Beira, the Scottish Queen of the Winter

What of Beira, the Queen of the Winter?

If you’ve visited Scotland, you know that it’s cold. And therefore a Goddess of the Winter makes perfect sense: Beira served this role well.

Cold, Cold, Cold; enough to make mountains rise, lochs descend, and winter snows flourish.

Now, let’s start with her proper name: Cailleach Bheur. Beira is the name she was given by 20th century folklorist Donald Alexander Mackenzie in his book Scottish Wonder Tales from Myth and Legends, who described her in the following manner:

Beira was a one-eyed giantess with white hair, dark blue skin, and rust-colored teeth. She built the mountains of Scotland using a magic hammer, and Loch Ness (yes, the one with that cryptozoological beast we all know and love as Nessie) was created when Beira transformed her negligent maid Nessa into a river. Nessa broke loose, resulting in Loch Ness.

As winter begins, Beira goes to bathe herself.

Corryvreckan, off the coast of western Scotland, is a narrow gulf that produces powerful tidal waves and whirlpools. This place, which in the original Gaelic is Coire Bhreacain, means “cauldron of the speckled seas” or “cauldron of the plaid”. This is where Beira would go to bathe, and wash her tartan, her kilt, until it was snow white.

Snow white enough to bring the Winter.

However, once her bathing was over, she grew tired. Cold, lonely, and old, Beira knew her time grew short:

 

O life that ebbs like the seal
I am weary and old, I am weary and old–
Oh! how can I happy be
All alone in the dark and the cold.

I’m the old Beira again,
My mantle no longer is green,
I think of my beauty with pain
And the days when another was queen.

My arms are withered and thin,
My hair once golden is grey;
’Tis winter–my reign doth begin–
Youth’s summer has faded away.

Youth’s summer and autumn have fled–
I am weary and old, I am weary and old.
Every flower must fade and fall dead
When the winds blow cold, when the winds blow cold.

The Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, marked the end of her reign as Queen of Winter. Afterwards she peacefully handed her reign over to the dual gods (God and Goddess) of the spring and summer and visited the Well of Youth and drank of its waters.

The Fountain of Youth.

After drinking from it, she grew younger day by day.

Which means she’s still a-coming.

So, even as the summer heat rolls on, and the heat berates us all,

Remember Beira, Mother of the Scottish gods;

She will bathe in Corryvreckan again, and the Winters…

Well…

The Winters will surely return.

**********************************

For more information we recommend the following book:

Wonder Tales From Scottish Myth and Legend (Classic Reprint)

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