Poetry by Gerry Stewart: The Cailleach Wakes in Finland

Poetry by Gerry Stewart: The Cailleach Wakes in Finland

The Cailleach Wakes in Finland

Samhain’s drum rattles me
from my stone sleep.
Gone are my cauldron and plaid,
yet a deep-cast cloak of snow
crunches beneath my boots.
Old Hag.

I could be at home here,
welcome the bite of cold air,
cracking my icy joints
on the bones of it.
Veiled One.

The sand-dry snow tears my skin.
My heroes have vanished,
our stories unknown.
I am wandering,
fateless, banished.
Queen of Winter.

Even my blessed deer differ here,
herded and tamed to pull sledges,
not wandering free.
Turning their furred noses
from my protection,
they run to the slaughter.
Grey Eyebrows.

My slachdan could carve out
my beloved lochs and bens
from this unfamiliar flat bog,
but I cannot disrespect
this land’s gods,
watching me through Otso’s
reproachful eyes.
Mother of Mountains.

They do not welcome me,
whispering their birch language.
These giants have no respect
for strong women,
they try to rewrite me as a petty witch.
Old Wife of Thunder.

I scratch long trails
of mourning into the night sky,
tears of lights.
If I cannot return home,
they will fear the tempest
I stir from this empty darkness.
Storm Crone.

Author’s Note

The Cailleach is a Celtic creation goddess with a slachdan, a wand or staff. Otso is a circumlocutory epithet for the bear, a magical being in Finland whose real name was prohibited from use