The preparation for this meal started a while ago, boiling down a chicken carcass and other bones to make a gorgeous stock for the potato soup we had today. Today that stock was simmered with sauteed carrots, onion and a bouquet garni, which were strained from the stock before the addition of the potatoes. The potatoes were boiled until soft and the soup was allowed to cool, before being whizzed in the blender until it was gorgeously thick and creamy. Fresh beetroot were cooked and seasoned before being made into a puree to dress the soup. Along with the soup I served a stuffed pork roast, gratin potatoes and vegetables, a generous glass of Scotch, and a chunk of freshly baked crusty bread. The meal was finished off with oat cakes and cheese.
The original plan was to serve venison in either a redcurrent or redwine sauce, but apparently venison here in Ohio is stupidly expensive.
The deer is an extremely sacred animal to me, and I only ever eat it’s meat once I have ritually prepared it for a meal to share with the Cailleach. I opted this year for pork. The Old Woman loves her pig!
Even though I didn’t have the venison, I still prepared the pork in the same way. I perform a ritual purification of the meat, thanks are given and offerings made to the animal who had died to feed us.
I started this tradition of The Feast of the Cailleach quite a few years ago now. During the darkest or coldest months of the year, I cook her a meal which we share together. I work on a projects dedicated to the Cailleach. I commune with her. Share Scotch with her. And then that night I travel with her.
Her Feast hasn’t always been such an elaborate event.
One year I found myself Winter fishing in Scotland with a two fellow Witches. We all had a relationship with the Cailleach in varying degrees, and decided that what we caught that day should be the basis of a meal for the Cailleach. Before we started out we asked the Cailleach to steer our rods, otherwise that night She would be going hungry.
I ended up gutting, cleaning and preparing five fish that evening, and cooking them simply in tin foil over a roaring fire, with the aid of a little seasoning and a few sticks. A special tea was made from boiling down snow simmering over another, our herbs and other treats were added. Scotch flowed, as it always should when camping in Scotland in the Winter, and of course dining with the Cailleach without Scotch would just be bad manners. We drummed and sang to Her. I can still hear the haunting strains of the three of our voices joining together in a song we had neither sung, nor heard before. Our voices were carried over the lochs and glens. It took on a life of it’s own. I can hear the melody now, but for the life of me I cannot remember the lyrics. Neither could any of us on waking the next morning.
From that point on I swore that I would hold a feast for the Old Woman during the coldest part of the year… This year I’m a little late, as Imbolc is so close… But alas, it’s fucking freezing outside… So, it’s still very fitting!
And with that, I’m off to top up my Scotch and prepare myself for my travels…
Do dheagh slàinte!