I first discovered Clota many moons ago when I began researching the existence of Scottish goddesses (like Dia Greine and the Cailleach) but there was so little known about her that I didn’t spend much time digging any deeper. After a recent conversation with a friend put her back on my radar, I decided to have another go at it and see if I could find out enough about Clota to make her worth writing about.
If every Frenchwoman is born with a wooden spoon in her hand, every Scotswoman is born with a rolling pin under her arm, for it is certain that she has developed a remarkable technique in baking bannocks, scones and oatcakes.
F. Marian McNeill, The Scots Kitchen (1929)
Once a firm favourite of the Scottish fireside, the bannock is a ubiquitous feature of the Scottish folktale, often offered as sustenance to a hungry stranger, left outside a door as a gift for the fairies, or given in payment for a hard day’s work. This humble fare has sustained Scotland for centuries and is ingrained in the country’s folklore and traditions.
In Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend, Donald Alexander McKenzie hails the Cailleach as the mother of all gods and goddesses in Scotland, and Scottish folk tale collector J.G MacKay refers to her as the most tremendous figure in Gaelic myth today. Although her name can be found throughout Scotland in folklore, customs, ancient monuments and the natural landscape, the Cailleach is one of the lesser-known figures of Celtic mythology and is often overlooked. Her true origins have been lost over time. She is vastly ancient and predates even the Celtic mythology of which she has become a part. One Highland folk tale states that she existed ‘from the long eternity of the world’.