Beara

The Cailleach is often referred to by other secondary epithets, most commonly a variant of ‘Beara’:

Beara

Bheara

Beare

Bheur

Beira

Vear

Vera

Berri

Berrey

Berry

mBoire

Biróg

Birogue

Bearthach

Is this a proper name or a title? A title seems likely, much in the way ‘Cailleach’ is a title:

The existence of the Cailleach legend is so widespread throughout the region that a commonly-proposed connection or origin in the Beare peninsula is highly unlikely. The Gaelic word Bior (and its variant forms bir and beara) have connotations of water, springs and marshes (biorra) as well as things that are ‘pointed’, piercing or sharp (biorán), or grow in a stalky fashion from water (biorrach = reeds and rushes, Manannan’s traditional ‘gift’ at midsummer in the Isle of Man). The elements Bio- or Bea- occur in Gaelic words to do with health, womanhood, mountains, sweetness and life, as well as the aforementioned springs, marshes and pointed sharp things. This provides us with a reasonable derivation of the name from a stem-word indicating the ‘growth or springing of things from apparent barrenness’, which sums up the function of the goddess archetype quite succinctly:

Reading between all of these Gaelic language etymologies we find the attributes of the Atlantic Goddess: As creatrix of floods, as herdswoman of the mountains, as haunter of headlands and hilltops, as cutter of plants (in winter) and as promoter of life (in spring and summer). Also described as giver of poetic inspiration, the ‘Fairy Woman’  or ‘Fairy Queen’ might therefore be seen as a mnemonic ‘hub’ for linguistic concepts related to the religio-philosophical ideas that underpinned the universal worldview of the ancient Atlantic peoples. Maybe a core part of the secrets of original ‘druidism’ and ‘bardism’? I will go on to examine this in due course.

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