Great Grandmothers of the Samoyed

​The salami's, native people of Lapland of Scandinavia worshipped a goddess called Madderakka. She was the embodiment of the earth. Madderakka and her three daughters were mainly worshipped as goddesses of giving birth and creators of life. According to the legend, Madderakka received the soul of the child from Radien the god of community. It was her job to give the breath of life to the child and connect the child´s body and soul together. Samoyeds worshipped a goddess called Kodanakkagoddess who makes the earth and the Kuola-Saami's into a goddess called mändir-ähken which means grandmother of father or mother. Mändir-ähken was an ancient grandmother who had been buried in the ground. She was worshipped by the female members of the family asking her to assist them in giving birth.

Akka Finnish Goddess of the Earth

In the old Finnish language, Akka was an honorary term that was given to a woman who had reached a very high age. There are areas in northern Finland where the words akka and akku mean grandmother but in modern Finnish akka mainly means an old hag? What happened?

Baba Yaga Mother of Witches

​The character of Baba Yaga appears in many Russian folktales. The most famous one of them is Vasilisa the fair. In the story young girl Vasilisa is sent to the house of Baba Yaga by her wicked stepmother. Who secretly wishes that the witch would eat the girl. Witches house is guarded by three riders of death and her servants are three pairs of cut of hands. Baba Yaga gives pointless tasks to the girl. She is respectful towards the witch and doesn´t ask too many questions. In the end, Baba Yaga rewards the girl. Her stepmother and stepsisters get burned into ashes and Vasilisa marries a prince.
In the story, Baba Yaga is not either good or bad. She has no children but Vasilisa always addresses her as the grandmother. Baba means both grandmother and old woman and Yaga means a witch. She appears as an ugly old woman. Her house is a wooden hut and it stands on a pair of giant chicken legs. It has no windows and the gates are made of human bones. Baba Yaga flies in a magical mortar. She is the goddess of the hearth, the domestic kitchen witch who knows the secret ingredients of plants and herbs.

Cailleach Celtic Mother of the Mountains

​Cailleach is a Celtic goddess who was widely worshipped in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland in Pre-Christian times. Her origins, however, are in southern Europe. Archaeological and genetic evidence makes clear that the Irish Celts migrated from the Iberian Peninsula. Folklorist Sorita D´Este has suggested that the origins of Cailleach can be traced to the island of Malta. On the island of Gozo, there is a temple that was built between 3600–3000 BC and it was told to be built by a giant Sansuna. She was told to be carrying a supporting stone of dolmen in her hands. This dolmen has a long history of use as a delivery stone by pregnant mothers. Her myth is connected to series of migrations of people from Spain to Ireland and from Norway to Scotland, where it was told that Cailleach or Carlin the giant woman, arrived from the north with stones in her apron creating the Scottish islands.

A woman who doesn´t reveal her age

​First literal mentions of Cailleach in Ireland mention her old age. She is told to be older than Biblical floods. Some sources even go as far as tell her having fifty children and seven husbands being the founders of all tribes of the world. Word Cailleach has several meanings including an old woman, hag, crone, the veiled one. It is possible that Cailleach has roots in the old priestess cult. In Scotland, Cailleach Mhor Nam Fiadh was the deer woman. She is connected to the element of water and healing wells which were common associations to priestess cults. In Celtic traditions, gigantic size was often seen as an indication of supernatural powers and divine nature. This also hints at a priestess cult and large statues of Cailleach which could have been exaggerated over time.

In most legends, Cailleach shapes the landscapes. She created mountains, lakes, caves, and rivers. Her old appearance reflects the age of the earth and the age of our planet. Cailleach is told to bring winter and snow with her. Mentions of Cailleach as the winter goddess is not found outside Britain but she shares similarities with Germanic Goddess Frau Holda or Holde who created snow by shaking her apron.

The Divine Grandmother

​Seasonal tides of the year have become associated with the ages of human life. In the springtime young maiden dances carefree and beautiful. She matures into an old crone of winter. A cycle that reflects the seasons upon the earth. Fairytale of Baba Yaga tells about the maiden accepting the crone aspect within herself. Across cultures old age has been connected to witchcraft. In Fairytales we come across two kinds of grandmothers. Little Red Riding Hood´s kind and caring grandmother and the cannibalistic hag witch in the story of Hansel and Gretel. Yet the image of the grandfather is missing. The archetype of an old wise wizard is never attached to a woman and rarely he has children. This is a reflection of the patriarchal societies of the past. The divine grandmother is mother nature herself. She is not to be tamed or controlled. In nature, time loses its meaning. Everything dies to be reborn again. Life is a constant cycle that keeps recreating itself.

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Niina's Fairychamber

Niina's Fairychamber

Illustrator, writer and a folklorist. Likes cats, tea and period dramas. Currently writing a book about Finnish mythology. A host of the Little Women Podcast.