Tuesday, 17 July 2018

WALKING WITH THE CAILLEACH Part 2

This is the final post from my exhibition 'Tales from The Cailleach' 
which is showing at LOUGHCREW MEGALITHIC CENTRE until the end of August. 

You can find the first post WALKING WITH THE CAILLEACH PART 1

My journey with the Cailleach began many years ago when I glimpsed her in stories about the Caillagh-ny-Groamagh, the old woman of spells, who lives on the Isle of Man. Following a powerful experience within cairn T here at Loughcrew, she circled closer, coming to me in words and images as my life began to change. 
Now in my sixth decade she is a constant presence, a source of strength and wisdom as I walk beside her on 
my spiritual path.  

If you would like to order cards or prints please contact me via the form on my Home Page 
or on Facebook link HERE





SHE CARRIES THE GREENING WITHIN
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour & gouache on watercolour paper.


As The Cailleach walks a snow shrouded landscape she carries within the symbols which are carved into the back stone of Cairn T. 
At Spring Equinox the sun will enter the mound shining on this symbol and the greening of the land will begin.

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE






AUTUMN EQUINOX
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper


Each year at Autumn Equinox, around 21st September, the light at sunrise enters the passage of Cairn T on Sliabh na Caillí to illuminate the ‘equinox’ stone carving. 
It is a point of balance after which nature begins to rest, turning her energy inwards.


THE HARVEST’S IN
THE TURF IS STACKED
A FIRE BURNS RED UPON THE HEARTH
WE TAKE OUR EASE THESE LONG COLD NIGHTS
YET THE CAILLEACH STILL WALKS THE LAND
HER FACE TOWARDS THE WANING YEAR
TRACING FROST UPON BLACK BRANCHES…

words © Jane Brideson 2018


ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 






THE CAILLEACH’S HEARTH
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour board


Before sunset on the eve of Bealtaine it was customary for people to guard against witchcraft as there were those who would attempt to steal milk and the goodness from butter on May morning. 
It was also understood that the local Cailleach could transform herself into a hare 
and sup directly from the cow’s udder.
At this time precautions were taken against charming by tying red thread or a sprig of mountain ash on the cow’s tail. 
To protect the butter mountain ash, a small piece of iron or a coal from the fire was placed under the churn. 
Because of its red berries the mountain ash or rowan was especially powerful however care must be taken as, in the wrong hands, it could also be used to bewitch. 


ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE







THE CAILLEACH’S COTTAGE
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper

“ THE HARE MANAGED TO REACH THE SHELTER OF A NEARBY CABIN. 
WHEN THE MAN ENTERED HE DISCOVERED AN OLD WOMAN NURSING A BLEEDING LEG. HE PULLED HER OUT BUT SHE TOOK THE FORM 
OF A HARE AND ESCAPED.
ABOUT A HUNDRED YEARS AGO PAT CLANCY OF CURRANDOO SHOT AT &WOUNDED THE SAME HARE ON THREE CONSECUTIVE DAYS. 
ON THE THIRD OCCASION THE SHOT RETURNED & HIT HIM ON 
THE HAND, PARALYSING HIS HAND FOR LIFE.”

From the Schools’ Folklore Collection.


ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 






BONE SLIP
AN ORIGINAL SKETCH by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour & gouache on watercolour paper


One of the most intriguing artefacts discovered by excavations at the Loughcrew mounds are the bone slips found in cairn H.
150 slips came to light, all of which appear to have been placed beneath two different orthostats. Decorated with La Tène style carvings, some originally formed combs whilst others were pierced at one end, possibly for hanging.
Recent carbon dating suggests that they were produced in the Middle Iron Age, older than first believed, revealing that the ancestral mounds of the Neolithic people were still sacred to those who came much later.
This bone slip carved with a stag and the head of a doe may be the earliest example of representative art in Ireland. 






MOTHER OF THE HERD ~ REBIRTH
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour & gouache on watercolour paper


Red deer, the only species native to Ireland, have had a continuous presence here since the end of the last Ice Age. They were vital to the life of early people providing food, clothing, tools and adornment. Perhaps the deer also played a part in the beliefs and ritual focus of our ancestors 
The Cailleach, the Mother of Herd, associated with deer and horned cattle, holds the life of the herd and the people in her hands. 

Archaeological excavations in Cairn T on Sliabh na Caillí unearthed many articles composed of red deer antler and bone including pins, a bodkin and an antler tine three inches long. 
Also revealed were rolled white quartz pebbles and a clear quartz crystal, drilled to be worn as a pendant.
These cloche geala, bright white stones appear throughout ancient architecture, folklore and mythology. Also known as grian cloche, sun stones, they are white quartz, clear crystal and quartzite stones which occur at almost all of the sacred sites excavated here and appear to be linked with the dead and the ancestors. 
Lore also describes them as cloche uaisle, a gentle or noble stone, often associated with The Good People and their mounds.
In modern times quartz is used in healing and as a tool to 'see' the future, white stones are still left on saints' beds, graves and at holy wells. 

Although we will never know the meaning of quartz to our ancestors it seems to be an integral part of Ireland’s sacred places, linking them to the Otherworld and perhaps to the rebirth of the spirit.

THE BELIEFS AND RITUALS ASSOCIATED WITH SHINING STONES CONTINUE 
FROM THE NEOLITHIC TO THE PRESENT DAY.

words © Jane Brideson 2018

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 






THE HAG OF THE MILL
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour & gouache on watercolour paper -private commission


I was commissioned to paint The Cailleach in her in her guise of The Hag of the Mill as she appears in Buile Suibne, ‘The Frenzy of Sweeney’, a tale recorded in the 1670’s. 

Briefly Suibhne is described as the king of Dal Araidhe in the north east of Ireland. When news reached him that St. Ronan Finn was building a Christian church on his land and chanting psalms the pagan Suibhne, having no time to dress, left his home naked and expelled the cleric.
After throwing the psalter into a nearby lake Suibhne is cursed by Ronan to constantly wander Ireland, flying naked throughout the land until killed by a spear.

So he spends seven years leaping from hill to hill, living amongst trees and existing only on watercress. Suibhne appears to lose his sanity but he is eventually caught and left in the care of his kinsman, the miller.
Suibhne is locked in a bedroom at the miller’s hostel until one day, during the busy harvest when all hands are needed, he is entrusted to the care of Lonnog, The Hag of the Mill. 

She is ordered not to speak to the captive but Lonnog has her own plans. 
She teases the king about his madness and he responds with tales of his freedom and the great leaps he once took across the hill tops of Ireland. 
Finally the Cailleach challenges him to make one more leap, this time through the skylight of the room. Suibhne does so and pursued by the Hag, is free once more. 
They travel across the landscape, with the Mill Hag driving him on. During their time together Suibhne recounts his meetings with the famous stags of Ireland, remembering his great adventures in the wild he recognises Lonnog as an ancient one, the progenitor, mother of the great herds of deer.

“ O mother of this herd
thy coat has become grey,
there is no stag after thee
without two score antler-points.”


Finally, to be rid of the Hag, Suibhne leaps to Dunseverick on the Antrim coast where he jumps again, followed by the Hag of the Mill.
The king survives by falling into the sea but the Cailleach lands on a cliff, her body broken, she falls into the water. After many more adventures St. Ronan’s curse descends upon Suibhne and he is killed by a spear wound.
But what of Lonnog, the ancient Cailleach ?
We are told that her body washes up on a beach and at that liminal place, between sea and land, 
she is carried away by her Otherworld kin. 

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 







TEA WITH THE CAILLEACH
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour board

The story surrounding Tea with The Cailleach will be posted soon!

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 






SPRING EQUINOX AT THE MOUND
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper


Each year at Spring Equinox, around 21st March, the light at sunrise enters the passage of Cairn T 
on Sliabh na Caillí to illuminate the ‘equinox’ stone and its’ carving. 
It is a point of balance after which the length of daylight increases bringing renewal, growth and 
the promise of nature’s abundance.

GOODNESS IN SEED, GRASS AND GRAIN
SUN-WISE CIRCLING
GOODNESS IN FLOWER, FRUIT AND BRANCH
A HEALTHY HARVEST
A SUDDEN SURGE 
A TORRENT THE YELLOW OF RIPENING SUN 
IS BIRTHED ACROSS THE LAND 
THE POINT OF BALANCE TIPPED
THE LAND AWASH WITH VIGOUR ONCE AGAIN.

words © Jane Brideson 2018


ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 






AT THE CENTRE
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON

On a bright spring morning as my companions explored the hill,
I entered the mound. 
I brought no offerings nor expectations only a reverence for this sacred place.
As my eyes settled from daylight to darkness I sat in the centre. 
Around me carved stones, cool air and silence. 
I waited. 
Through thoughts of tomb and womb, ritual and rebirth 
I waited.
Slowly a warmth grew beneath me, spreading around me.
I waited 
and finally the scents of age, of earth, of ashes 
as slowly
a presence filled the mound.

Curled upon the earthen floor held fast in bony embrace
She spoke to me and I wept in recognition of her words.
Filled with a certainty beyond all doubt.

I KNEW THEN, AS I KNOW NOW, 
THE CAILLEACH STILL WALKS THIS LAND.

words © Jane Brideson 2018

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 







WINTER
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour & gouache on watercolour paper



WINTER DEEPENS IN A HUSH OF SNOW
LAND LAID BARE TO REST
IS TIGHTLY TUCKED BENEATH WHITE BLANKETS.
AS WE DREAM OF SUMMER DAYS
THE CAILLEACH STILL WALKS THE LAND
FOOTSTEPS LEADING TO THE END
AND ON 
TO THE BEGINNING…

words © Jane Brideson 2018

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 




This exhibition is dedicated to The Cailleach in her many forms, 
to my Manx granny Annie-Mona Bridson & 
to the Old Women everywhere.



Saturday, 7 July 2018

WALKING WITH THE CAILLEACH Part 1



Finally some paintings from my exhibition 'Tales from The Cailleach' which is showing at Loughcrew Megalithic Centre until the end of August. 
I’m posting them here in 2 parts and hope you enjoy them!

If you would like to order cards or prints please contact me via the form on my Home Page or on Facebook link HERE
WELCOME
TO TALES FROM THE CAILLEACH


STONE, ANTLER & BONE

AN ORIGINAL PAINTING BY JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper

I COME TO YOU BY STONE
BY ANTLER AND BONE
BY CROWS FEET OF LAUGHTER
STRIATIONS OF TEARS
WEATHERED CONTOURS OF YOUR BODY
A LANDSCAPE OF LIFE 

I COME TO YOU BY STONE
BY ANTLER AND BONE
BY POWER OF WILDFIRE RISING
ACROSS YOUR NAKED HILLS
HOWLING LOST LOVE KEENING
LONG LABYRINTH OF NIGHT

I COME TO YOU BY STONE
BY ANTLER AND BONE
 ANCIENT RHYTHM OF THE WOMEN
AND HEARTBEAT OF HERD

I COME TO YOU BY STONE
BY ANTLER AND BONE
TO LEAD YOU THROUGH THE BLACKNESS
AND RETURN YOU TO THE LIGHT.

words © Jane Brideson 2018

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 





OLD AS THE HILLS 
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING BY JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper

I AM AS OLD AS THE HILLS
I STIR THE LAND TO GREENING
THE HARE TO LEAP
THE DEER TO RUT
THE GRAIN TO RISE AND FALL

I AM SWEENEY’S WILD MADNESS
BIDDY’S CURSE
BEARA’S STRENGTH

I AM THE OLD WOMAN WHO WALKS THE LAND
SHARP SICKLE OF FIRST FROST
BRIGHT GODDESS OF SOVEREIGNTY IN DISGUISE

I AM STONE, ANTLER AND BONE 

I WAIT AT THE CENTRE 

IN DARKNESS WHERE ALL LIFE ENDS
IN DARKNESS WHERE ALL IS RE-BORN

words © Jane Brideson 2018

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 




GODDESS OF SOVEREIGNTY AT THE HAG'S CHAIR
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper


Garavogue, the Cailleach of Loughcrew, sits upon the Hag’s Chair, the huge ‘horned’ kerbstone on the side of cairn T. 
The chair carved with rock art, faces north towards Polaris, the pole star. Traditionally Garavogue sat in this chair to watch the stars and to look out upon her land whenever she desired. 
As Goddess of the land she is the embodiment of Sovereignty bestowing the right to rule upon the chosen king. The king becomes her ‘husband’ by ritually embracing the Goddess and the ancestors.

In this guise as Goddess of Sovereignty the Cailleach appears in an old tale in which five brothers go out hunting in the woods. 
They get lost so decide to set up camp amongst the trees. One of the brothers goes in search of drinking-water, but finds a huge black Hag guarding the well. 
She will only give him water in exchange for a kiss but he turns away, repelled by her shape and age. 

Each of the brothers who follow also deny her a kiss except for the final bother, Niall who lies upon the land and holds her in a whole-hearted embrace. 
Immediately the Hag becomes a beautiful woman, her lips red 
“as the crimson lichen of Leinster’s crags”. 
Niall asks her who she is and prophesying his future she replies

“I AM SOVEREIGNTY 
YOUR SEED SHALL BE OVER EVERY CLAN.”


words© Jane Brideson 2018

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 




THE WISE WOMAN
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper


In the past gifted women guided communities through life's changes.
At child birth women would turn to the Handy Woman, Bean Ghúline, the country midwife, who had visited the Otherworld to refine her skills.
At death it was the Keening Woman, Bean Chaointe, who provided an essential service at funerary rituals.
For life's troubles in between the Bean Fasa, the Wise Woman, was consulted.

One function of the Wise Woman was that of Bean Leighis, woman healer, who diagnosed the maladies of people and animals. Her knowledge encompassed cures 
for bodily ailments as well as mental disorders and afflictions which had their cause in the Otherworld.
The local Wise Woman was called upon when mysterious injuries or illnesses appeared, when the butter wouldn't come or a changeling was thought to lie in the crib. 
Accounts tell of these woman being in regular contact with the Good People, gathering herbs at dawn and dusk, often attended by a spirit and having the ability to foresee the future. 
The lore surrounding wise women describe them as almost supernatural elders, often portrayed as personifications of The Cailleach. Many were real women, such as Biddy Early, who folklore recounts, once visited 
The Cailleach at Loughcrew.

THE WISE WOMAN OFTEN OPPOSED THE CHURCH AND MAN-MADE LAW 
SHE WAS A POWERFUL FEMALE, AN AUTHORITY FIGURE VIEWED
AS AN EMBODIMENT OF OUR ANCIENT GODDESS, 
THE CAILLEACH BEARA.


words © Jane Brideson 2018
ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE




INTO A HARE
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper


NINE HAWS, NINE KNOTS, A HAG STONE BOUND IN RED. 
EYES CLOSED I SANG ARCHAIC WORDS UPON THE CHARM.
DAMP EARTH-SCENT REPLACED TURF SMOKE 
I DIMINISHED 
I RE-FORMED
A TWITCH OF WHISKERS THEN I WAS OFF ACROSS THE SILVERED LAND
PAST LONE TREE, MOUND AND SACRED WELL
AROUND THE HAG’S HILL THEN SPIRALLING FAR BEYOND 
FULFILLING WORK BEGAN AT EQUINOX.

Read her story HERE

words © Jane Brideson 2018
ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE





THE ANCESTOR
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper

Our ancestors marked the Spring Equinox within the chamber of Cairn T where the golden light at sunrise illuminates the carved ‘equinox’ stone each year.  For them this event may have signified an important turning point in the year and in the spiritual life of the people.

Folklore, from Coolea, Co. Cork, tells of the three Old Women or Hags, who are responsible for the development of nature’s growth during March.
The tale begins on Brigid's Day at the start of February when one Cailleach stands under the ground attempting to push up the vegetation whilst the other two stand above ground to keep it down.
After the middle of March the single Cailleach below is joined by one other and both push up the plants together whilst one Hag remains above ground to resist their attempts.

BY THE END OF MARCH ALL THREE HAGS ARE BENEATH THE LAND 
PUSHING UP NEW GROWTH AT SPRING.

Words © Jane Brideson 2018
ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 





THE GREENING HARE
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper
Carvings from cairn T.


ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 





THE CAILLEACH - INSIDE CAIRN T
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pastel on watercolour paper

The Cailleach Beara, sits within the western recess of Cairn T on Sliabh na Caillí, part of the Loughcrew passage tomb complex, surrounded by richly decorated stones which line the mound. 
Behind her is the 'Equinox' stone in the northern recess illuminated by the rising sun at the Autumn and Spring Equinoxes. Around her neck hang some of the finds discovered in excavations of the mounds which took place in the 1860's.
The complex of Loughcrew spreads across her lap, with Patrickstown Hill to the left, Carnbane East with Cairns T, U and V at the centre and Carnbane West on the right, showing Cairns D and L. Her hands are placed in the crack of the sill stone as she connects the earth, sea, moon and sun.
Beneath the waxing moons and the Milky Way can be seen Slieve Gullion, Co. Armagh, where the southern cairn is known as the Calliagh Berra's House. 
Beneath this is a herd of red deer, the only species native to Ireland, having had a continuous presence here since the end of the last Ice Age. 
On the right lies Knowth, Co. Meath, also known as Cnoc Buí where it is believed that the ancestor, Buí, "cow like one", a name for The Cailleach, is buried.
To the left can be seen the 'Calendar Stone' from Cairn X, Loughcrew, thought to show both solar and lunar cycles. Kerbstone 15 from Knowth, also a calendar stone, sits to the right.
Below is the Hag's Tooth on Carrauntoohil, Co. Kerry and Buí's Island, off the Beara Peninsula, 
Co. Cork. And finally 

THE HAG OF BEARA 
A LEGENDARY ERRATIC STONE WHICH IS SAID TO BE 
THE CAILLEACH HERSELF.

words © Jane Brideson 2018

ART CARDS, PRINTS & MOUNTED CANVAS PRINTS AVAILABLE 


You can find the final paintings from my exhibition 
Walking with The Cailleach Part 2
HERE