Crom Cruach

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Crom Cruach or Cromm Crúaich (Irish pronunciation: [ˈkɾˠɔmˠ ˈkɾˠuːəç]), also known as Cenn Cruach or Cenncroithi, was a deity of pre-Christian Ireland, reputedly propitiated with human sacrifice, whose worship is said to have been ended by St. Patrick.

Contents

Literature

According to an Irish dinsenchas ("place-lore") poem in the 12th century Book of Leinster, Crom Cruach's cult image, consisting of a gold figure surrounded by twelve stone figures, stood on Magh Slécht ("the plain of prostration") in County Cavan, and was propitiated with first-born sacrifice in exchange for good yields of milk and grain. Crom is said to have been worshipped since the time of Eremon. An early High King, Tigernmas, along with three quarters of his army, is said to have died while worshipping Crom on Samhain eve, but worship continued until the cult image was destroyed by St. Patrick with a sledgehammer.[1]

This incident figures prominently in medieval legends about St. Patrick, although it does not appear in his own writings, nor in the two 7th century biographies by Muirchu and Tírechán.[2] In the 9th century Tripartite Life of Saint Patrick the deity is called Cenn Cruach, and his cult image consists of a central figure covered with gold and silver, surrounded by twelve bronze figures. When Patrick approaches it he raises his crozier, the central figure falls face-down, with the imprint of the crozier left in it, and the surrounding figures sink into the earth. The "demon" who inhabits the image appears, but Patrick curses him and casts him to hell.[3] Jocelin's 12th century Life and Acts of St. Patrick tells much the same story. Here the god is called Cenncroithi, interpreted as "the head of all gods", and when his image falls the silver and gold covering it crumble to dust, with the imprint of the crozier left on bare stone.[4]

In the old Irish tale from the Book of Lismore, "The Siege of Druim Damhgaire or Knocklong" (Forbhais Droma Dámhgháire), Crom is associated with Moloch.

Archaeology

A decorated stone which has been interpreted by some as the cult image of Crom Cruach was found at Killycluggin, County Cavan, in 1921 (Site number 93, Killycluggin townland, “Archaeological Inventory of County Cavan”, Patrick O’Donovan, 1995, p. 19). O'Kelly, however, refers to this image as Crom Dubh.[5] Roughly dome-shaped and covered in Iron Age La Tène designs, it was discovered broken in several pieces and partly buried close to a Bronze Age stone circle, inside which it probably once stood.[6] The site has several associations with St. Patrick. Nearby is Tobar Padraig (St. Patrick's Well), and Kilnavert Church, which is said to have been founded by the saint. Kilnavert was originally called Fossa Slécht or Rath Slécht, from which the wider Magh Slécht area was named.

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