Below is a letter I wrote to Biddy, my Spirit Guide**(see footnote). I had been on a “Writing the Wild Soul” workshop with Geneen Marie Haugen (a wonderful writer and poet. See more of her via the Animas Valley Institute and read her poem “The Return”) Her provocation to us was “write a love letter to the beloved of soul: a mysterious other, the muse, the inner beloved, not a human beloved”. The following letter is the result.
I can hear you 'humph!' as you fold your arms under your breasts. And there, right there, are your squinting and disbelieving eyes as you screw up your face when I tell you that I am about to write a letter to my beloved. (I do love your cranky wrinkled brow, and how your eyes, nearly disappeared into the wrinkled folds of flesh, still twinkle with love and tolerance of my frailties).
“So?” I hear you say.
Biddy, you are my beloved. I don’t know how long you have been with me – maybe for longer than I have been me. Partly I don’t know because my listening skills are not up to par OR I have been afraid OR both.
I see your frustration at the long years of my ignoring you when you kept on and kept on knocking loudly at the door of my soul.
And every time I remembered and called for you (or noticed you knocking when my senses were for a brief time more astute) You were there. You are there.
Cranky – “It’s about time!” I would and still do always hear you say, tapping your foot impatiently.
And then you simply hold steady – loving me and guiding me.
You gifted me an Ancient Feminine Sovereignty – The Cailleach – her sacred places and magic.
You gifted me sanctuary – a small stone cottage on the side of a green hill of lush grass with a falling down stone fence and a creaking wooden gate enclosing a shambolic garden full of herbs.
I love my refuge in the dark womb of that cottage – fire blazing, slightly smoky, herbs drying as they hang from the ceiling. Safe and whole.
You told me :
You have taught me to sit alongside others in their greatest hellish darkness and to hold them with gentleness and kindness until they find that one tiny spark or flame which gives them strength to move forward – one tiny step at a time. (although, I hear you remind me….sometimes they LEAP when you least expect it!)
You are the prayer for my ancestors and my future ones.
I know you when I crawl into the tombs on Sliabh na Caillig or walk the Cliffs at Hag’s head or sit in my front garden under the graceful oak branches of Sila na Gig.
I know you when I look into the eyes of my precious grandchildren, Kyden, Leighara, Sophie, Luna, Aiva and Axel. I know you now, when I look in a mirror, or a reflecting window or watch my hands move.
Thank you for standing with me in my darkest times, through the mulching times as I grow into my strength.
I love you.
PS. You may now cease with the tiny irish jig you are performing under your skirts and the crinkled look of “I told you so!” in your eyes. Smugness is deeply unbecoming and beneath your dignity…. Hah!!!
**Spirit Guide: having never quite reconciled the definition of such a being between “are they real” “are they imagined” and “are they an introjected role”***: I have to say- I don’t know and I don’t care: she is present for me and she works hard with me (and btw, loves me).
***Role theory is a peculiarly psychodramatic way of thinking. You can read more about psychodrama on my website: www.katherinecounselling.com
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It was a fine Irish day in County Clare when I made my visit to Biddy Early. I knew she was reputedly the last woman in Ireland to be charged with Witchcraft under the Witchcraft Act of 1586. That was in 1865 (only 3 centuries of terror). She was taken to court and acquitted- reportedly because no witnesses would come forth against her. She was born and lived all her life in County Clare: 1798 to 1874. A fiercely independent red head, she was famous for her healing skills and for her capacity to communicate with and cure the wrath of the faery folk. There is a story of her Blue Bottle (which has never been found)- she would gaze into the bottle and it would give her inspiration for the cure that was needed at that moment. People came from far and wide to obtain Biddy’s cures. I was keen to visit her place and feel herfor myself!
I knew it would be hard to find her. I had some clues from the internet. And her cottage was long for sale (still is, as a matter of fact, 1 acre of land and a ruined cottage, 75,000 euro- last year it was only 45,000 euro (approx.. $68,000AUD), so the irish economy must be picking up, or perhaps there is more interest in Biddy these days. But even the real estate map wasn’t very useful to find it. We (my intrepid investigator partner Geoff and me) knew the road she was on was on was a country road – an “R” road which usually meant that it was sealed and that there was enough room for 2 cars to pass each other(just).
True for this road. However, it was very winding and had almost no places to safely stop. After going up and down the road a few times and not spotting anything that looked like a ruin or even a forest entrance, we turned off the road and came upon an elderly gentleman at the front of his elderly house. “Do you know where Biddy Early’s cottage is?” (me, slightly embarrassed about my obvious eccentricities) “I do”, he said (without batting an eye lid, and as matter of fact as the sun rising every day) “I will take you there, follow me.”
As is the way of the Irish, he jumped in his car, and we followed him. No questions asked. He stopped on a bend in the road. Hazard lights on (ours anyway, he had that thing the Irish have which is a trust that other cars will drive around you and not into you…………… doesn’t always work, mind).
Next thing I know, I am walking up a gloomy muddy track with this man. The house is not far from the road. It is in a wood. I didn’t stay for long. I felt anxious about being with this strange man I did not know. I am not sure why. Geoff was only down on the road 100 metres (or less) away (down on the road with the car- he has a magical belief that staying with the car will stop someone from running into it) The picture of the cottage is above.
I could feel her there and was disturbed by my Irish gent guide who kept bobbing up and down at the window when I least expected him. I was sure I could see her shape in the wall. Take a look at this photo below.
There are rather threatening stories on the internet about Biddy Early’s spirit. That she does terrible things to cars that belong to people who come to visit. That she gets angry if you do not leave her a gift when you visit. That she did terrible things to the man who purchased her cottage in the 1970s and renovated it, trying to create a tourist attraction. Apparently he went broke. The cottage certainly doesn’t show any evidence now of ever being renovated.
I did not find her threatening. I did not leave a gift- although many others had (pics below): I did make a promise to come back and see her, and bring other witching women with me. She really liked that, I could tell.
This is a place for women. She is not the Last Irish Witch.
What do we know about the Cailleach?
She is one of the ancient deities about whom stories have been word of mouth- from a time when entertainment took the form of stories around the fire. She is known as Hag, Witch, Wise Woman, Healer, The Shaper of the Land.
There is so much to explore, so much to learn. At this Cairn, on this hill, I know deep in my bones that meeting the Cailleach is entering into deep, deep relationship with the wildness of the land and the wildness of woman. Deep bone felt wildness.