St Bridget’s Day and the old Caillagh
On the Isle of Man every ditch had to be full of rain or snow on St Bridget’s Day so that the old Caillagh, or hag, could not gather brasnags or faggots (sticks) for firing. If she could lay in a stock of firing on that day, there would be bad weather in the spring, but if she could not gather the brasnags there would be fine weather.
Besides being called Caillagh ny Gueshag – Old Woman of the Spells – she was known as Caillagh ny Groamagh, the Sullen (or Gloomy) Old Woman.
“Caillagh ny Groamagh, was said to have been an Irish witch who had been thrown into the sea by the people of Ireland with the intention of drowning her. However, being a witch, she declined to be drowned and floated easily until she came to the Isle of Man where she landed on the morning of February 1st February.
It was a fine bright day and she set to work to gather brasnags – sticks to light a fire – by which she was able to dry herself. The spring that year was a wet one and it is said that every 1st of February morning she still goes out to gather brasnags to make a fire by which to dry herself.
If it be fine up to noon, and she succeeds in doing so, then a wet spring will follow. But if the morning be wet and she cannot get dry, then the spring will be a dry one.”
The Caillagh ny Gueshag was a kind of Manx Mother Shipton, who foretold various wonders, several of which have come to pass. One was that there would be a thie-oast (public house) on top of Snaefell!
(source: Manx Calendar Customs edited by Cyril I Paton (1942); artwork is an unknown title by Arthur Rackham via Christies http://bit.ly/2kpWKA4)
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