Monday, September 13, 2010

Cromm Cruaich, Crom Dubh. Lord of The Mound.



Cromm Cruaich - The Bloody Crescent

Copyright © 2001, Pàdraig MacIain

Here once dwelt
A high idol of many fights,
The Cromm Cruaich by name,
And deprived every tribe of peace.

Without glory in his honour,
they would sacrifice their wretched children
With much lamentation and danger,
Pouring their blood around Cromm Cruaich.

Milk and corn
they would urgently desire of him,
In barter for one third of their healthy offspring-
Their horror of him was great.

To him the noble Goidels (Gaels)
Would prostrate themselves;
From the bloody sacrifices offered him
The plain is called the 'Plain of Adoration'. (Mag Slecht)

They did evilly,
Beat on their palms, thumping their bodies,
Wailing to the monster who enslaved them,
Their tears falling in showers.

In a rank stand
Twelve idols of stone;
bitterly to enchant the people
The figure of Cromm was of gold.

From the reign of Heremon,
the Noble and Graceful,
Such worshipping of stones there was
Until the coming of Good Patrick of Macha.

The poem above is known as a dindshenchas, a type poem used to tell a story about the origins of the names of places within Ireland. This particular one has been found in the Book of Leinster, of Ballymote and of Lecan. It speaks of an idol, of a god named Cromm (Cromm Cruaich), who was struck down with the coming of Patrick to Ireland. It has gone by various names, Cromm Cruaich, Cenn Cróich, and as Crom Dubh (within modern Irish folklore).

The Cromm name (The etymology of which is agreed means bent or crooked one) appears to be a name given to him after the coming of Patrick. Prior to Patrick's arrival the name Cenn was used (which means in Old Irish head or lord). The name 'The Bloody Crescent' has also been associated with him. His idol which stood on Mag Slecht ('The Plain of Adoration', which is in the North West of Co. Cavan, Ireland) is reported to have been the centre of regular sacrifices, performed on the eve of Samhain. Where the sun's power waned and the gods of the winter and the underworld grew stronger. This idol was reported as once being either made from gold or a stone covered in gold and was surrounded by twelve other stones. It is here that the mythic king of Ireland, Tiernmas (who is credited with introducing the worship of Cenn to his people) along with three quarters of his followers died suddenly, on Samhain eve, while worshipping Cromm.

It is also interesting to note that Tiernmas is credited with being the first to smelt gold and silver within Ireland, and his people were the first humans (decendents of the sons of Mil) to discover the process of dying clothes (Previously, it seems only the Gods, the Tuatha de Dannan, knew how to dye clothes). It could be speculated that it was some inspiration granted by Cenn that Tiernmas discovered these skills which were otherwise reserved for the Gods. This in itself might be an echo of the Ancient Greek mythology about Prometheus, and his sharing of fire with mortals.

We have very little evidence of what seems to have been a very powerful god. What we do know is recorded by Christian monks during an era of medieval Ireland, which only seems to cover the destruction of the idol and its apparent blood-thirstiness. Was Cenn, a deity from the dawn of time whose strength was so great that he influenced race after race of people that came to his land? Did the destruction of one of his idols spell the end of his strength? Or was it merely a strategy where by his worshippers could escape persecution.

2 comments:

  1. Other than the poem, what other sources are you citing? I'm having a hard time finding information on Cromm and while I don't doubt the validity of your information (it sounds perfectly logical and makes perfect sense), being able to cite the source material would be helpful in my own writing endeavors.

    Thank you,

    T. S.

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  2. Hi T.S. There are many various sources that record this ancient Irish god and if you do a search you will be able to locate as many as you need. It is said that Cromm Cruaich was represented as a stone idol (a head) and that children were sacrificed to him/it. How much of this was a result of Christian propaganda is open to conjecture.

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