I have so many days when I want to be someone else – when I think I should be someone else.
When I think I should be more academic in my religious research.
When I think I should spend more time out in the land (even when my body is doing that thing where it doesn’t want me to move).
When I think other people do a better job of Irish/Gaelic polytheism than me.
Then She finds me, and tells me that who I am is perfect for serving her. And the way I serve by being myself is different from the way anyone else could.
The 25th of March is Latha na Callich in Scotland, and the traditional day of the Equinox, which may have had Cailleach Bhéarra associations (though I’ve not seen any evidence of that in the Beara penisula specifically – but Seren writes great things about the theory here). The Beara figure of Baoi/Boi is a weather goddess, and I certainly associate her with the chaotic early spring weather we get here in the islands.
I’ve been wanting to do the 30 Days of Deity Devotion, but I’ve been worried. My view of my deity is apparently quite unusual, and I’m nervous of being called a naive neophyte. My view of Her is still in development, as I take things slowly, research, visit her land, and try to find stories of her by local people. There are also some parts of my ‘unverified personal gnosis’ that I am currently expected to keep to myself.
With all that in mind, I’m going for it anyway. My sort-of-unique view of Cailleach Bhéarra may be useful to someone, somewhere. Let’s see what I can come up with. Disclaimers: I will be writing about the local, Beara Peninsula figure of Cailleach Bhéarra, rather than primarily about her representations in more ‘standard’ mythology. I will be including folklore and direct revelation (so-called ‘UPG’). As always with my writing, ‘your mileage may vary’ and I may be widely disagreed-with. This is not reconstructionism (which I think is probably impossible with this figure). It is my ongoing attempt to reconnect* with an ancient figure who very much belongs to the Beara peninsula.
30 Days of Deity Devotion: topics
1) A basic introduction to the deity
2) How did you become first aware of this deity?
3) Symbols and icons of this deity
4) A favorite myth or myths of this deity
5) Members of the family – genealogical connections
6) Other related deities and entities associated with this deity
7) Names and epithets
8) Variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.)
9) Common mistakes about this deity
10) Offerings – historical and UPG
11) Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity
12) Places associated with this deity and their worship
13) What modern cultural issues are closest to this deity’s heart?
14) Has worship of this deity changed in modern times?
15) Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?
16) How do you think this deity represents the values of their pantheon and cultural origins?
17) How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?
18) How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality? (historical and/or UPG)
19) What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?
20) Art that reminds you of this deity
21) Music that makes you think of this deity
22) A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with
23) Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity
24) A time when this deity has helped you
25) A time when this deity has refused to help
26) How has your relationship with this deity changed over time?
27) Worst misconception about this deity that you have encountered
28) Something you wish you knew about this deity but don’t currently
29) Any interesting or unusual UPG to share?
30) Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?
“She’s been a key part of Celtic-Gaelic tales for so long. You also find talk of her in Scottish legends – but she shape-shifts, depending on the age of the story and the source. The earliest one shows her as the corn goddess, possessor of all the secrets of seed sowing and harvesting… And I suppose she was a giantess, because tales of her footprints all over Beara and Dursey Island are well known.”
- David Yeadon, ‘On the Edge of Ireland: Seasons on the Beara Peninsula’, p.194
Bantry Girls’ Lament – my favourite song from Beara, and one that always plays a lot when I’ve got my ‘Bhéarra’ playlist on. The story is of the 19th-century British recruitment of Irish men to fight in the Napoleonic wars.
*’Reconnection’ is a term I’m thinking of using for my practice. To the extent that I need one. Which, y’know, is debatable. :D