The Cailleach, the Return of Bride,
and Groundhog Day

Wicca Spirituality Table of Contents
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

One of Brigid / Bride's titles is "Two-Faced." This doesn't mean She is deceitful. It means She is seen as having one side of Her face as light and beautiful, and the other of Her face as pitch black and frightful.

As mentioned in the main Brigid article, I believe this indicates that originally She was the Goddess of both Summer and Winter, in different forms.

In Her Winter form, She is called the Cailleach (pronounced, if I have it right, as KAY-loch — with the "ch" sounding like a "K" that doesn't quite make it past all the air you're putting out, or perhaps a very gummy "H" in the back of your throat).

The Cailleach is a Gaelic hag — a Crone Goddess, Queen of Winter ... She who is displaced by the Goddess of Spring, Brigid.

There is an ancient Celtic legend that points to the transformation of the Cailleach, the Crone of Winter, into Brigid, the Maiden of Spring. It's called The Return of Bride. No, it's not some horror tale... it's a love story!

The Return of Bride

The Cailleach, the Hag of Winter, had imprisoned a maiden named Bride in Her high mountain home.

She knew that Her son Angus-the-Ever-Young (a Sun God) had fallen in love with this fair girl. The Cailleach also knew that if these two ever married, Her own reign would be over: Angus would be the Summer King and Bride would be the Summer Queen.

Smitten and not to be deterred, Angus set out to find Bride. Irish weather in February could be treacherous, though, so Angus borrowed 3 days from August within which to search.

With this fine weather, he was riding and searching through deep woods. As it turned out, the Cailleach had sent Bride out to take advantage of the sunshine and gather in some more wood for the fire.

Angus searched high and low, and eventually he was led to Bride by the sound of Her singing.

She immediately loved the shining young man just as he loved Her. The two of them eloped.

The furious Cailleach chased after them riding on her shaggy black goat, sending wave after wave of terrible storms to slow them down.

In the end, though, She was forced to recognise that the rising tide of life was too powerful. She cast down her magick hammer at that moment, and turned into a boulder on the side of the mountain, where She had to stay until Winter returned.

The Cailleach is an ancient deity, far predating the arrival of the Celts in Ireland, and it could be that this story is thousands of years old. At any rate, this story illustrates the transition from Winter Goddess to Summer Goddess, the dark face of the year to the bright face of the year.

A Note on Groundhog Day

Celebrating Groundhog Day on Imbolc is actually related to Brigid as Goddess of Spring.

When Brigid returns, not only green leafy life begins to make its way to the surface, but the dormant animal life also begins to rise, as eloquently demonstrated by the hibernating animals rising from their beds beneath the Earth.

This is a time when the Hag of Winter begins to yield to the Maiden of Spring. But She doesn't always do so willingly.

There is another ancient Celtic legend of the Gaelic hag, the Cailleach.

It says that on the first day of Spring by the Celtic calendar (Imbolc), the Cailleach would venture out of doors to restock her firewood supply, to see Her through the rest of the winter.

If She plans on keeping the winter going for a good long time, she makes sure the weather on the first day of Spring is sunny and clear, so She can gather a lot of firewood to keep Herself warm for many weeks.

If the weather on this day is bad, however, it means the Cailleach is still asleep and won't be getting more firewood. So rather than going cold Herself, She'll be sure to bring an end to the winter soon.

How does this tie in with Groundhog Day?

Simple: if the Cailleach makes a sunny day, the groundhog will be able to see its shadow, so we know that She's gathering firewood... and we'll be in for a long cold spell. If She sleeps through it and the day remains cloudy, the groundhog won't see its shadow, so we know that winter will be over soon.

Who knew that Groundhog Day and the Hag Goddess were linked in any way??

(Don't you love this website... always bringing you fascinating if somewhat useless tidbits like this!)  

    If so, please consider supporting this site. Check out this page for ideas and ways you can. Thanks in advance for taking a peek!

With Brightest Blessings,

erin Dragonsong

Witch Love Smilie  ©  Wicca Spirituality

Next: Beyond Wiccan Gods and Goddesses

Return from The Return of Bride to Wiccan Gods and Goddesses