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Hag of Beara

Place of pilgrimage and mythology

Summer of youth in which we have been 
I spent with its autumn; 
winter of age which overwhelms everyone, 
its first months have come to me.

At first hard to spot but instantly recognisable when you do, this lump of  weathered rock is said to be the rugged profile of An Cailleach Beare as she gazes everlastingly out to sea in search of her husband, Manannan, God of the sea. A powerful site still, much visited judging by the offerings scattered and squeezed into the rock.

The Cailleach, or Hag, is the crone - one of the three personifications of  the Great Goddess (maiden and mother being the other two). She is one of the oldest and most powerful mythological creatures - the White one, the granter of power, the ever-renewing. She is said to have ruled winter months - being turned to stone at Bealtine (1 May) and regaining human form at Samhain (November 1). Some believe she is the winter half of Bridget, the other extremely powerful Irish goddess. The focus of many poems and spiritual writings she is herself is the mythological narrator of one of the oldest Irish poems- The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare - written in the 10C,  where she laments the loss of her youth (see link for the poem in full).

Kilcatherine peninsula; coast road Eyeries to Ardgroom, signposted but easy to miss, a small parking area is available

What an extraordinary and evocative thing! You wander along a tiny cliff path with the most incredible views out to the sea and across to the mountains and there is this lump of stone, possibly crouching woman-shaped but undeniably ancient and powerful. Little offerings have been left in every crevice - money, pottery, glass. A woman ahead of me looked puzzled 'I don't get it' she said, but I did. I could just imagine the Hag in all her many guises looking longingly out to see for a glimpse of her lover.