

Cailleach by Ashley Brynner

When I began my Pagan journey, I was told it was important to find my deity. I definitely didn’t mind doing that because it involved a great deal of research into mythology. I focused mainly on Gaelic and Celtic pantheons because that’s my heritage. It was enjoyable, but I confess it felt a little like shopping.

I wanted a god and a goddess. I wanted to honor the masculine and the feminine. Finding my god was easy. I was immediately drawn to Dagda. He fulfilled a father figure role that I have needed quite a bit during my life. Finding my goddess was a little more challenging.

No one resonated with me. They were all impressive for certain, but they all blurred together as pretty much the same beautiful lady with a different name. Then, I encountered The Cailleach. She wasn’t your typical goddess. In fact, she showed up more as a cautionary tale than as any kind of deity to worship. She reminded me a little of a Scotch Irish Baba Yaga.

What drew me to her was that she reminded me of my now-parted grandmother and the person I was becoming. That might sound truly frightening, but I assure you it was comforting. At this time in my life, I was acknowledging that being a constant giver had completely depleted me. The Cailleach was there to teach me a powerful spell that would keep antagonists at bay while reaching for what I truly wanted.

Do you want to know that spell? It’s very simple. Open your mouth and say, “no.” That’s it. That’s the spell.

The Cailleach is a Goddess of Winter. She’s here to bring the chill and stop the harvest. She’s here to help you dwell in the dark and confront your demons hiding there. Why does she do this? Not for any nefarious reason. She does it because someone has to. You need to retreat. You need to quiet the creative drive and focus on nurturing yourself once in a while.

On top of this, The Cailleach will not tolerate anyone’s B.S. She teaches boundaries. There are stories of men harvesting without asking the land (or her) permission to reap. Her vengeance on them is swift and permanent. There’s no negotiating with her. There’s no telling her to calm down and be rational. You follow her rules, or you pay the price. This is an important lesson in any society, rural or not. You ask before taking. You make a trade. You temper your greed. Without this kind of energy, the world would be drained of its resources.

Yes, The Cailleach was perfect for my first female deity. She’s my cranky, tough-love grandma figure. She tells me to cut that excuse crap out of my life. She gives me long, judging looks when I’m acting like a fool and then asks if I’m ready to change my life yet. She’s the one that told me it was time to stop playing around and actually write the stories in my heart. I love her.

She came to me during what I like to call my “Season of the Crone.” Many referred to me as a “free spirit” in my twenties. I sang, I partied, and I loved big love with many, many people. Impetuous almost seems like an understatement when describing my youth. However, after three kids, I settled, which isn’t quite natural for me. I’m a traveler. I never lived someplace or worked someplace for more than two years. I descended from travelers too. Yet, when I decided to take my Pagan journey, I had already been living in the same home and working the same job for a very long time. It wasn’t a choice I made for myself. I did this to provide stability for my family.

So, I felt older than I was. I felt like I’d given up on my dreams and passions. Even the very real, non-metaphorical matches I lit couldn’t stay aflame. I would try to light four candles, and I couldn’t get it done with one match before it died in the gloomy humidity of my aura. As a triple Cancer, I joked with myself that I had too much water in my chart to keep my incense burning. As far as my love life…my husband is fantastic, but this was definitely our slump. I didn’t even miss sex. I felt silly thinking back to the days when I couldn’t get enough of it, my mind unable to concentrate on my higher calling because of my base urges. I was in my thirties, and acting like my youth was officially over. Ugh.

Taking on a crone goddess as my deity comforted me. I could embrace the old woman in myself and wallow around waiting for death. It allowed me to point to my spirituality as the cause for this instead of addressing my nearly limitless depression. However, the Cailleach had some surprises up her sleeve for me.

The Cailleach is often thought to wake at Samhain (Halloween) and sleep at Imbolc (the ending of Winter). Many believe that at Imbolc, she doesn’t simply sleep; she becomes Brigid, the goddess of fertility, healing, poetry, smithcraft, and FIRE. How completely different from my Winter Goddess. Brigid was not a deity I connected with, despite her association with Dagda and The Cailleach. It was hard for me to understand this transition.

Brigid by Emily Balivet

I did the tasks The Cailleach inspired me to pursue. I worked on my boundaries. I stopped making excuses. I labored to the bone, exhausting myself physically and mentally. The Cailleach is a real taskmaster. Then, something very unexpected happened. My honesty, my boundaries, and the selfish pursuit of my own goals seemed to attract others. Suddenly, I had all these friends, and they treated me with respect.

I now had encouragement to pursue my creative dreams, and my writing flourished. The more I wrote, the more this little ember of desire glowed, smoking and catching flame. Yet, here I was in this world I built in my Season of the Crone. It was perfectly constructed to stay safe and boring. So, where could I spread my fire?

I spent years wondering whether I was a crone or a flame trying to flicker on a damp wick. One day, I realized I’m neither of those. I am Brigid. I am the poet, the lover, the fire. So, I rebuilt my world in brighter colors and sought out other flames. Now, my heart fills up with passion, and my lungs scream out my ecstasy. I am alive!

The other day, my daughter asked me to help her smudge a new pack of tarot cards she received as a present. I sighed and lit some bundled herbs, knowing the smoke would die within a second or less, as it has for years and years. But, the herbs stayed smoldering, wafting fragrant, billowing clouds wherever I walked. For the first time in many years, I cleansed my home with smoke, walking through every room. I doused the smoke at my altar, and I looked at The Cailleach there.

“Thank you,” I told her, and I swear I saw my grandmother’s smiling face for a moment.

The Season of the Crone has ended.

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Struggling With the Current is the first book of The Telverin Trilogy, a fantasy war story that takes place between several countries in the world of Telverin.

Like reading my blog? Then, you’ll love my book!

Struggling With the Current is the first book in The Telverin Trilogy, a story about an exiled princess who finds herself in a terrifying world with equally frightening powers.

2 thoughts on “Shopping for Deities in the Season of the Crone

  1. Pingback: Divine Evolution & Maman Brigitte | A.R.K. Horton

  2. I loved this article! It’s so fun reading about people’s spiritual and religious journeys! And I think too many people are afraid of Goddesses of Old Age or Death like the Cailleach – not that I didn’t learn nearly everything I know about her from your post! I’ve never found anything that particularly fascinated me about Celtic mythology before, but that may be only from not knowing the right places to look. Death is part of life. Age is part of young. Winter brings the Spring. Nature and the gods demonstrate this so clearly to those who are ready to see it.

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