Exploring the Myths, Folklore and Legends of the pre-eminent Celtic Hag Goddess
By Sorita d’Este and David Rankine

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.

The authors have tracked the Cailleach across thousands of years through folklore, literature and place names, uncovering 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.

2009, 148 pages. Paperback & Kindle editions available.
ISBN 978-1-905297-24-5
B&W 5.5 x 8.5 in or 216 x 140 mm (Demy 8vo) Perfect Bound on White w/Gloss Lam

Visions of the Cailleach by Sorita d'Este and David Rankine

  • Introduction
    CHAPTER 1: Origins Set in Stone
    The European Origins of the Cailleach
    From Spain to Ireland
    A Maltese Origin?
    The Irish Manuscripts
    Name Connections
    Goddess or Spirit?
    The Different Names of the Cailleach
    The Possibility of a Priestess Cult
    CHAPTER 2: Earth Shaper
    The Cailleach in Scotland
    The Cailleach in Ireland
    The Cailleach in England
    The Cailleach in Wales
    The Cailleach on the Isle of Man
    The Cailleach in Jersey
    The Cailleach in Brittany
    The Cailleach in Norway
    CHAPTER 3: Water Witch
    Predicting the Weather
    The Cailleach in the Carmina Gadelica
    Summoning the Water
    CHAPTER 4: Crone of Winter
    Winter Customs
    The Cailleach and Bride
    The Woman of the Mist
    CHAPTER 5: Oldest Spirit
    The Cally-Berry
    The Cold May-day Monday
    The Cailleach Bhéarthach and the Walker
    The Cailleach Béarra’s Box
    Never Ask A Woman Her Age
    CHAPTER 6: Lady of the Beasts
    The Lucky Poachers
    The Cailleach and the Stupid Deer
    The Cailleach’s Song
    The Story of Mongan
    The Old Woman Outwits the Devil
    The Cailleach Ends the Viking Age
    The mark left by Cailleach Béarra
    CHAPTER 7: Shapeshifter
    The Cailleach Bheur and Loch Bà (I)
    The Cailleach Bheur and Loch Bà (II)
    Thomas the Rhymer
    CHAPTER 8: Bestower of Sovereignty
    Princess Beara
    Niall of the Nine Hostages
    The Adventure of Daire’s Sons
    The Daughter of the King under the Waves
    CHAPTER 9: Seer & Foreteller  of Doom
    The Caillagh ny Gueshag
    The Golden Apples of Lough-Erne
    Foreteller of Doom
    CHAPTER 10: Malevolent Cailleach
    The Gyre Carling
    The Cailleach of Gleann na mBiorach and the Black Bull
    The Cailleach Bhéarthach and Donnchadh Mór Mac Mánais
    The Cailleach Mhore of Cilbrick
    The Heron of Lock a-na-Cailleach
    CHAPTER 11: Possible Cailleach derivatives
    Black Annis
    Juan White
    Mala Lia
    St Bronagh