The Legend of Crom Cruach


Gone But Not Forgotten
Jan 11, 2004
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A bit of Halloweenery.

I searched for this topic, with spelling variations(Gaelic!), and was surprized to find it unmentioned in total. I was reminded of this because of the "Samhain Death God" notion discussed in the Halloween thread.

Crom Cruach was supposedly a fearsome deity worshipped by the Irish. According to two mediaeval Irish texts, among them the Book of Leinster. According to the accounts, ole Crommie's effigy was "the king idol of all Ireland," made of solid gold, surrounded by a set of 12 stone lesser idols, and set up on the "Mag Sleacht" in Ulster. On Halloween, peasants were to sacrifice firstborn children and the finest livestock. As the ramble goes, king Tigernmus met some dim and grizzly fate worshipping the idol on that very night. St. Patrick is credited with vanquishing the idol and its worship.

Now, Crom Cruach seems to get taken seriously by Celtic researchers. I've seen alot of debate about which god he was supposed to be an analog of. To say I'm a little skeptical is an understatement, however.

Lots of things don't work:

First there's the absurd drama of it all: worship reserved for one night a year, mass sacrifices, poor king Tigernmus' getting presumably eaten by the god (Ia ia!), the solid gold idol, etc. Even the names are suspiciously melodramatic. Now, it's been a while, so my Gaelic may not be so...ahem...maith, and my Old Irish Gaelic even less maith, but Mag Sleacht translates potentially as "The Slashing Field" and Crom Cruach as "Blood-drenched hook." Yeah right. And then there's the Schwartzeneggerian scene of Crom Cruach's demise at the hands of St. Patrick where the idol sinks into the ground.

Also, if such a deity were indeed the "chief among gods," one would expect to find many references in Irish mythology. Nope, none. Imagine the Greeks leaving Zeus out and then some one recalling that a pathologically womanizing guy with a beard and a lightning bolt used to be worshipped by the Hellenes. Plus, I figure if a deity warranted a giant gold idol, he'd get some acknowledgement outisde of Halloween night.

The Irish sacrificing firstborns and prize lifestock en masse is also absurd, which brings me to my theory and final point.

Crom Cruach appears to be a reinvention of the Biblical Moloch, the firey idol of the Canaanites to whom the Israelites were supposed to have sacrificed their firstborn children. Crom Cruach's sacrifices were also burned. Mendaciously linking Irish polytheism probably helped early founders of Christianity in that nation.

Maybe physical evidence exists for or against Crom Cruach. If it were on a large plain in Ulster, maybe some archaeology has been done. Then again, funding is hard to find.


from Vitrius:

' mendaciously linking Irish polytheism probably helped early founders of Christianity in that nation '



Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
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Vitrius said:
A bit of Halloweenery.

I searched for this topic, with spelling variations(Gaelic!), and was surprized to find it unmentioned in total.
I did a quick search and found:

Crom Cruach
by Micha F. Lindemans

The chief idol of Eirin. This huge object stood on the plain of Mag Sleact (the plain of adoration or prostration) in County Cavan in Ulster. Situated around him were twelve smaller idols made of stone while his was of gold. To him the early Irish sacrificed one third of their children on Samain (November 1) in return for milk and corn and the good weather that insured the fertility of cattle and crops. The god was held in horror for his terrible exactions; it was even dangerous to worship him, for the worshippers themselves often perished in the act of worship.

It is said that his cult was introduced by a pre-Christian king names Tigernmus. During the prostrations one Samhain night, he and three fourths of his followers destroyed themselves.

The twelve lesser idols that encircle Crom have led to the assumption that he was a solar deity; certainly a fertility god. However, he has not been identified with any of the ancient Irish gods. According to legend, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, cursed and destroyed it (the idol sunk back into the earth). The saint preached to the people against the burning of milk-cows and their first-born progeny.

Crom Cruach, or Cromm Crúac means bloody crescent or bloody bent one and is mentioned as such in the 6th century Dinnshenchas in the . It is also referred to as Cenn Crúaic (bloody head) in the Tripartite Life of Patrick. Another name is ríg-íodal h-Eireann, the king idol of Ireland.

Other names:
Cromm Crúac

crom croo'-ach
Article created on 03 March 1997; last modified on 27 December 1998.
© 1995-2004 Encyclopedia Mythica. All rights reserved.

See also:

He is also mentioned as Crom Dubh (dubh = black) which from this story sounds to be the same person:

Which is confirmed by things like:

Crom Cruaich - (The bowed one of the Mound) Also known as Cenn Cruaich, the Lord of the Mound, and Crom Dubh, the Black Bowed One. Ancient sacrificial God associated with Lughnasadh. The last sunday in July is still called Domhnach Chrom Dubh (Crom Dubh's Sunday), even tho it has been christianized as the day of the spectacular pilgimage up St. Patrick's Mountain.

Which takes us to the celebration of Lughnasah:

To the Irish, Scottish and Manx, Lughnasah is also known as Lammas, Garland Sunday, Bilberry Sunday, Fraughan Sunday, Chrom Dubh Sunday and Black Stoop Sunday. The date of Lughnasah shifts in the Celtic world from late July to September 29 when it is christianized as Michaelmas.

Although Lugh is prominently thought of at Lughnasah, the god most associated with the ancient festival is “Crom Dubh,” the “dark bent one.” Crom Dubh is stooped from carrying sheaves of wheat to mankind from the Otherworld and dark from his time spent in the underworld sidhe of Aine. He emerges from the Otherworld on about August 1, the beginning of the harvest.

My interpretation is pretty much along the same lines as Vitrius - they have taken the figure of Crom Dubh mixed it with older idolatry and shifted their festival to a more sinister time of year with its links to bonfires and dark spirits, etc. Interestingly they also also coopted the festival of Lughnasah too.

I think the problem is that the primary texts are relatively 'recent' (although they collect togther earlier tales):

The Book of Leinster

Irish Leabhar Laighneach compilation of Irish verse and prose from older manuscripts and oral tradition and from 12th- and 13th-century religious and secular sources.

The three main manuscript sources for Irish mythology are the late 11th / early 12th century Lebor na hUidre which is in the library of the Royal Irish Academy, the early 12th century The Book of Leinster in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, and the Rawlinson manuscript B 502 (Rawl.), housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Despite the dates of these sources, most of the material they contain predates their composition and some can, on linguistic grounds, be dated back as far as the 5th or 6th centuries.

Which gives them plenty of room to rewrite and reinterpret the older myths.