TALES FROM THE CAILLEACH SHOP

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'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 on Sliabh na Caillí.
At Spring Equinox the sun will enter the mound shining on this symbol 
and the greening of the land will begin.

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'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
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'AS 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

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'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


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'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. which faces north towards Polaris, the pole star. 
Rising into the night sky are the carvings from the ceiling stone in the cairn and below, rock art from the Hag's Chair flow out upon the land. 
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.

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'THE CAILLEACH - CAIRN T'
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pastel on watercolour paper

The Cailleach 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 goddess herself.

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'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.

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'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.

"At the mound, breath hoar frost on stone, I enter black stillness.
In this womb, the air, 
already laden with the scent of meadowsweet yet to bloom, 
shifts as I trace shapes within the stones."

Read her story HERE


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'THE GREENING HARE'
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper

The Cailleach, in the shape of a hare her body decorated with rock art from within the mound, 
carries the greening across the land.

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'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 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.


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

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

Read her story HERE



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'AT THE CENTRE'
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON
Watercolour & gouache on watercolour paper

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


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'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.


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.

READ MORE ABOUT THE WISE WOMAN HERE

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'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.


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'THE CAILLEACH'S HEARTH'
AN ORIGINAL PAINTING by JANE BRIDESON

Watercolour, gouache & pencil on watercolour paper


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. 


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'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


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

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'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


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MORE ORIGINAL PAINTINGS CAN BE SEEN 
HERE

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