20 Oct 2013

The Pagan Sites of Europe Remembered (25): Killycluggin, Ireland

Across the border from Northern Ireland, a couple of miles from the village of Ballyconnel (pop. 747) in County Cavan, can be found the hamlet or house of Killycluggin. This is one of the holy sites of Ireland, where a large (3.6 meter circumference) sacred stone once stood, symbolizing the god Crom Crúaich. This was surrounded by a stone circle of around 20 meters diameter, with 15 mostly collapsed stones.

One half of the main stone, which was roughly dome-shaped and covered in Iron Age La Tène designs was found in 1921, when it was struck by a plough, while the other half was found in 1952. The stone shows signs of having been dealt repeated heavy blows, which fits in with the story of St. Patrick having committed gross Christian sacrilege at the site. The 9th century Tripartite Life of Saint Patrick mentions that Saint Patrick "plied upon the Cromm a sledgehammer from top to toe; with no paltry prowess he ousted the strengthless goblin that stood here."

Crom Crúaich, who was also known as Cenn Crúaich, was associated with human sacrifice. His name can be interpreted in several ways: Crom means "bent, crooked, stooped". Cenn means "head". Crúaich means "bloody," "gory," "slaughter," "stack of corn", or "pile," "heap," "mound."

The most likely explanation is that he was a god of fertility connected to crops and that his worship occasionally involved the sacrifice of children.

The original stone is now housed in the Cavan County Museum. A replica stands near the road, the R205, about 300 metres from the original site.

Interesting additional material can be found here.

Colin Liddell
20th October, 2013

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