The Cailleach was a celtic goddess associated with creativity and with natural events such as weather and tides. The Cailleach appears as an old woman, a mystical and knowledgeable hag. The poem below demonstrates how many of the ancient Celtic deities later came to be Christianised. The Hag of Beara is often referred to as a wise old mendicant nun. There can be no better symbol for Augusta Lady Gregory then the Cailleach.
Born this day in 1852 Lady Gregory was the creative impetus behind the foundation of the Irish National Theatre, the Abbey. She was a leading figure of the gaelic revival, the nationalist Irish movement of the Arts that moved hand in hand with the cultural, political and military struggles for Irish Independence.
Lady Gregory preserved many ancient poems and stories, recording them by hearing them told in Gaelic, documenting them and translating them.
The Irish Cream Liqueur Drink “Coole Swan” is named after the W.B. Yeats poem; The Wild Swans at Coole”. Yeats wrote the poem at Coole Park, Gregory’s home.
The Hag of Beare; (Trans) Augusta Gregory
It is of Corca Dubhne she was, and she had her youth seven times over,
and every man that had lived with her died of old age, and her
grandsons and great-grandsons were tribes and races. And through a
hundred years she wore upon her head the veil Cuimire had blessed.
Then age and weakness came upon her and it is what she said:
Ebb-tide to me as to the sea; old age brings me reproach; I used to
wear a shift that was always new; to-day, I have not even a cast one.
It is riches you are loving, it is not men; it was men we loved in
the time we were living.
There were dear men on whose plains we used to be driving; it is good
the time we passed with them; it is little we were broken afterwards.
When my arms are seen it is long and thin they are; once they used
to be fondling, they used to be around great kings.
The young girls give a welcome to Beltaine when it comes to them;
sorrow is more fitting for me; an old pitiful hag.
I have no pleasant talk; no sheep are killed for my wedding; it is
little but my hair is grey; it is many colours I had over it when I
used to be drinking good ale.
I have no envy against the old, but only against women; I myself am
spent with old age, while women’s heads are still yellow.
The stone of the kings on Feman; the chair of Ronan in Bregia; it is
long since storms have wrecked them, they are old mouldering
The wave of the great sea is speaking; the winter is striking us with
it; I do not look to welcome to-day Fermuid son of Mugh.
I know what they are doing; they are rowing through the reeds of the
ford of Alma; it is cold is the place where they sleep.
The summer of youth where we were has been spent along with its
harvest; winter age that drowns everyone, its beginning has come upon
It is beautiful was my green cloak, my king liked to see it on me;
it is noble was the man that stirred it, he put wool on it when it
Amen, great is the pity; every acorn has to drop. After feasting with
shining candles, to be in the darkness of a prayer-house.
I was once living with kings, drinking mead and wine; to-day I am
drinking whey-water among withered old women.
There are three floods that come up to the dun of Ard-Ruide: a flood
of fighting-men, a flood of horses, a flood of the hounds of Lugaidh’s
The flood-wave and the two swift ebb-tides; what the flood-wave brings
you in, the ebb-wave sweeps out of your hand.
The flood-wave and the second ebb-tide; they have all come as far as
me, the way that I know them well.
The flood-tide will not reach to the silence of my kitchen; though
many are my company in the darkness, a hand has been laid upon them
all. My flood-tide! It is well I have kept my knowledge. It is Jesus
Son of Mary keeps me happy at the ebb-tide.
It is far is the island of the great sea where the flood reaches after
the ebb: I do not look for floods to reach to me after the ebb-tide.
There is hardly a little place I can know again when I see it; what
used to be on the flood-tide is all on the ebb to-day!