The Cailleach is the goddess of winter, Bríghde is her summer counterpart. A hag that can appear as a beautiful young woman; she carries a staff that struck against the ground will cause it to freeze over instantly. She is associated with mountains, hills and cairns; the formation of landscape and the annual cycles and renewal in nature.
The looseness in interpretation of her powers, the large number of legends that surround her, her symbolism in relation to ecology and the state of the earth today, the leeway one has to represent her in myriad ways makes, (and has made), her rich material for writers, poets and artists.
Driving a herd of goats down a gorge:
primeval creatures with colossal spiralling horns,
coarse matted hair, yellow eyes.
Tendrils of hair trailing down her back,
silver streams through the buff tussocks,
the swirled bronze bracken of winter.
Her face, graphite sheet of a waterfall;
eyes, dark crags in its flow;
at its foot a rowan’s red mouth.
A staff held high,
above us hail stones ripened for a fall;she drove us from the mountain with lashes on our backs.
from Above Ground Below Ground