Síla na Géige is the Cailleach as Creator. She is the Hag of the winds and of winter, the Old Woman who lives in the stones. She is Sheelah with her branch, who strikes the ground with her stick to make the earth freeze, who washes her plaid in the whirlpool of Coire Bhreacain to bring the snow that covers the land. And then in the spring, she waves her wand and the seasons turn again. As she renews the land she renews herself.
She is the crux point on the edge between life and death, between death and rebirth. She guards the gateway to the sacred.
She helps women give birth, and when it is time to die, she opens the door to the next world.
Sheela (Irish: Síle) means Hag.
In Old Irish, the same word (found under a more obscure spelling), Síla means "cause or origin" and "both the seed and the ground in which it is planted."
The Irish and Gaelic Cailleach also means Hag. The literal translation, "veiled one" is used for both nuns and old women in general. In the Gaelic lore she is a creator spirit - credited with causing or shaping numerous land features, notably mountains and earthworks, rivers, lakes and lochs.
As weather spirits, she and the Cailleachan raise the winds and bring storms as well as the change of seasons. The period of high winds in the springtime is known as A' Chailleach in Scotland, and the last snowfall of winter is known in both Ireland and Newfoundland as Sheelah's Brush.
At the spring equinox in Ireland, the rising sun illuminates the inner chamber at Sliabh na Caillí (Loughcrew), Ireland. The site also has a feature known as "The Hag's Chair."
See the full article, or linked sections, for extensive footnotes sourcing all of this.
Our Gaol Naofa Là na Caillich video also contains images of her sacred sites, Cailleach-related music, and some of the Sheelas:
Our Samhain video also has lore and songs for the Hags:
And of course, there's this lovely film:
In the early 1990s, I began researching the mythological beings connected to the Sheelas. At the time, there was almost nothing written about them, and what little there was... was often offensive, full of unwarranted speculation, and not rooted in any Celtic culture. So I set out to rectify that. I published the first version of Síla of the Trees: Sheela na Gig and Sacred Space in 1998, in a women's spirituality magazine.
Over the years, and since posting this on the web, this article has grown significantly, and my naming this spirit woman Síla na Géige (or Síle na Géige - either Old Irish spelling of the name is correct) has now been confirmed by older lore that has recently come to our attention.
I've given a brief overview above, and the section links are at left. I realize there's a lot of material there, but since at the time there was so little available, it needed to be thorough. It still needs to be thorough, so I hope those interested in the topic will take the time to read the whole Sheela article. For more on her role as a Creator, see also page 30 of the Gaol Naofa Gaelic Polytheist FAQ.
Kathryn Price NicDhàna Kathryn Price NicDhàna Kathryn Price NicDhànaKathryn Price NicDhàna
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Latest revision Sheelah's Day 2015