Cailleach: The Hag of Beara

by Leanne O'Sullivan


Cailleach: The Hag of Beara | 9781852248185 | Leanne O’Sullivan

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Format:Paperback / softback

Published:29/01/2009 by Bloodaxe Books Ltd


An Cailleach Bhearra, or the Hag of Beara, is a wise woman figure embedded in the physical and mental landscape of western Ireland and Scotland, particularly in the Beara Peninsula in West Cork where Leanne O’Sullivan comes from. The Cailleach’s roots lie in pre-Christian Ireland, and stories of her relationship with that rugged landscape and culture still abound. Central to these narratives is the story of her love affair with a sea god. A large stone rests on the ridge overlooking Bally crovane Harbour, and it is said to be the petrified body of the Cailleach; she has had several lives, beginning each life with a birth from her stony form – and returning to stone at the end.The supernatural and superhuman feature strongly in traditional stories of the Cailleach (pronounced Ca-lockor Cay-luck) – feats such as her creating mountains or leaping vast distances that place the tales firmly into the world of myth. While still recognising the Cailleach as a figure of extraordinary power and influence, Leanne O’Sullivan’s poems explore the human origins from which the legend grew. She still forms the landscape, yet at the same time is intrinsically part of it, close to it, rather than gigantically above it; and her husband is not the sea god of legend, but a fisherman. And for all her strength, she is vulnerable.

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