A’ Chailleach Bhuain / The Old Woman of the Harvest made by Hector J. C. Campbell in around 1990.

A’ Chailleach Bhuain

Courtesy of Mrs Flora MacPhail

On Tiree the last sheaf of corn to be harvested was called A’ Chailleach Bhuain, a tradition that was found all over northern Europe and likely to date from the dawn of farming in Neolithic times. The Corn-spirit was believed to live in the corn, giving it the strength to grow vigorously. As the harvest proceeded, this spirit became concentrated in the remaining crop. The final sheaf to be cut was then regarded as containing its essence. On Tiree, the ‘cailleach’ was fed to the horses before they started the spring ploughing in the belief that the power of the Corn-spirit would be transmitted to the soil for the new year’s growth. This four thousand year old harvest tradition died out before 1910 in Sandaig, in the 1920s in Balinoe and into the 1950s in Heylipol and Balephuil.

Tiree in 100 Objects – 4 – A’ Chailleach

The History of Tiree in 100 Objects

Object Details

Other Number: not specified

Harvest `cailleach`

At the end of each harvest, the last sheaf of corn would be made into a harvest cailleach/girl and passed from crofter to crofter until all the corn was harvested. It would be hung over a door in the house for the winter and fed to the workhorses the following spring, to bring luck to the next harvest. This one was made by Hector Campbell of Cornaigbeg around 1990 for Tiree Primary School.

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