by Danielle Dulsky
Now you’ve done it. Grandmother’s wide awake and wandering West with a particular bloodlust, stepping slow and in time with the fickle rhythm of our heartbeats and positively ravenous for our youthful curiosity.
Don’t hide from Her black-mirror eyes and red teeth; it’s no use. Don’t ready your light-hearted spiritual questions or write Her any pious Pagan hymns.
She’s heard it all before, and we’re on Her hallowed, heathen ground now.
Press your frozen forehead to mine, and let’s cautiously canoodle here on this bit of snow beneath this righteous oak. If we quiet our breath and listen close, we just might learn something on this Solstice night.
Her voice comes as a hoarse hiss, a low thunder riding the Winter wind like an ancient avian echo and wrapping its oily wings around our shoulders so we might better know the crone-gods who rule these fallowed times.
The ages of the yew and the eagle are over, after all.
Welcome, my love, to the age of the Cailleach.
She’s coming! Can you hear Her? Let’s translate for those who do not speak in the mother tongue of mountain women, for Her wisdom is for all who have developed a distaste for illusion.
This holy hag’s birthday is today, lover, and She’s turning 7,001, jailbreaking from the faery lands just to remind us why we’re here. She’s granting us an audience only because she favors embattled hearts like ours so let’s not squander this opportunity to learn from the wisest of Witches.
She’s howl-hissing a lesson for us right this minute, warning us to relish the warmth of our dying flesh while we still can.
The cavernous lines on Her face read like Ogham inscriptions urging forth the union between life and death, light and dark.
Remember the impermanence of both grief and joy, she says, and you will be wiser women indeed. Make your ritual a celebration, lest it become mechanical and wither too soon. Season your magick with much hedonism and worldly delights, for so easily can we become enchanted by our own somber reflections. So enraptured are we with our rules and tools we forget the infinite majesty of play.
There’s more, lover. She’s telling us to be renegades of shadow, to own that seething, slithering part of our backwater psyche that is the Dark Goddess, that is Her, and to welcome it home and put it to bed.
Curl up with your demons, the Cailleach orders; it is there in their garnet-bright eyes we find the very essence of who we used to be before we called our horned wildness loathsome.
Oh, dear. I can barely hear Her now, but I think she has one more small piece of hag wisdom for us, Her fearful children.
Strip your magick down to the barebones of the elements and your ancestors, she says. Rid yourself, just for today, of the ceremonial pomp and circumstance, of the deities who have no time for this land of yours, and of the finer ways of your Craft. Sit in the cool moonlight and make an icicle your wand. Forget all you think you know, Witch. All your certainty, all your sure and steadfast prophecy, fences in your small piece of the cosmic web and leaves it to thin and crumble away in isolation from the greater, grander design. Weave the world with me, the hag, one fogged breath at a time, and may our will be strengthened by our creaky-boned humility.
Help me up, lover.
She’s gone, I think, and we should find a fire. Can you still bear to look at me?
My chin and neck are sagging, and I’ve packed all my naïve hopes and childlike fantasies in the bags under my eyes. My wire hair’s gone grey all over, and there’s no juice left in my lips, but I still want you, wild one.
My aging body’s hungry for your hands, and I think you’ll like the saltier taste of my paper-thin skin. I’ve been licked by the Cailleach, and no more will I flit about the world like a glitter-winged sprite.
My magick is older than these laws that govern us, and I’ll be bound no longer by the trepidations of petrified wizards whose entire bodies lack the cleverness I now house in one raised, white-lashed brow.
Blessed be these changing winds, and blessed be the Age of the Cailleach.
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