| Yosemite Falls, Winter 1994 taken by Beth Kotkin|
I originally performed the song below at the 1997 Free Folk Festival in San Francisco, during the Summer Solstice. It is now the Winter Solstice, and I think the song is a better fit. This year, we have the Winter Solstice today which comes in close proximity to the Christmas Full Moon also known as the Full Cold Moon or Long Nights Moon. It is a relatively rare event, which was last here in 1977 and will not come again until 2034.
This is the longest night of the year, and moving forward, the days get longer and longer until Summer Solstice in June. This is also the beginning of the Winter season.
In the Scottish tradition of my maternal grandparents. Winter brings the goddess of life and death known in Scotland as the Cailleach, or crone aspect of the triple Goddess. In her most mysterious aspect, the Cailleach was the "dark mother" who knew what the future held for all men.
A Scottish tradition surrounding the Cailleach was that the farmer who was the first to harvest his grain would make a corn dolly that would be passed from farmer to farmer as their grain was harvested in turn. When the last farmer to harvest his grain received the corn dolly that represented the Cailleach, he would watch over her until the Beltane festival. During Beltane, the planting cycle was renewed by the Beltane fires. These fires still burned in the Scottish Border area on the peaks of the Eildon Hills near Melrose in an the ancient traditions passed down from the Picts and my Scottish ancestors until well into the 18th century and modern times. The song speaks to the passing down of ancient mysteries to our young ones as well, in an unbroken chain towards the future.