Let me start by saying my legs are killing me. Today we walked for 6 hours; up a mountain and back, with very little breaks. My goal when I left the house this morning was to climb to the top of Sleive Gullion, and submerge myself in the lake of the Hag; the Calliagh Berra of Irish mythology.
Sleive Gullion is considered the most sacred mountain in Ireland. The name means Mountain of Cuchulain. It is the heart of an ancient volcanic chain in Northern Ireland, which is truly breath taking. The legend around Sleive Gullion speaks of a dispute between Finn Mac Cumhail (finn mccool); an irish hero, and the Hag/Calliagh Berra.
In the story, Finn Mc Cool (an Irish hero) dives into the Calliagh Berra’s lake seeking the love of a beautiful maiden. When he enters the lake he ages rapidly, and his hair turns white. The feeble Finn, comes out of the water to see the fair maiden is really an old hag. After a bit of persuasion, Finn is able to convince the Calliagh to return his youth, but she leaves his hair white.
There are some good versions of the story out there, if you have a love of mythology, simply google The Calliagh Berra’s lake.
Like most stories there is a lot more to it, then the simple trickery of the hag. Some stories tell of Finn’s hunting dog chasing a white stag (considered a magical creature) to the edge of the lake. In short, he crossed the witch, and she was not pleased. I like to point out that she returned his youth, when he threatened to empty her lake, drowning all of Ireland. To me this shows she had great care for the land, and the people of it.
My work as a Druid, and Spiritual adventurer often takes me to such places, places that others may think twice about going to. I do not fear the Hag, for I see her as the crone…the ancient one, the one who sits at the edge of death. She has great wisdom, and demands respect, but her gifts are powerful and filled with wisdom.
When it became clear that I would be heading to Northern Ireland on this trip, I knew that I would climb the mountain. I was also quite convinced that I would need to submerse myself in the water of the lake, facing my fears; not of white hair, but of muck. I truly have a repulsion/fear of mucky water.
Leaving my house for my journey up the mountain, I still held this as my truth. I wore my bathing suit under my clothes, packed a towel and change of clothes in my bag, and mentally prepared myself to face the muck.
On our side it looked like a downed hawthorn tree, or a heavy stack of hawthorn brush, on the other side it was pallets roped together. I believe the barricade was designed to keep his cows in, because even cows are not stupid enough to plow through a barricade of Hawthorn (thorn is even in the name). But me…I love Hawthorn, in fact I have Hawthorn tattooed on my left shoulder. It is a fairy tree, and a powerful protector.
The barrier was not a deterrent to me, just as the idea of visiting the hag was not scary to me. If you are friends with such beings, you simply know to respect their customs.