Emerald Isle

The Fall of Crom Cruach

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from Irish Gods and Monsters

An ancient demon laid low - The Fall of Crom Cruach

Crom Cruach was one of the old gods of Ireland, one of the few mentioned as a god in the Annals of the Four Masters, an ancient Irish codex telling of the times before Christianity came to Ireland. His name may have many meanings, but he was most commonly known to the people as Crom Dubh, or the crouching darkness. His worshippers are said to have gathered at Mount Brandon in County Kerry and Croagh Patrick in Mayo, but nowhere is the name Crom still known as well as at Moy Slecht, where he was called Cenncroithí, meaning "the head of all gods".

A lonely and windy plain between Leitrim and Cavan, it first enters the tales of yore when King Tigernmas son of Follach, the first to smelt gold more than three thousand years ago, the first king to give drinking horns to his followers, and the first to have clothes dyed purple, blue and green and decorated with brooches, fringes and ornaments, built a circle there for the worship of old black stoop, the wizened bent one of many glooms.

It is written that during his reign a vessel came from across the ocean from the king of the feared and sorcerous Fomors, demanding the wealth of Ireland, gems, tin and copper, and the means for their shaping. Tigernmas called to himself the chieftains of the land to take counsel about this demand but they said they'd rather keep the goods for themselves, and why not.

Well the Fomors took this none too kindly, so they sent Ishbaal, daughter of their king, who was married to Aodab, along with a cohort of their dark priests to Ireland. They brought with them an idol of gold and silver and stone, and twelve other dark deities covered in gleaming bronze. These priests of fearsome aspect bade Tigernmas to build a fortress on Moy Senaig, the plain of glorious deeds, as a temple for their gods, and Tigernmas agreed for the sake of peace.

The priests of Crom Cruach brought the idols to that place and demanded that the Gaels should be summoned to hear the judgements of these gods on their troubles. But when the people gathered they weren't inclined to bow before the stones, so the priests threatened them with vile curses and fell works of magic, saying their corn would wither and their cows would be dry unless they gave worship to the stones.

After the people bowed on their knees, the priests passed their judgement with awful smiles on their faces - Crom Cruach demanded the firstborn child of each family and each herd in sacrifice, their heads to be dashed upon Crom's idol, that the richness and wealth of the land might not be struck down!

Great was the weeping of the people of Ireland as they heard this, and they hurled themsleves against the rocks and jagged trees of the plain, breaking their noses and the joints of their knees and elbows. Three quarters of their number perished so on Samhain, including Tigernmas himself, slain by Crom for their defiance, but those that remained rose up against the power of the Fomorians, slaughtering their chief and as many of the rest as they could catch. The Fomors fled in great haste from Ireland then, returning to their own land.

The bards sang sad songs over the body of Tigernmas, who with ten hundred and three thousand of his people died in that place, in his seventy seventh year. Thereafter the plain was known as Moy Slecht, the plain of prostrations.

And yet the worship of the Bent One of the Hill persisted for centuries after, for he was not a power to cross lightly, nor were the Druids the sorts to turn up their noses at even so deadly a supernatural ally, and his servants walked the fair green earth of Ireland sowing fear where they went.

Then came the time of Patrick and the dawn of the Christian faith in Ireland, and Patrick, upon hearing of this pagan god, went forth with haste to Moy Slecht. There he raised his crosier and struck the mighty idol, breaking it open and banishing the sly darkness that oozed out from within back to the hell from whence it came! And the twelve surrounding stones sank deep into the earth, with only their tops protruding as witness to this great miracle.

Patrick led the survivors of this battle to a well close at hand and baptised them into the faith, building a church there as well. And yet even to this day, farmers and travellers stay well clear of Moy Slecht, whispering before the hearth that something yet stirs in the deep places of the earth. Some speak of a smell of burning meat, while others report faint chanting on the farthest winds at certain times of the year. Images of strange and shadowy forms in the area at sunset have been taken, and apparitions yet haunt the area, or so some say.

Indicated on the map below is the plain itself.

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