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Crom Dubh (

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Crom Dubh or Crum-dubh etc meaning "black and crooked" in Scottish and Irish Gaelic, was a Celtic god, for which see The Voyage of Bran, Book II, p49. It may have been some kind of megalith.

Di-Dòmhnaich crum-dubh – "Crom Dubh Sunday" – is known in Ireland as the first Sunday in August, but in Lochaber is applied to Easter. It appears in the Scottish saying:

Di-Dòmhnaich crum-dubh, plaoisgidh mi an t-ùbh.

"Crooked black Sunday, I’ll shell the egg."

The exact origin of this saying is unknown, but there is some evidence that Crom Dubh was a fertility related god. In later times, he would be considered to be an evil god, and the element "dubh" (black) had sinister sounding connotations.

There may be an etymological connection with cromlech, a term of Breton origin. Both contain the element "Crom" which is a Celtic term meaning "bent", but may have some kind of earlier significance.


Was Crom Dubh, Crom Cruach?

In The Voyage of Bran, Book II, p49, the dinnseanchas of Magh Slécht is quoted as mentioning the Crom croich/Crom Cruach, or king idol of Ireland. This crom croich is, on pp213, 214, identified with Crom Dubh, but Crom Dubh appears to have had wider currency than Crom croich, and this may be conflation.

This article incorporates text from “Dwelly’s [Scottish] Gaelic Dictionary” (1911



CROM-CRUAICH: 'Lord of the Mound'. A very primitive God of Sacrifice, and the Chief Idol of Ireland .

CROM-CRUAICH was a large Megalithic standing stone at Magh Slaecht , surrounded by twelve subservient stone pillars and an air of mystery. Each year children were sacrificed to him to ensure fertile crops and good harvests.

Eventually Christianity came along and put a stop to all that. St Patrick said it was made of gold, and that he destroyed it with a wave of his crosier. He also claimed that there was a demon inside which jumped out and ran off. CROM-CRUAICH then bowed down to Patrick and went all droopy, remaining so for evermore.

This was a great public relations exercise for Christianity. But we feel St Paddy was not one to let a little wild exaggeration stand in the way of one of his 'me and me crosier' yarns.

Area or people:
Location :
Western Europe
Gender : Male
Category : Deity
Pronunciation : Coming soon
Alternative names : CENN-CRUACH, CROM-CR
Attributes : Coming soon
Mystic number : 1557(a)


CLOGHANE & BRANDON    Historical & other Information (

An Clochán agus Bhréanainn    Oidhreacht agus Gnéithe Eile Suimiúla an Cheantair

This material is excerpted from "The Dingle Peninsula: History, Folklore, Archaeology" by Steve MacDonough, copyright 1993, published by Brandon Book Publishers, Ltd., Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Each of its 260 pages is packed with information on the communities of the Dingle Peninsula , and in its entirety, it makes very interesting reading. The book is widely available for purchase throughout the Peninsula .

Mount Brandon , which dominates the landscape of the Cloghane/Brandon area of the Dingle Peninsula , stands at what was for many centuries the outer edge of the known world. Formed some two hundred million years ago, it is one hundred and seventy millions years older than the Himalayas . The millennia of erosion have given its western slopes a gently rounded shape, made softer by the covering of blanket bog; but on the northern side steep cliffs present a high, craggy rampart to the sea, and the eastern face of the mountain falls abruptly to large corries. By comparison with its physical history the history of human association with the mountain is no more than a moment. But it is an extraordinarily rich and full moment, offering insight into elements of early civilisation which were once comon to all the people of Europe .


High places have been chosen as religious sites throughout the world since the earliest times, and Lughnasa, which was perhaps the most important Celtic festival, was generally celebrated at hilltop sites. The central symbol of the festival was the temporary victory of Lug, a bright, young god of many talents, over the older, darker god, Crom Dubh .

Some time after the advent of Christianity Lug was replaced in most cases by St. Patrick , but here, at Mount Brandon , by St. Brendan . Crom Dubh retained his place in the legend but was reduced to the status of a local pagan chieftain and converted to Christianity with the assistance of a bull. St. Brendan 's background was integrated with the pagan legend by the name given to his father: Findlug, a combination of Lug and one of his alternative names, Find.

The eastern side of the mountain is also the location for the most remarkable hilltop promontory fort in Ireland . This fort stands on a peak at 2,600 feet (800 metres) due west of the cluster of houses at Faha in the parish of Cloghane; marked on the six-inch Ordnance Survey map as Benagh, it is known locally as Binn na Port. It is a peak which is also a promontory, a knife-edge ridge or arête between two corries to its north and south, and it is shaped like the prow of a ship.

The fort consists of two stone ramparts. The first stands at the point of the mountain where it falls steeply to the south and north and is about 100 metres long. The second, 120 metres west of the first, is 30 metres long, and both run north-south. Built of large and medium sized stones laid horizontally, the better preserved sections of the walls are about 2 metres thick and stand up to 2 metres high. There are entrances in both walls.

It occupies a commanding position 2,625 feet (800 metres) high at the western boundary of Lettragh, the area north of the central ridge of the Dingle Peninsula and east of the Brandon range. The walls must once have been a prominent feature of the landscape, for even in their present ruined state they are visible – weather permitting – against the skyline from much of the surrounding countryside. Indeed, from Cloghane it is possible to identify the entrance in the lower wall.

At the eastern extremity of the peninsula stands the similar hilltop promontory fort of Caherconree and the proximity of these two important monuments strongly suggests that this area was a vital and powerful centre of activity in the Iron Age.


From Faha, where the mountain pathway starts, the surfaced road passes through Ballynalacken to Cloonsharragh. Here, up an bóthar dorcha, the dark road, there is a very fine alignment of three standing stones.

A string of small communities lies in a line to the north on the edge of Brandon Bay . On a point jutting into the bay just east of Ballyquin is a caher, or stone fort, some 120 feet (36.5 metres) across. There is a fine beach here, which is red from the coastal erosion of old red sandstone, but it is not safe for bathing.

The pier at Brandon village is quiet enough these days, but a century ago as many as a hundred canoes used to fish from here, in addition to several larger craft, bringing in mackerel which were cured on the quays by women and children. The salted mackerel were sent in large quantities to North America , but it was a trade which suffered a sudden and complete decline. From Brandon , too, butter was sent to Cork by sea and pack horse. The old pier and Coastguard Station were built in 1825 and the present pier in 1896.

Murririgane was once the home of the leading family of the Brandon Bay area, the Geraldine sept of Sliocht (kin of) Edmund. By the 18th Century these Fitzgeralds were smugglers reduced to the economic and social level of their neighbours; but in the 16th Century they had possessed castles at Fermoyle and Cloghane and had been the effective local overlords. Their fortunes tumbled with the fall of Desmond , on whose side they had fought, and in 1583 their lands passed to Sir Walter Raleigh and others, thence to the Earl of Cork, whose tenants they became.

Brandon Point is a fine place for the birdwatcher, and many evenings offer the sight of Manx Shearwaters at the Head.

Brandon Point is known in Irish as Srub Brain, and it was here that Bran and his crew came after sailing in the heavenly western isles and spending what they thought was only a year on the Island of Women . Of course, they had been away much longer, and when one of their number set foot on shore at Srub Brain he turned at once into a pile of dust.

The area between Brandon Bay and Masatiompan, apart from the narrow coastal strip with its cluster of houses, is an eerie moorland wilderness bounded to the north by massive cliffs. The experienced hillwalker will find it interesting – such landscape is, after all, very rare – but the casual countryside stroller might be better advised to stick to less tiring ground. The most dramatic coastal feature is Sauce Creek, a large U-shaped inlet with high, steep scree-strewn slopes. The name may seem strange, but as is so often the case the anglicization has made nonsense of it. The Irish word sás means a trap of a kind using a noose, and in this case describes the action of the sea within the creek: as a fisherman remarked, "Anything that goes in there won't come out no more."

It is extraordinary to think, looking at the creek, that three families lived there in the last century, and that one of those families remained into the early years of this century. But above Sauce to the east and west lived more families on what seems equally inhospitable land. At Slieve Glass lived 14 families in the 18th Century, though none remained there by the mid-19th Century. And to Arraglen, half a mile west of Sauce, came 13 families who had fought with their neighbours at Baobh an Chnoic, Murrirrigane; ruins of some of the houses, one of which is in relatively good condition, may still be seen. Here they grew wheat and rye and kept livestock; and in the evening light cultivation ridges are still visible beheath the heather.

Cloghane is the main focus of this peaceful and beautiful corner of the peninsula. Until early this century the pattern on Domhnach Crom Dubh , the last Sunday in July, remained the most important day in the local calendar. Emigrants to America , Europe and Britain used to time their visits home to coincide with the festival. People bought new clothes or made them; they painted and cleaned their homes and prepared food. "Pattern pies" were made and sold; fiddlers came and played for their pennies; tinkers converged with their wares; and there were games and dancing and entertainments from the afternoon until early next morning. On the Monday there was a special dance in Brandon .


To the east of Cloghane the small hill is called Drom and near a track here are four galláin, one of which is partly hidden. At Fermoyle, nearby, the two large houses belonged to two branches of the Hickson family, prominent local landowners who came to the peninsula in the 17th Century and married into the Husseys of Dingle.


The area south of Fermoyle and up to the Conor Pass is well worth visiting for a number of features, in particular for the fine examples of corries. Just a few miles south of Cloghane are the corrie lakes of Lough Adoon, Lough Camclaun and Lough Doon, which lies close to the Conor Pass. In few places is the effect of ice action as clearly shown as in these corries and cirques. Indeed, it was at Lough Doon that an imortant breakthrough in understanding glaciation was made when, in 1849, the Alpine mountaineer, John Ball , recognised that this corrie was of the same type as others in Switzerland .

An extensive series of neolithic and Early Bronze Age remains which pre-date the formation of the blanket bog lies on either side of the Scorid river at Ballyhoneen, below Lough Adoon. To the west of the river is a large network of pre-bog walls which once surrounded the fields of the first farmers who settled in this area in the neolithic period. Their existence has been revealed by a combination of turf-cutting and erosion; some are almost completely exposed, some are still partly covered by peat, and others presumably still lie unexposed under uncut sections of the bog here. In the northwestern sector of the pre-bog field system is a large boulder decorated with cup-and-circle rock art, which is probably of the Early Bronze Age. Also on the western side of the river are the sites of several dry-stone huts, but the principal structures lie on the eastern side.


A wedge-tomb stands on a low hillock about 574 feet (175 metres) east of the river, partly buried in the bog, its base filled with water. Three of the stones of the tomb are decorated with rock art. About 213 feet (65 metres) north of it is a standing stone and 279 feet (85 metres) further north another one. Southwest of the tomb are the ruins of two dry-stone huts. Two fulacht fiadh sites lie north of the standing stones. One is on the eastern bank of the river, which has eroded it, while a holly tree has also disturbed this site. But the fragments of burnt stone, the black soil, and the horseshoe-shaped mound are typical of this kind of site. The other fulacht fiadh lies about 574 feet (175 metres) to the northeast.

Taken as a whole, the Ballyhoneen area must be regarded as one of the prime archaeological sites on the peninsula. In places such as this the pre-bog landscape has been quite well preserved, along with the field systems, settlements and graves of the early farmers. The development of blanket bog is thought to have begun by the late 3rd millennium BC, and it continued to develop in new areas as late as the 12th Century AD. At sites such as Ballyhoneen, the fact that rock art, wedge-tombs and standing stones are found within the ancient field systems suggests quite strongly an Early Bronze Age date.

Information on guided and self-guided walks around this area, and map guides of the area, can be obtained at the Visitor Centre in Cloghane.

The Cloghane - Brandon Lughnasa Festival (


Crom Dubh was a Pre-Christian God associated with the Celts. In Máire MacNeill 's book, The Festival of Lughnasa, Crom Dubh is described as "a hill dweller, owner of a bull and of a granary, corn bringer and cultivator, feast giver, ruler of the elements, owner of a baleful light, a possessor and a conserver of his possessions."

Lughnasa, the Celtic harvest festival, at the end of July, is a celebration of the outwitting of Crom Dubh, "the dark crooked one", by another god, Lugh, "a newcomer, a traveller, clever, with superior power or skill, able to enlist the help of a giant, owner of a marvellous horse, a dispossessor and annexer of other's goods for his followers, a winner of meat and corn. The victory involves dispossession, a transfer of goods and the confinement of the defeated in a narrow place."

The pagan rites of the festival included a solemn cutting of the first of the corn and an offering to the deity by bringing it to a high place and burying it. Mount Brandon was one of the Irish sites involving this pilgrimage and ritual offering. All would then have participated in a meal of the new food and, in some locations, of bilberries. The sacrifice of a sacred bull may have taken place followed by a feast of it's flesh. The ceremonies probably included some rite with the bull's hide, a ritual dance play and struggle for supremacy with victory symbolised by the installation of a head on top of a hill and a ceremony of triumph over it by an actor chosen to represent Crom's adversary, Lugh.

With the coming of Christianity, Lugh's place is taken by "monks" or particular personages such as St. Patrick , St. Colmcille or, in the case of Cloghane and Brandon , St. Brendan . The outcome, however, is the same, with Crom Dubh being outwitted, and in this case, converted to Christianity.

The stone head of Crom Dub, set in the wall of the ruined medieval church in the village of Cloghane , was a tangible link with these early times in the life of the community. In August, 1993, this Celtic idol was stolen from the old church. In 1999, as part of the Féile Lughnasa celebrations, a replica of Crom Dubh was made and presented to the community by Eilín Néill of Brandon .

The Cloghane Brandon area is involves in a twinning with the town of Plozevet in Brittany , France . The president of the Plozevet twinning committee, Monsieur Ronan le Gall heard the story of Crom Dubh 's disappearance and decided that he could do something to remedy the situation. While on a visit to the Cloghane-Brandon region, Ronan, an accomplished sculptor, found a suitable piece of stone on Cappagh Strand and took it back to Brittany, where working from photographs of the original, he set about carving a new likeness of Crom Dubh. Easter 2000, at the signing of the second part of the twinning charter, Ronan presented Crom Dubh II to the people of the area. Crom Dubh was placed temporarily in the wall of the church where the original head had been. It was then put on display at the Heritage Centre at Halla le Chéile , Ballyguin, until a suitable place has been chosen to put it on permanent view.


Crom Cruach (

The name means "bloody crescent" or "bloody bent one." It is also called Cromm Crûac , Cenn Crûaic , or rig-iodal h-Eireann. Crom Cruach is a large idol, made completely of gold, which stood on the plain of Mag Sleact, which is in Cavan County in Ulster , Ireland . Twelve smaller idols, these of stone, formed a ring around the Crom Cruach . The golden idol represented a god, though we do not know which one. On the holiday of Samhain, the Irish were said to sacrifice one third of their newborns to him, in order to insure good weather, good yields of milk and corn, and the fertility of their cattle and crops. The Irish feared this god greatly, and it was dangerous to worship him, as many died in the process. The stone idols that surround him indicate that he was surely a fertility god, and perhaps even a solar deity. St. Patrick , who is the patron saint of Ireland , destroyed the idol and sent it back into the earth. He instructed the people to not burn their cows or children.


CROM CRUACH (The A to Z of Ancient Ireland is based on the book, 'Ancient Ireland -The Users' Guide' by Conan Kennedy, published by Morrigan Books, Killala, Co.Mayo, Ireland).

An idol set up at
Magh Slécht , 'Plain of Adoration', in County Cavan by the King,Tigernmas. Known as 'Lord of Death', Tigernmas is credited with the introduction of gold mining and of silverwork to Ireland . Some authorities have it that Tigernmas was a renegade Roman legion commander; this may be supported by the nature of the cult of Crom which has strong Eastern connections. Made of stone, Crom was sheeted in gold. Around him he had a circle of twelve little assistant idols, these sheeted in silver. Gods with twelve assistants or 'disciples' are of course of considerable antiquity, their number being linked to astrological systems. Crom is notable in that children ('first-born') were sacrificed to him at Samhain, amidst general mayhem and orgiastic activities. While Tigernmas himself was killed in one of these frenzies, his descendants are still with us in the form of the O'Conor family of Co. Roscommon who hold the title of O'Conor Don. ' Domnach Crom Dubh ', (Black Crom's Sunday) is a day formerly celebrated, especially in the West of Ireland, by visits to particular wells and ancient sacred sites. Now Christianized, the most notable of these remaining pilgrimages is that to Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo. The routines of this pilgrimage, traversing wilderness, climbing mountain, and ritualistic encircling of stones while chanting, all these survive from the days of Crom worship.

CRUACHÁN (The A to Z of Ancient Ireland is based on the book, 'Ancient Ireland -The Users' Guide
' by Conan Kennedy, published by Morrigan Books, Killala, Co.Mayo, Ireland).

The cave at Cruachan is the 'Entrance to The Otherworld' and regarded in the old religions as a place from which spirit forces and entities emerge. Caves such as this feature strongly in ancient beliefs but are generally nowadays ignored. An exception would be the modern Christian pilgrimage to Lough Derg in County Donegal , this pilgrimage originating in pre-Christian times as a visit to a cave where 'hell' could be examined. The Cruachan region of County Roscommon , modernday Rathcroghan, is rich in locations associated with ancient magic, ritual and religion. The Rathcroghan mound itself is reputedly the remnants of the 'palace' of Queen Medb of Connacht . Whatever about that, it was used by rulers of that era as a place to consult magicians and sorcerers, particularly at the time of Samhain.


Variants: dullaghan, far dorocha, Crom Dubh (

The dullahan is one of the most spectacular creatures in the Irish fairy realm and one which is particularly active in the more remote parts of counties Sligo and Down.

Around midnight on certain Irish festivals or feast days, this wild and black-robed horseman may be observed riding a dark and snorting steed across the countryside.

W. J. Fitzpatrick , a storyteller from the Mourne Mountains in County Down , recounts:

"I seen the dullahan myself, stopping on the brow of the hill between Bryansford and Moneyscalp late one evening, just as the sun was setting. It was completely headless but it held up its own head in its hand and I heard it call out a name. I put my hand across my ears in case the name was my own, so I couldn't hear what it said. When I looked again, it was gone. But shortly afterwards, there was a bad car accident on that very hill and a young man was killed. It had been his name that the dullahan was calling".

Dullahans are headless. Although the dullahan has no head upon its shoulders, he carries it with him, either on the saddle-brow of his horse or upraised in his right hand. The head is the colour and texture of stale dough or mouldy cheese, and quite smooth. A hideous, idiotic grin splits the face from ear to ear, and the eyes, which are small and black, dart about like malignant flies. The entire head glows with the phosphoresence of decaying matter and the creature may use it as a lantern to guide its way along the darkened laneways of the Irish countryside. Wherever the dullahan stops, a mortal dies.

The dullahan is possessed of supernatural sight. By holding his severed head aloft, he can see for vast distances across the countryside, even on the darkest night. Using this power, he can spy the house of a dying person, no matter where it lies. Those who watch from their windows to see him pass are rewarded for their pains by having a basin of blood thrown in their faces, or by being struck blind in one eye.

The dullahan is usually mounted on a black steed, which thunders through the night. He uses a human spine as a whip. The horse sends out sparks and flames from its nostrils as it charges forth. In some parts of the country, such as County Tyrone , the dullahan drives a black coach known as the coach-a-bower (from the Irish coiste bodhar, meaning 'deaf or silent coach'). This is drawn by six black horses, and travels so fast that the friction created by its movement often sets on fire the bushes along the sides of the road. All gates fly open to let rider and coach through, no matter how firmly they are locked, so no one is truly safe from the attentions of this fairy.
This fairy has a limited power of speech. Its disembodied head is permitted to speak just once on each journey it undertakes, and then has only the ability to call the name of the person whose death it heralds. A dullahan will stop its snorting horse before the door of a house and shout the name of the person about to die, drawing forth the soul at the call. He may also stop at the very spot where a person will die.

On nights of Irish feast days, it is advisable to stay at home with the curtains drawn; particularly around the end of August or early September when the festival of Crom Dubh reputedly took place. If you have to be abroad at this time, be sure to keep some gold object close to hand.

The origins of the dullahan are not known for certain, but he is thought to be the embodiment of an ancient Celtic god, Crom Dubh , or Black Crom. Crom Dubh was worshipped by the prehistoric king, Tighermas, who ruled in Ireland about fifteen hundred years ago and who legitimised human sacrifice to heathen idols. Being a fertility god, Crom Dubh demanded human lives each year, the most favoured method of sacrifice being decapitation. The worship of Crom continued in Ireland until the sixth century, when Christian missionaries arrived from Scotland . They denounced all such worship and under their influence, the old sacrificial religions of Ireland began to lose favour. Nonetheless, Crom Dubh was not to be denied his annual quota of souls, and took on a physical form which became known as the dullahan or far dorocha (meaning dark man), the tangible embodiment of death.

Unlike the banshee, the dullahan does not pursue specific families and its call is a summoning of the soul of a dying person rather than a death warning. There is no real defence against the dullahan because he is death's herald. However, an artefact made of gold may frighten him away, for dullahan's appear to have an irrational fear of this precious metal. Even a small amount of gold may suffice to drive them off, as the following account from County Galway relates:

"A man was on his way home one night between Roundstone and Ballyconneely. It was just getting dark and, all of a sudden, he heard the sound of horse's hooves pounding along the road behind him. Looking around, he saw the dullahan on his charger, hurtling towards him at a fair speed. With a loud shout, he made to run but the thing came on after him, gaining on him all the time. In truth, it would have overtaken him and carried him away had he not dropped a gold-headed pin from the folds of his shirt on the road behind him. There was a roar in the air above him and, when he looked again, the dullahan was gone".

Croach Patrick-Mayo (

The conical peak of Croagh Patrick has been for millennia the focal point for ritual and pilgrimage stretching back possibly to before the Neolithic period. The mountain dominates the Mayo landscape. Imagine the effect of the 'roof of the world', 'the stairway to the heavens' vista, would have had on many generations. Indeed, many generations have sought to venerate this quartzite mountain space for diverse reasons.

Remains of Augustinian Friary with Croagh Patrick in the background

Today thousands of pilgrims traverse, some barefoot, the difficult terrain of this holy mountain on their annual pilgrimage to the summit to beseech the almighty for whatever personal intentions they might have or equally just to enjoy the amazing Clew Bay landscape.

Leacht Mionnan

It has been the same throughout the millennia when pre Christian people travelled the same landscape in search of their own particular divinity.

Pilgrimage to a number of these holy places in Ireland represents a living link to an ancient past, a past filled with venerated places such as wells, trees and mountain tops where pagan spirits dwelled until subdued or adapted by the Christian newcomers.

Croagh Patrick had its own protective god Crom Dubh who dwelled near the mountain. Croms Dubh is a pagan god who owns a bull, a granary of corn and is ruler of the elements. There are many stories of how St Patrick in his mission to bring Christianity to Ireland had to do battle with the powers of gods such as Crom Dubh . These battle are the later hagiographers, versions of the fight between the pagan gods and Christianity for supremacy, a power struggle in the shadow of a power centre.

It is argued that the religious importance of Ireland 's holiest mountain has its roots in the Celtic festival of Lughnasa. Lugh was the god of the Túatha De Danaan, he was the Ollathair, the all-father god, the sky god, and Celts believed that they were physically descended from the sky god who was himself descended from Danu (divine waters). He was regarded as the ancestor of several ruling Irish Túatha. Lugh initiated the harvest festival that was originally celebrated at the grave of his mother or wives. Therefore, it would have been extremely important to honour such a god. Lughnasa is on the first of August and today Christians from around the world ascend to the peak of Croagh Patrick just before that ancient date.

Stone Row at Kiladangan (Photo:
Aidan Clarke )

Archaeological research suggests that Croagh Patrick was a powerful religious focus since the Bronze Age. At the standing stone complex at Kiladangan it was discovered that the stone row is aligned on the setting sun of the winter solstice, which sets within a niche in the eastern shoulder of the mountain. At the isolated rock outcrop at Boheh, where there is one of the finest examples of rock art in Europe, the setting sun can be seen rolling down the shoulder of Croagh Patrick . These striking events would have been observed and marvelled at by prehistoric farmers with an acute sense of their environment and concerned with astronomical events, which could affect or damage their livelihoods.

Did the ancient peoples venerate Croagh Patrick as the residence of a deity who had the power to control the elements, or was there a more economical reason for the focus on the mountain. It has recently been shown that a narrow interrupted reef of rock, containing gold in sufficient quantity to make its extraction profitable, runs from south -west Scotland across the north of Ireland to reach the Atlantic coast not far from Croagh Patrick . However it has been argued that prehistoric mining techniques were not capable of exploiting this resource. The name of the river Abhainn Buí , yellow river, which rises on the south west of the mountain, suggests that perhaps there was an awareness of how to exploit these resources. The lack of gold artefacts from the immediate area could be explained in terms of trade. Perhaps the rights to exploit the area's resources were traded to outside producers who would have needed access to the raw material.

The Tóchar Phádraig approaching Croagh Patrick
(Photo: Ballintubber Abbey Trust)

Was the ancient pilgrim route of the Tóchar Phádraig used for more than the transport of pilgrims? Was it a trade route between Croagh Patrick and the royal site of Connaght at Cruachain and beyond?                


The Dullahan - Ireland ’s Headless Horseman (

by Bridget Haggerty

It is said that after sunset, on certain festivals and feast days, one of the most terrifying creatures in the spirit world, the Dullahan, can be seen riding a magnificent black stallion across the country side.

Wherever he stops, a mortal dies.

Clad in flowing black robes, the Dullahan has no head on his shoulders. He carries it with him in his hand, and because he is endowed with supernatural sight, he will hold the head up high. This allows him to see great distances, even on the darkest night.

But beware watching him pass by. You’ll be punished by either having a bucket of blood thrown in your face or you might be struck blind in one eye. The biggest fear of all, however, is if he stops wherever you are and calls out your name. This will draw out your soul and you’ll no longer be among the living.

Unlike the Banshee, which is known to warn of an imminent death in certain families, the Dullahan does not come to warn. He is a definite harbinger of someone’s demise and there exists no defence against him - except perhaps, an object made of gold. For some reason, the Dullahan has an irrational fear of gold and even a tiny amount may be enough to frighten him off.

One story from Galway says that a man was on his way home when all of a sudden he heard the sound of horse’s hooves pounding along the road behind him. In dread , he turned around to look. It was the Dullahan. He tried to run, but nothing can outrun the angel of death. Then the man remembered that if he couldn’t outrun him, he could outsmart him. With that, he dropped a gold coin on the road. There was a loud roar in the air, high above him, and when he turned to look again, the Dullahan was gone.

While no-one knows for certain how the Dullahan originated, it is thought that he is the embodiment of the Celtic fertility god, Crom Dubh , who was worshiped by an ancient king of Ireland , Tighermas. Each year, Tighermas sacrificed humans to Crom Dubh , and the usual method was decapitation. The worship of Crom Dubh ended in the sixth century, when Christianity came to Ireland and the old sacrificial traditions went out of favor. But Crom Dubh was not to be so easily forgotten, for it’s said that he then took on a physical form - the headless Dullahan - which means dark man - riding his mighty charger and using a human spine for a whip. And, while this is the way he is most often described, in some parts of Ireland , he drives a black coach drawn by a team of six black horses. They travel so fast that the friction from their hooves is said to set the hedges on fire along the sides of the road. And, no matter how firmly they are locked, all gates fly open to let the Dullahan through.

So, if you’re in
Ireland this Hallowe’en season, be safe at home by sunset, don’t look out your window, and definitely keep a gold object close at hand!




Place-names in italics refer to listed entries.

Duntryleague: Passage-tomb

R 779 284

Sheet 73

On the top of Duntryleague Hill, a fine skeletal passage-tomb - denuded entirely of its cairn - still retains its long passage and a wider, cruciform chamber whose 3 roofstones are stepped one above the other in a style common in Brittany .


This rather poor photograph taken in 1972 shows the roofless passage leading to the massively-roofed chamber. Thirty years on, the surrounding trees have reached their maximum height, and have been felled, thus restoring the splendid views. Click here for a more recent photo.


Lackanagoneeny: Stone-row

R 838 533

Sheet 66

This alignment of three stones, all about 1.6 metres tall and set one metre apart, affords splendid views. A fourth stone stands some 5 metres to the SW, suggesting that there could have been seven or more stones originally.

~ 6.8 km N by E is Baurnadomeeny wedge-tomb, county Tipperary .


Lough Gur: Stone circles, crannógs, tombs, hut-sites, etc.

R 640 410

Sheet 65

Lough Gur has a great concentration of prehistoric remains, including wedge-tombs, foundations of huts, stone circles, standing-stones and crannógs (artificial refuge-islands in lakes).

The most famous of these monuments is the Late Neolithic or very Early Bronze Age stone circle and henge known as the Líos (= enclosure) in Grange townland, situated to the E of the Bruff-Limerick road. Heavy stones stand shoulder to shoulder against a massive bank of gravelly clay 10 metres wide, 1.3 metres high and nearly 70 metres across. Most are of local limestone, but some are volcanic breccia from over a mile away. Of these the heaviest stone just N of the entrance, known as Rannach Cruim Dubh (prominent black stooper or hunchback), weighs over 60 tons, and aligns with midsummer sunrise. Next to this huge stone stands a small stack of stones. This is thought to represent Eithne, the Irish Persephone - corn child and concubine of the dark god Crom Dubh . It is said that the whole embanked enclosure was dug by Crom Dubh with his two pronged spear.

The most important of several alignments, however, is that of the short stone-lined entrance passage with two massive stones at the opposite side of the circle, whose tops form a V-notch for observing the moon's minimum midsummer setting in 2500 BC.


~ 100 metres NNE is a second circle, smaller (15 metres in diameter), unprotected from livestock, but also constructed of large, but beautifully weathered, stones, which can be reached through a purpose-built gap in the fence just over a low dry stone wall. It consists of very rough and uneven stones with a large gap on one side where, it would appear, at least two orthostats have been removed.

~ 350 metres NNE is large, gently-leaning menhir standing 3.5 metres tall behind a farm building. The west face appears to have been worked flat, almost concave while the rear is very rounded, and the name of 'stooper' (cruach) would be more appropriate for this stone than for the one at the Líos. It stands to the east of an ancient sunken track that runs north-south past it and the foundations of several hut sites and ancient field boundaries.


~ Just visible over the hedge 100 metres to the south of Grange Líos and accessible through a gate in the same field boundary is Cloch a' Bhíle, or the Tree of Life, said to be a lithic manifestation of the supernatural tree that mythically grows at the bottom of the nearby Lough. In its gnarled, bramble-protected mossiness it does resemble a trunkless tree.

The farmer who now looks after much of the land around Lough Gur sells a small but very informative booklet on the whole area written by O’Kelly who excavated the site in 1939. The fence surrounding and protecting the circle was erected at Tim ’s own expense and so he asks for a contribution of only two euros from adults visiting the site. Please do respect this if he is not around, so that the site can continue to be kept tidy for all to enjoy.

~ Near the NW corner of the lough is a stone-built crannóg now surrounded by marsh instead of water.

~ To the S of the road skirting the S shore of the Lough in Loughgur townland is a fine wedge-tomb some 9 metres long, with a slab-roof gallery and a separate chamber instead of a portico at the SW (front) end.

Loughgur, county Limerick

R 640 410 - Sheet 65

Nearest village: Bruff



A gorgeous photo by Jim Dempsey of the fine and easily-accessible wedge tomb to the S of the lough.

~ About 750 metres SW, on the same side of the same road is another - ruined - wedge-tomb, known as Leaba na Muice (The Pig's Bed).

~ On the other side of the Lough are more standing-stones, circles, and another crannóg, as well as stone forts, and neolithic house-sites.

~ The visitors' centre is better than many.


Crom Cruach (

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the pre-Christian Irish pantheon, Crom Cruach (alternative spellings Crom Crúaich, Cromm Crúaich, Crom Cróich, Cromm Cruach, Cenn Cruach, Crom Cruagh, Crom Crooach, Crom Cruaidh, Ceancroitihi, Crom Dubh, Black Crom and as Crom-cruaghair, the great Creator, he has, by some writers, been identified with the Persian Kerum Kerugher) was the chief god of Ireland. He was both a solar deity and a fertility deity.

The ancient texts tell us that there was an idol on Magh Slécht, which is the plain of adoration or prostration, in the Parish of Templeport, County Cavan, Ulster named Crom Cruach. His statue was an upright stone pillar coated in gold and silver (to symbolise the sun and moon) and surrounded by twelve smaller statues of bare stone or covered in bronze (according to different sources). This alignment would have represented the sun surrounded by the signs of the zodiac.

It was claimed by later chroniclers that on the annual feast of Samhain (later renamed Halloween, November 1), his followers sacrificed one third of their firstborn to him in exchange for milk, corn, the fertility of cattle and a fertile growing season.

The tradition of offering the firstborn to a god was still continued by the Christian priests, successors to the Crom priests, at least as late as the 8th century AD. See "The Collection of Tithes in Ireland", [1] and also the poem of St. Grellan in "The Tribes and Customs of Hy-Many" (page 13). [2]

Crom Cruach's worship was said to have been introduced by the High King Tigernmas. One Samhain night, during prostration, the king and 4,000 of his followers died from a plague contracted there, called "The Seventh Plague of Ireland". Only about 1,500 survived.

According to contemporary sources, St. Patrick cursed and destroyed the idol and stopped the worship of Crom Cruach. However, it has been shown that the stones sunk in the earth before the time of St. Patrick, so this was probably just an anecdote.

The Masraige tribe were the inhabitants of Magh Slécht at the time of St. Patrick. It was this tribe who supplied the ancient Druids and High Priests of the god Crom Cruach and their successors, the Christian priests. Saint Dallan Forgaill, the Chief Ollamh or Poet of Ireland, was a member of the tribe. They survived at least until the coming of the Ui Bhriuin in 700 A.D. who then dispossessed them and took control of Tullyhaw. The word Masraige means "Kings of Death", which may be related to their worship of Crom. The name of Tigernmas, the high king who is said to have introduced Crom's worship, also translates as "Lord of Death".

There is another standing stone also named Crom Crúaich in Drumcoo townland, County Fermanagh. It has the figure of a man walking engraved on it which either represents Saint Patrick or a druid, depending on when it was engraved.

Crom is mentioned in the Dinnshenchas in the Book of Leinster, as well as the Tripartite Life of Patrick and the 14th century Book of McGovern.

He may be the same as the Clogher idol Cermand Cestach.

Alternative: Cromm Cruac ("bloody crescent"), Cenn Cruaic ("bloody head"), rid-iodal h-Eireann ("the king idol of Ireland").


The Crom stone was rediscovered in 1921 buried in the ground beside a stone circle on a nearby mound from where it had been moved. It had been smashed into several pieces, some of which lay nearby. When excavated and placed upright on its flat base, it was found to lean obliquely to the left from the vertical. This has been linked to the translation of Crom Cruaich as the "bent or crooked one of the mound". It was decorated in the 1st century BC with "La Tène" symbols in the "Waldalgesheim Style", but the stone circle was erected much earlier, in the Early Irish Bronze Age, c. 2000 BC.

The stone has been interpreted as a phallic symbol, like the similar Turoe Stone in County Galway. [3]. Although now much damaged, it can be reconstructed from the different surviving pieces. At the base of the stone there were four rectangular adjoining panels measuring 90 cm each in width giving a circumference of 3m 60 cm when it was first carved. The height of each panel was about 75 cm. These panels are said to represent the foreskin of the penis. [4] The top of the stone (perhaps representing the glans of the penis) was carved in parallel lines. [5] Connecting the top with the panels was a blank triangular section representing the triangular piece of skin attaching the foreskin to the penis.

The stone was named the Killycluggin Stone, after the townland where it was found, and is now in Cavan Museum. A replica is situate at the roadside in Killycluggin. Beside the mound is Kilnavert Church, which was founded by St. Patrick to eradicate the worship of Crom in the area. It was originally named Fossa Slécht or Rath Slécht, and it is from this small location that the wider Magh Slécht area received its name. There is also a Tobar Padraig (St. Patrick's Well) nearby, as also described in the ancient manuscripts.

The 14th century Book of McGovern, written in Magh Slécht, contains a poem which states that Crom was situate at Kilnavert beside the road and that the local women used to tremble in fear as they passed by. There is still a local tradition in the area that the Killycluggin stone is the Crom stone and all the manuscript sources confirm this.

The symbols on the stone have been variously interpreted as (1)the Sun and Moon (2) as sperm (3) as channels for the blood from sacrifices, human or animal, to flow down with the path of the blood being read as an oracle by the druids (4) as a penile tattoo.

The cult of Crom is still fashionable today. A street in Belcoo, County Fermanagh is named Crom Crúaich Way in his honour. There is even a mountain in Australia named after him "Mount Cenn Cruaich" in Warrumbungle National Park. A popular novel was published about modern human sacrifice in Cavan, entitled "Cromm" by Kenneth Flint, Doubleday 1990. John Montague the poet has a poem "The Plain of Blood" about Crom. Thomas D'Arcy Magee wrote a famous poem in the 19th century called "The Celts", which mentions Crom. A type of Scottish harp is named crom-chruit because of its shape.


The following sources may be consulted for further information-

St. Tirechan's memoir of St. Patrick, written in 670 AD, known as the "Breviarium", which is preserved in the Book of Armagh. Tirechan used notes given to him by his teacher St. Ultan of Ardbraccan; as Ultan died in 657 AD after a very long life, he may have known people who knew St. Patrick.

The Tripartite Life of Patrick, written c. 895 AD from older sources.

The Metrical Dindshenchas. The first recension is found in the 12th century manuscript the Book of Leinster, with partial survivals in a number of other manuscript sources. The text shows signs of having been compiled from a number of provincial sources and the earliest poems date from at least the 11th century. Internal evidence suggests the majority of the poems have a pre-Christian origin. Two poems (7 & 71) on Magh Slécht can be found online. [6]

The Book of McGovern, written in the 13th century by poets living in Magh Slécht.

Excavations at Killycluggin- (1. Ó Ríordáin, S.P. 1952. Fragment of the Killycluggin Stone. J. Roy. Soc. Antiq. Ireland 82, 68. (2. 1974 by B. Raftery, Department of Archaeology, University College, Dublin. (A short synopsis of the full report can be found online.) [7]

Geoffrey Keating's History of Ireland 1632 [8] , (Section XXV, 25)

Annals of the Four Masters

For the continued worshipping of Crom up to the 20th century in Ireland, see Festival at Lughnasa (Oxford Univ. Press, 1962) by Máire Mac Neill.

"Killinagh Church and Crom Cruaich" by Oliver Davies in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Volume 2, 1939.



Mag Slecht from the Metrical Dindshenchas Vol 4