Fourth thoughts on Samhain; Winter Goddess, the Cailleach
This is the time of the Cailleach who ushers in the cold and dark at Samhain and maintains it until Imbolc. The Cailleach Bheaur, the blue hag of winter, scours the land. In Scottish folklore the Cailleach arises every Samhain and is responsible for bringing cold, snow and treacherous weather before turning to stone every Imbolc (or in other myths she turns into a young woman). She walks the land during winter (or rides a grey wolf), striking the ground/trees with her staff, crushing signs of growth. Her staff (slachdan) holds the power of cold, darkness and winter. At the start of the light half of the year (Beltane), she hurls her slachdan to the base of the (evergreen) Holly or Gorse, storing her power of the cold and dark there until the following winter.
She is both feared and respected in British and Irish folklore and takes the role of midwife and particularly at this time as layer out of the dead. An old Scottish tradition says that the head of a Scottish household carved the face of the Cailleach Nollaigh (Christmas Old Wife) onto Oak wood; representing cold and death. This was thrown onto the fire on Christmas Eve, ensuring death would bypass the house during the coming year.