Moonday Musings

Meeting An Cailleach

I am currently on vacation in the Canadian Maritimes, and I wanted to share a special moment I experienced in the spot pictured above.

I was exploring the ocean floor at low tide on the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world. We were on the Nova Scotia side of the Bay — meaning “New Scotland” — which geologically was once connected to the European land mass. This spot feels so primeval, outside of time. The Bay’s landscape is ever-changing as the tides sculpt the rocks and earth. It is truly a liminal and magical place!

The rock pictured can be seen only at low tide. As I approached it, I heard a whisper on the wind… “An Cailleach is here”. I felt what was almost like a sob, an energy rising within me, heeding her call. I walked to the rock and stayed with it for a while, connecting to its energies and, I believe, its memories. I felt the vibrations of An Cailleach sculpting that landscape, rock by rock, tide by tide… and reborn twice a day as she emerged from each low tide.

In another spot further back in the Bay, we watched the incoming tidal bore surge into the freshwater Shubenacadie River as it flowed toward the sea (so exciting to see!), with rapids and whirlpools forming and reforming as the sea met the river, reversing its flow until the tide once again ebbed a few hours later. They were not Corryvrecken sized whirlpools, but I’m sure An Cailleach could still wash her plaids in them!

This rock will now forever be my “An Cailleach Béara” (aka Cailleach Bhéara or the Hag of Béara), sitting in the sea, awaiting her lover Manannán mac Lir (aka Manan), God of the Sea, to return to her.

Perhaps I will have to create a new name for her in this locale, when I call on her wisdom!

There is another interesting twist on the tale of “my” Cailleach Bheara rock. The closest island from this spot in the Bay of Fundy is Grand Manan Island. The name “Manan” in this case does not refer to Manannán mac Lir, as it is a corruption of “mun-an-ook” or “man-an-ook”, meaning “island place” or “the island”, from the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy-Penobscot First Nations language.

I like to think that An Cailleach and Manannán mac Lir are together for eons, here in this place with such a strong Celtic connection, and complementing the lore of the Indigenous peoples of this land.

Indigenous Lore

The settlers from the Celtic lands of Ireland and Scotland may have brought their (my!) gods here to “New Scotland” but the lore from the first peoples on this land, the Mi’kmaq, have soul-stirring creation legends not dissimilar to those of the Celts, perhaps connected through a collective unconscious of our shared histories of living where the sea meets land.

I wanted to know more, and the information presented itself very quickly!

After our Bay of Fundy experience, we headed over to a local cafe — the Mud Slide Cafe in Maitland, Nova Scotia (highly recommended if you’re out that way) — where I saw an old sign with the word Glooscap on it. I had no idea what or who a Glooscap was, so googled for more information.

Per the Canadian Encyclopedia:

“Glooscap, the culture hero, transformer of the Eastern Woodlands Indigenous people (1). Huge in size and powers, Glooscap is said to have created natural features such as the Annapolis Valley, in the process often having to overcome his evil twin brother who wanted rivers to be crooked and mountains impassable. Glooscap slept across NS, using as his pillow PEI, known to the Indigenous people as Abegweit, meaning "Cradled on the Waves."

Wikipedia shared more Glooscap lore:

“In one version of the Mi'kmaq creation story, Glooscap laid on his back, with arms outstretched to the north and south and his head toward the rising sun. He was in this position for 365 days and nights. Then, Nogami, the grandmother, was born as an old woman from the dew of the rock. The next day, Nataoa-nsen, Nephew, was born from the foam of the sea. On the next day was born the Mother of all the Mi'kmaq, from the plants of the Earth.”

I am fascinated by the lore and the parallels between two very different cultures, both from people so strongly connected to the sea and earth… and perhaps I too am being born from that “dew of the rock” like Nogami.


Footnote

(1) Per the Canadian Encyclopedia, the Eastern Woodlands Indigenous people refers to one of the “six cultural areas of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The region stretches from the northeastern coast of present-day United States and the Maritimes to west of the Great Lakes. The Eastern Woodlands includes, among others, the Haudenosaunee, Mi’kmaq, Ojibwe and Wendat (Huron) peoples.”

The legends of Glooscap are from the Mi’kmaq people.

2 thoughts on “Meeting An Cailleach”

  1. I knew you would feel the magic in the Maritimes. I have an indigenous friend who maintains that the Celts, in particular of the Gaeltacht, (west of Ireland, Highlands & Hebrides and indigenous people here have very similar beliefs about nature. One of my cousins is artist and poet Basma Kavanagh. Beautiful work. Have fun.

    Liked by 2 people

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