Winter’s Veil

Cailleach*, Goddess of Winter, has arrived on brutal winds from the north.   Embracing the cold, I head deeper into the woods on snowshoes that glide across the land.    White pines tower over my head, their boughs so high that only an owl would find them suitable.    Branches, laden with the brilliant whiteness of snow, clasp to age-old trunks.   Trees snap from the inside, their song an ode to the winter gods that claim them.   Wind moans through hundred-year-old limbs; twigs are tossed to the side as the Hag moves through the wildwood.

Born months ago, she continues to pound the earth with her staff; ensuring winters grasp to be cold and deep.  Snow has fallen steadily for hours, reminding the forest folk of deer and coyote of her constant presence.  Birds, silent except for an occasional twitter from the Redpoll, flit nervously from tree to tree, searching for food.

I pause beneath the mighty trees of my forest, and a calm descends upon the small clearing.   Winds cease their howling.   Branches still.   My breath, cold and wet, freezes upon impact with the hoary woman’s frigid exhalations that kiss my face.   The mighty power of the Death Goddess, old Cailleach herself, surrounds me.   In Ireland and Scotland, she is Ancient Earth, a powerful entity.   She rules the land, ushering in winter and spring as she sees fit.   The blue-faced hag watches over the culling of old growth, green that is no longer needed.   All the while she shakes her blankets, covering the land in snow.

Awareness not felt in many years begins to creep into my being as I stand atop a tree felled by wind years ago.  Reindeer moss hangs from branches.   Lichens cling to nooks and crannies found within the bark of a tree.  Wintergreen pokes its stubborn green head through the snow.  Tiny seeds of new life sit in the lap of the wise woman, protected from certain death.

Beneath many layers of warmth, my skin begins to pucker as arm hairs become electric.   Warmth courses through my veins, calming my restless spirit.  Perched precariously on a mound of snow and log, I stand, strong as the pines around me.  My eyes close as light bursts through the clouds.  Cailleach, ancient crone of wisdom, encircles me, wrapping me in her plaid blanket as heavy snow falls from the branches above.

My eyelids snap open and intense sageness as true as the snow fills my being. Born of my blood, Cailleach lives within me; I am the old woman, just as she is me.   Entwined with ancient earth, I am the blue hag.

*Cailleach is pronounced (KAL-y-ach)

© Tara E. Wisnewski Janisch and Rugged Earth Blessings, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of original poems, essays and photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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