The Hag Of Beara  

Posted by Stella Clark

The Hag Of Beara Image
" On the Beara Peninsula in the far southwestern part of Ireland, there is a strange outcrop of rock which appears to be shaped like a woman's face gazing out to the sea. This is the Caelleach Bhearra, The Hag of Beara, whom local tradition calls the "Shaper of the Land." Caileach Beara is an ancient goddess of creation, educattion, knowledge, earth, and nature. She is said to be an old hag and a wise woman. She was immensely strong and carried boulders in her apron as she shaped the landscape. She made the rivers flow and had control over the dark, cold months of winter.

"EBB TIDE HAS COME TO ME AS THE SEA;"OLD AGE MAKES ME YELLOW;"THOUGH I MAY GRIEVE THEREAT,"it approaches its food joyfully.

"I AM BUI, THE OLD WOMAN OF BEARE,"I USED TO WEAR A SMOCK THAT WAS EVER RENEWED,"TODAY IT HAS BEFALLEN ME, BY REASON OF MY MEAN ESTATE,"That I could not even have a cast-off smock to wear.

"IT IS RICHES"YOU LOVE AND NOT PEOPLE;"AS FOR US WHEN WE LIVED,"It was people we loved.

"BELOVED WERE THE PEOPLE"WHOSE PLAINS WE RIDE OVER,"WELL DID WE FARE AMONG THEM,"And they boasted little thereafter.

"TODAY INDEED YOU ARE GOOD AT CLAIMING,"AND YOU ARE NOT LAVISH IN GRANTING THE CLAIM,"THOUGH IT IS LITTLE YOU BESTOW,"Greatly do you boast.

"SWIFT CHARIOTS"AMD STEEDS THAT CARRIED OFF THE PRIZE,"THERE HAS BEEN, FOR A TIME, A FLOOD OF THEM;"A blessing on the King who granted them.

"MY BODY, FULL OF BITTERNESS,"SEEKS TO GO OFF TO A DWELLING WHERE IT HAS KNOWN,"WHEN THE SON OF GOD DEEMS IT TIME"let Him come to carry off His deposit.

"WHEN MY ARMS ARE SEEN"ALL BONY AND THIN!"THEY ARE NOT, I DECLARE"worth raising around comely youths.

"THE MAIDENS ARE JOYFUL"WHEN THEY REACH MAY DAY;"GRIEF IS MORE FITTING FOR ME:"I am not only miserable, but an old woman.

"I SPEAK NO HONIED WORDS;"NO WETHERS ARE KILLED FOR MY WEDDING;"MY HAIR IS SCANT AND GREY;"To have a mean veil over it causes no regrets.

"TO HAVE A WHITE VEIL"ON MY HEAD CAUSES ME NO GRIEF;"MANY COVERINGS OF EVERY HUE"were on my head as we drank good ale.

"I ENVY NO ONE OLD,"EXCEPT ONLY FIEMAN,"AS FOR ME I HAVE WORN AN OLD PERSON'S GARB;"Fieman's crop is still yellow.

"THE STONE OF THE KINGS IN FEIMEN,"R'oN'aNS DWELLING IN BREGUN, "IT IS LONG SINCE STORMS (FIRST) REACHED THEIR CHEEKS; "but they are not old and withered

"I" KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING: "THEY ROW AND ROW OFF (?); "THE REEDS OF ATH ALMA,"cold is the dwelling in which they sleep.

"ALACK-A-DAY (?) "THAT I SAIL NOT OVER YOUTHS SEA! "MANY YEARS OF MY BEAUTY ARE DEPARTED, "for my wantonness has been used up.

"SUMMER OF YOUTH IN WHICH WE HAVE BEEN "I SPENT WITH ITS AUTUMN; "WINTER OF AGE WHICH OVERWHELMS EVERYONE, "I"ts first months have come to me.

"I HAVE SPENT MY YOUTH IN THE BEGINNING; "I AM SATISFIED WITH MY DECISION: "THOUGH MY LEAP BEYOND THE WALL HAD BEEN SMALL, "the cloak would not have been still new.

"DELIGHTFUL IS THE CLOAK OF GREEN "WHICH MY KING HAS SPREAD OVER DRUMAIN. "NOBLE IS HE WHO FULLS IT:"He has bestowed wool on it after rough cloth.

"I AM COLD INDEED; "EVERY ACORN IS DOOMED TO DECAY. "AFTER FEASTING BY BRIGHT CANDLES "to be in the darkness of an oratory!

I have had my day with kings, "DRINKING MEAD AND WINE;"NOW I DRINK WHEY-AND-WATER "among shrivelled old hags.

"I SEE ON MY CLOAK THE STAINS OF AGE; "MY REASON HAS BEGUN TO DECEIVE ME; "GREY IS THE HAIR WHICH GROWS THROUGH MY SKIN;"the decay of an ancient tree is like this.

"MY RIGHT EYE HAS BEEN TAKEN FROM ME "TO BE SOLD FOR A LAND THAT WILL BE FOR EVER MINE; "THE LEFT EYE HAS BEEN TAKEN ALSO, TO MAKE MY CLAIM "to that land more secure.

"THERE ARE THREE FLOODS "WHICH APPROACH THE FORT OF ARD RUIDE: "A FLOOD OF WARRIORS, A FLOOD OF STEEDS, "a flood of the greyhounds owned by Lugaid's sons

."THE FLOOD-WAVE "AND THAT OF SWIFT EBB: "WHAT THE FLOOD-WAVE BRINGS YOU "the ebb-wave carries out of your hand.

"THE FLOOD-WAVE "AND THAT SECOND WAVE WHICH IS EBB:"ALL HAVE COME TO ME SO THAT "I know how to recognize them.

"IT IS WHOLLY SAD "(MAN IS THE BASEST OF CREATURES) "THAT EBB WAS NOT SEEN "as the flood had been.

"IT IS WELL FOR AN ISLAND OF THE GREAT SEA:"FLOOD COMES TO IT AFTER ITS EBB; "AS FOR ME, "I expect no flood after ebb to come to me

"TODAY THERE IS SCARCELY "A DWELLING-PLACE I COULD RECOGNIZE; "WHAT WAS IN FLOOD"is all ebbing.

"("THE LAMENT OF THE OLD WOMAN OF BEARE" ANONYMOUS 10TH CENTURY)In the above Irish poem, an old woman is remembering when she was the mistress of kings. Now she lives alone in Beare with only the wind and the sea for company. By turns, she was beautiful and ugly, young and old. She is a symbol of the cycle of life and of the rulers relationship with the land. In her youthful aspect, she distributes the symbolic cup of rulership, offering female wisdom through the power of water. As an old crone, she holds sway over nature.

Journal Exercises


What ideas and images does the word "crone" conjure up in your mind?

"WHAT ABOUT THE WORDS...HAG, CAILEACH?"

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