24Ó Crualaoich, Gearóid. The Book of the Cailleach: Stories of the Wise-woman Healer. Cork: Cork UP, 2003. 81-2.
The author states: "The term cailleach, of course, has its own complex etymological history that reflects the way in which it has carried competing cosmological, religious and literary connotations. These have been succinctly outlined and discussed by Miirin Ni Dhonnchadha in an article that convincingly proposes a line of semantic development for the word cailleach that originates with its derivation from the Latin word pallium, meaning 'veil'. In its primary meaning of 'veiled one' cailleach is shown to be a term relating to a Christian categorization of women who were either 'spoken for' in marriage or consecrated as nuns and thus 'spoken for' in marriage to Christ. In this context cailleach also developed the sense of denoting the married woman who moves (as in widowhood) from human sexual union to embracing the status of consecrated celibacy, as a nun. It is this latter sense of cailleach that is counterpointed (to such moving literary effect) in the ninth-century 'Lament of the Old Woman of Beare' with its pre-Christian sovereignty queen personification of territory and landscape. The sense of cailleach as 'supernatural figure, hag-witch', develops through its association with manifestations in medieval Irish literature of the terrifying, destructive aspect of the sovereignty queen as death-goddess."
Ó Crualaoich also considers the origins of the Mother Goddess: "The evidence of pre-history and of mythology has been taken to suggest that in the Old European, Neolithic era, before the spread across the 'European' world of Indo-European-Ianguage cultures, cults of a mother- goddess type prevailed throughout the continent. Ireland, too, was inhabited for thousands of years before the coming of the Celts, our first Indo-European immigrants, by peoples whose ideology can be understood to have encompassed religious and cosmological sensibility in respect of a divine female agency who was conceived of as the origin of the physical universe itself and of the life forms contained in its landscapes...Neither should it be imagined that in pre-Indo-European ideology a single, monolithic mother-goddess figure - or cult - existed throughout Old Europe and in earliest Ireland. Such a conception is the product of modern and contemporary reconstructions that arise out of both Enlightenment humanism, and the feminist liberation movement and is without any real basis in history or ethnography." (25-6)
A guidebook to sacred sites in Ireland considers the place of the Cailleach in the pantheon of Celtic spiritual figures: "The Cailleach represents death and rebirth, transformation and winter, in contrast to Brigid, Celtic goddess of healing, creative inspiration, eternal flame, and springtime...The Cailleach's time is often said to begin at Samhain (1 November) and end on Imbolc (1 February), while Brigid rules the rest of the year." (White, Gary C., and Elyn Aviva. Powerful Places in Ireland. Santa Fe, NM: Pilgrims Process, 2011. 89-90.)