Thursday, 20 October 2016

#FolkloreThursday: The Winter Goddess

The 15 minute illustration challenge.
Cailleach Bheur sketch done in pastels and pen
by Katie M. John (copyright 2016)
Mother of Mountains, Ruler of Winter.

Today is the first of my #Folklore Thursday series. Folklore is central to my authoring, from well-known fairytales, to supernatural urban legends, to local legends. Every Thursday, I am going to introduce you to one of the folktales that I have discovered and which I find creatively inspiring.

Today is the legend of Cailleach Bheur, also known as The Winter Goddess, or the Ruler of Winter.

Her name derives from the phrase 'The Veil' and she falls into the archetype of the Hag or Crone like figure.

She figures in English, Scottish and Irish mythology and is linked to the idea of the seasons. Cailleach is the ruler of winter, transforming from stone into her human form on on Shamhainn (1st November) and the first day of winter, and returns to being a stone statue on Bealtainn (1st May)

She is believed to be the mother of all gods and goddesses, the maker of mountains, hills and boulders.

She carries both a hammer and a magic staff, which some legends say is made of human flesh. The hammer is used as part of her stone making, and the staff is planted into the ground turning the grass to ice. She is linked to the destroyer goddesses, but this is not necessarily seen as a negative thing but part of the great cycle of life.

She is often referred to as the Blue Faced Hag, and she is guardian to the beasts through winter, with specific attachment to deer, cats and wolves; she is often depicted riding on the back of a wolf. Her sacred trees are the Holly tree and the gorse bush, and it is said that when the ice under her feet turns to grass, she throws her staff down under a Holly Tree and disappears in a whip of anger.

She has manifested in more contemporary fairytales in the form of The Snow Queen, and in The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as more recently, the figure of Elsa in Disney's Frozen.

Were you aware of this myth? Do you have any other favourite Ice Queen / Snow Queen fairytales or legends?

The Goodess Path by Patricia Monaghan


  1. Thanks for this, enjoyed it. And great illustration!

    1. Thank you :) Glad you enjoyed it. I'm going to make it a weekly feature on my blog - I love folklore and this was actually one I hadn't 'naturally' come across. Thanks for stopping by and I'll hopefully see you next week :)