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Celtic Origins: Who are the Irish Celts?
Ancient Celtic warriors dressed for battle, with a shaman, c.1800-18 (coloured engraving).
Map of the spread of farming into Europe up to about 3800 BCE. Here, the early southern European Neolithic farming population from which the first Irish descend is depicted in blue shades. The Indo-Europeans (and Celts) are depicted by green colors. Archaeological evidence of Neolithic crops, animals, and technology from the Middle East first appears around 5,000 BCE in Ireland, dating their first arrival to around that time. Credit: Wikimedia: 2021 Condensed and simplified map showing of the spread of agriculture from Southwest Asia to Europe, between 9600 and 3800 BCE, with approximate dates and routes of diffusion
The Indo-European Celts invaded and colonized Ireland from Scotland in two genetic waves, the first wave preceding the second by 2,000 years. The first wave arrived circa 3,000 BCE from the northwestern coast of France (the Tuatha De), and the second wave around 1,000 BCE from the basque region of northern Spain (the Milesians). Credit: CULTURE CLUB/GETTY IMAGES
Celtic Origins: Painting Historical Context
Celtic Origins: The Ancient Celtic Origins of Samhain
Celtic Origins: Celtic Samhain
In the spring, six months opposite Samhain, Beltaine (pronounced bel-tuh-NAH), or “the first day of summer," marked the continuation of the pastoral cycle begun on Samhain in the turning out of cattle to graze after being wintered since Samhain. Beltaine's name may derive from a Celtic god of healing and fire called Beil, may mean bright fire from the Goidelic “belo-te(p)niâ," or may come from the Gallic (mainland European Celtic) name for their sun god Belenus, analogue to the Goidelic (Irish) Celt's sun god Lugh (pronounced LuuH with a hard h).
May 1st's Beltaine marked the first day of summer and the arrival of the annual time of year when Celts began driving cattle herds out to graze for summer. Celts danced around decorated trees, picked the first flowers, and washed their faces in dew. The Celtic cattle pastoralists (herders) drove their herds through two bonfires for good luck. Celtic youth jumped over bonfires three times for good luck in the coming light half of the year that it signaled as the second of the two liminal festivals of the year (a threshold festival in which otherworldly creatures and spirits could interact with our world), straddling the boundaries of the two halves of each year, the light half, and the dark half, when otherworldly beings were able to enter our world and interact with us.
Interestingly, although not liminal between the light and dark halves of the year as May 1st's Beltaine or October 31st's Samhain, during the other sacred fire festivals of Imbolc (pronounced im-bolk; Feb. 1, the first day of spring), and Lughnasadh (pronounced LuuH-nah-sah; named after the sungod Lugh, pronounced LuuH with a hard h; Aug. 1, the first harvest of summer), spirits and supernatural creatures were believed able to enter our world and interact with us in addition to the two liminal days. But their activity on the festival days of Imbolc or Lughnasadh paled into comparison to their activity on the liminal Beltaine and Samhain fire festival days that demarcated the transitions between the dark and light halves of the year. Otherworldly beings were most active of all of the fire festival days on Samhain.
Similarly worthy of note, although also similarly not liminal, Litha (pronounced lee-thuh) or the Midsummer Solstice (the longest day of the year) on June 21st, and An Grianstad (pronounced uhn gree un-SAHD), or the Winter Solstice (sunstop, because the sun rises and sets at the same point on the horizon; the shortest day of the year), so-called cross days,were also times otherworldly beings and creatures were thought to be similarly active as well as the four quarter cross fire festival days (Samhain [Oct. 31], Imbolc [Feb. 1], Beltane [May 1], & Lughnasadh [Aug 1] in oder).
Winter darkness began the dark half of each year on October 31st with the Goidelic Celtic New Year through Crom's Samhain rites at the Killycluggin Stone Circle. In ancient times, it likely began with sacrifices of valuables, food, and livestock as an annual ransom or tribute to Crom for the return of Lugh in the spring and in order to ensure a mild but wet winter to ensure a bountiful harvest the next season.
Saint Patrick Drives the Snakes from Ireland: Roman (Irish) Catholics Forbid Celtic Druidism in Ireland
Adder Stones, Druid Glass, Druid Eggs, or Serpent Eggs were worn around the neck of Druids who placed natural (polished) stones that looked like glass into these natural stones and were fabled to give their spells and incantations magickal power.
Crom as the Cult Icon of the Goidelic Celtic Killycluggin Stone and Twelve Encircling Stones
However, we can be reasonably certain from both the archaeological (prehistoric) and annalistic (historical, textual mythologies, poems, and histories) evidence that Cromm is the oldest Celtic pagan god of fertility (and the harvest) and death or the Otherworld. But as one of the oldest ancient gods of the Celts not figuring prominently in Irish myths and with both the literary or historical textual sources scant, he is a mysterious deity and thus subject to much speculation and debate today.
Because Crom isn't featured prominently in Irish mythology, some scholars differentiate him from the Celtic pantheon (the whole group of gods and demigods) of Irish mythology as simply an ancient prehistoric personification and deification of darkness, winter, and death of a superstitious, primitive people. These scholars think Crom isn't an actual pre-Christian pagan god of the Goidelic (Irish) Celts or the original people they displaced. Some consequently think Crom is a creation of the monastic culture of Middle Age Roman (Irish) Catholic monks. However, this view seems to ignore multiple historical accounts of St. Patrick's intentional eradication of Crom's cult as an actual deity as recorded in the earliest Christian annalistic sources, the existence of Crom's central Killycluggin stone and the folklore surrounding it as a Celtic hero head or his cult icon and its encircling megaliths that were destroyed by the early Christians (corroborating the early Christian histories of St. Patrick's destruction of it), and Crom's cult's continuance in Crom Dubh's derivative cult surviving to modern times today all over Ireland.
It seems this interpretation that Crom was never an ancient pagan god was ironically influenced by the same dubious and clearly biased Medieval Christian accounts of Crom as famously one-dimensional in being cruel, bloodthirsty, or evil. The proponents of this interpretation cite their bias in these early sources as the principal evidence for Crom not actually being a pagan god of the ancient Celts. But this view disregards surviving oral tradition, practices, and clan lore indicating Crom is an actual deity as well as the clear archaeological evidence that he was a deity once worshipped at the Killycluggin stone circle in time immemorial. In the lore, Crom may be transcendent, aloof or indifferent—that is, he a non-interventionist cosmic deity—if not at times benevolent and not all menacing or malevolent either. Crom is just a necessary deity.
Crom's domain over the harvest and fertility associates him with “The" Dagda (pronounced DOG-da), the giant good god of life and death and the literal father of all the Celtic gods, “who, in the story of the battle of Mag-tured, is said to be so called [the “good god"] because he promised to do more than all the other gods together," illuminating his namesake as the “good god" from dagos, “good," and deivos, “god." Thus his name the Dagda literally means the good god. Thus, he's referred to in the myths as “THE Dagda," meaning the good god, literally.
Crom is also largely analogous to the Dagda in sharing domain over fertility and the harvest (life) and death in mythology with The Dagda's magical club he uses to give and take mortal life. Thus, many scholars believe Crom is at least an equivalent or alternate overgod deity to The Dagda, with powers greater than all of the other gods and power over them, something else the Dagda and Crom share. Consequently, some believe he's the same god.
Some also suppose Crom is perhaps a cryptic rebranding and concealment of- Crom to make him more palatable to the early Christians as a jollier more Santa Claus kind of character but with coded references in his myths which would be understood only by the initiate as only Goidelic Celtic Druidic cultural insiders would understand. It should be noted that there are no archaeological sites associated with the Dagda predating Crom's Killycluggin stone circle, suggesting Crom's cult is indeed actually older.
Some suggest that Crom is perhaps an earlier and more ancient impersonal (aloof, transcendent) antecedent (predecessor) pre-Celtic cosmic god (simply serving a function to explain the movement of the sun and weather at whose mercy these pastoralists were for their survival). They suppose perhaps Crom is the more indifferent and less involved (if not distant and seemingly cruel) god of a Middle-New Stone- and Ice- Age people. As Ice Age living was inestimably difficult, they suppose Crom was the indifferent, non-interventionist original over-god of the people (the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and the Neolithic early European farmers from southern Spain and Sardinia) that the Celts displaced. If this interpretation is correct, then it could be that Irish mythology's representations of The Dagda, the “good god" of life and death could cryptically represent the benevolent enhancement of Crom's original attributes by the invading northwestern French coastal Celts, or else that he might represent a concealment and re-branding of Cromby the northern Spanish basque Milesian Celts after his cult's oppression by the early Christians in Ireland in the fourth-eighth Centuries CE/AD.
In the early records and mythologies, The Dagda is described as: “the lord of great knowledge," “He has power over corn [sic, here not meant as maize but as cereal grains, grasses] and milk" as “the god of the earth," “because of the greatness of his power," “an under-earth god of fertility and abundance," and, “the principal god of the pagans," which is also precisely how Crom is described, perhaps revealing that The Dagda is actually a concealment, and in fact one and the same deity as Crom.
In J.A. MacCulloch's 1911 The Religion of the Ancient Celts, he cites late 18th Century (1700s CE) British General Charles Vallancey's interesting claim (who elsewhere is responsible for wrongly making up a fictional nonexistent Celtic lord of death he named Samhain, a fabrication that erroneously still circulates among Christians today; thus, his claims should be generally regarded as suspect) felt the resemblance so uncanny that he noted that:
“...citing a text now lost, [Vallencey, sic] says that Crom-eocha was a name of Dagda, and that a motto at the sacrificial place at Tara read, ‘Let the altar ever blaze to Dagda,'"
suggesting further that Crom and Dagda are actually one in the same deity.
MacCulloch also illuminates that The Dagda is recorded throughout Irish mythology as “king of the síde" in having domain over the aos sí (otherworldly gods, demigods, spirits, and creatures) of the sidhe Otherworld portals. He provides another point of comparison to Crom who similarly has domain over these portals and the aos sí,
“In Irish accounts of the síd, Dagda has the supremacy [over all the sidhe in assigning different deities to different sidhes in mythology, sic], wrested later from him by Oengus [who in the associated myths supplants his father in alternately displacing him as lord of his father's sid or in killing his father], but generally each owner of a síd [sic] is its lord."
MacCulloch elaborates how the confusion of Celtic deities likely occurred over the ages, making them virtually inextricable (impossible to extract to determine which was older and newer) today:
“Generally speaking, there were many local gods in Gaul [mainland, continental Europe, among the Gallic Celts, sic] with similar functions but different names, and this may have been true of Ireland. Perhaps the different names given to Dagda, Manannan, and others were simply names of similar local gods, one of whom became prominent, and attracted to himself the names of the others."
McCullouch further illuminates the difficulty of ascertaining the evolution and position of equivalent gods in speculating about how this happens in discussing how a possibly older (or younger) cult of Oengus (Aengus) may have been integrated into Irish mythology as Dagda's son,
“The beautiful and fascinating Oengus [Aengus, sic] is sometimes called Mac Ind Oc, ‘Son of the Young Ones,' [suggesting Dagda's cult was newer than Oengus' cult, sic] i.e. Dagda and Boand, or In Mac Oc, ‘The Young Son [suggesting the opposite, sic].' This name, like the myth of his disinheriting his father [Oengus was to supplant his father in literally killing him in some versions of the myth or else scheming to steal his domain from him, sic], may point to his cult superseding [overcoming, sic] that of Dagda. If so, he may then have been affiliated to the older god [Dagda, sic], as was frequently done in parallel cases, e.g. in Babylon. Oengus may thus have been the high god of some tribe who assumed supremacy, ousting the [older, sic] high god of another tribe [Dagda, sic], unless we suppose that Dagda was a pre-Celtic god with functions similar to those of Oengus, and that the Celts adopted his [Dagda, sic] cult but gave that of Oengus a higher place."
Crom is likewise strongly associated with Lugh (pronounced luuH with a hard h, sun god of mixed light and dark parentage), the great grandson and eventual king of The Dagda's Tuatha Dé Danann (the children of Danu) demigods of light, order, and life that The Dagda literally fathered with Danu. Lugh defeats the Fomarian's (sea demons of chaos and wildness) cruel chief Balor. Crom is nearly always implicated in Lugh's solar cult as he is the one who annually subdues Lugh in the Otherworld, explaining winter. Crom in the oldest annalistic sources is associated with fertility and rites to secure a bountiful harvest.
See The Coming of Cromm section for a more thorough, detailed, and exhaustive discussion of the evidence and evolution of the cosmology and beliefs of the solar cult of the ancient Goidelic Celts in prehistory: The History (and prehistory) of Halloween.
According to one of the later late medieval annalistic (written) sources thought to ironically contain the earliest (oldest) references to the Druidic (Celtic priests) Celtic pantheon, The Annals of the Four Masters (1636), written by Franciscan friar Mícheál [Tadhg] Ó Cléirigh (chief compiler) with the aid of Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh (Mícheál's cousin), Fear Feasa O'Maolchonaire, and Cuchoigríche Ó Duibhgheannáin, Cromm is mentioned as one of the oldest of the old gods, along with:
The Dagda (the Tuatha de Dannon's [gods of light, order and life] chief overgod, patriarch and father, the “good god of life and death," a burly giant with a club that takes and gives away life, a harp that commands the weather, and a cauldron whose ladle fits two men from which infinite food can be produced),
Lugh (the sun god, The Dagda's handsome great grandson with a bloodthirsty spear of light with mixed light and dark parentage and his great grandfather's successor as The Tuatha Dé Danann chief who leads them to defeat the evil Fomarian gods of chaos, darkness and death), and
Balor (pronounced Ball-er, chief of the evil Fomarian gods of death and darkness depicted as a giant one-eyed cyclops).
However, despite the late authorship of the Annals, it's thought to contain the earliest written annalistic (historical) non-mythological references to the Druidic religion and its pantheon. The Annals of the Four Masters digested the earliest of the early medieval annals from the 6th-7th Centuries (500s-600s CE/AD). The early annalistic source materials for the four masters' compendium have since been lost to history through centuries of deterioration, so their account compiling the older material is the only surviving 17th Century CE compendium digesting the now lost earliest source material.
The Annals' earliest entries in Volume I are thought to have come from the Lebor Gabála Érenn, The Book of Takings (or Invasions), the earliest debased surviving copies of which are from the 11th Century (1000s or the aughts of the first millennium CE/AD). Its original source materials believed to be written in the 6th-7th Centuries have similarly been lost to the ages.
Unfortunately, The Book of Takings itself is now disregarded as a credible historical source given that our earliest copies of it have been too corrupted by the additions and license taken in them by copying scribes and their deletions, modifications, additions, and fanciful embellishments appearing in it (from comparisons between them and the more serious records found in the Annals) to be of much scholarly use. The Book of Takings/Invasions is still used as a mythological source. According to the Irish Republican Irish geek culture website AN SIONNACH FIONN:
“The Leabhar Gabhála Éireann itself is a synthetic-history of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man began in the monastic schools of the 6th and 7th centuries and reaching its most developed form in the 12th century. It subsumed the pre-Christian oral beliefs of the Gaelic peoples into the body of the Roman, Greek and Judaeo-Christian myths accepted by the early Christian Church in Europe to give the Irish, Scots and Manx a suitable framework in which could be placed their histories, genealogies, poetry and literature. As a result the indigenous traditions of the pre-Christian Gaels pervade the compendium albeit largely in a hidden or debased form. It has survived in several broadly similar versions or redactions dating between the 11th and 17th centuries, evolving from mainly verse texts to a largely prose one."
“The original Latin and Irish texts, dating to the 9th and 10th centuries CE, seem to have been inspired by the Judeo-Christian myth of the Old Testament statue of Moloch [which today appears to be based in a terrible repeated mistranslation of biblical translators, not an actual Canaanite god, sic] mixed with elements of an early version of the Leabhar Gabhála Éireann [Ibidem, sic], the legendary history of the island and its peoples (the metal-plated sacrificial idol came from the Bible [and its entirely made up, fictional Canaanite god Moloch which is based on a mistranslation of the word for sacrifice by biblical scribes copying it, leading scribes to accidentally invent a Canaanite deity who never existed, sic], while the ritual tributes at Samhain and the mass deaths stemmed from the [discredited as a historical source, sic] LGÉ). The possibility that the tale reflected distant memories of genuine pre-Christian rituals in connection with ‘sacred' monuments – decorated stones or pillars – seems likely enough, though the drama of human sacrifice and bloodshed is an inevitable bit of monastic embellishment."
The similarly lost 12th Century CE (1100s CE) The Metrical Dindsenchas Volume 4 (Lore of Placenames Poetry) found in surviving partial copies of it in 12th-15th Century manuscripts—corroborates The Annals' claim of Crom as THE original old god of the Celts—in a poem about the Plains of Slaughter:
“Tis there was the king-idol of Erin, namely the Crom Cróich, and around him twelve idols made of stones; but he was of gold. Until Patrick’s advent, he was the god of every folk that colonized Ireland."
In the following verses describing Tara Hill king Tigernmas' prostrate ritual sacrifice at Crom's icon whose worship he is said to have introduced, it claims they,“stirred his evil eye," before Crom killed three in four of his host in the midst of their act of worship of him. It's important to point out in this passage here paraphrased from the Dindsenchas that Crom has a singular evil eye (another literary conflation or allusion to Baylor), strong evidence of monastic (and not Celtic) conflation of Balor with Crom.
The Plains of Slaughter poem continues on in recording that those who ritually sacrificed their children to him to pour their blood around his icon for milk and corn (the word corn here is a transliteration error and shouldn't be read as maize, but rather as cereal grasses) would never see heaven. The judgment codified in this poem at least exhibits the strong Christian bias of the author, if not serving as evidence of anti-pagan Christian monastic propaganda. Scholars also think The Metrical Dindsenchas Volume 4 of the 1100s was similarly debased or corrupted by the same anti-Celtic monastic bias evident in the Leabhar Gabhála Éireann Book of Takings, and should be interpreted as more reflective of monastic culture than Celtic culture.
But if these earliest text references can illuminate anything about an ancient cult to Crom despite their glaring bias against the Celts or Crom, Crom is recorded in both sources as being the chief of all the gods worshipped by the Celts, not Dagda, mythical father of the The Tuatha Dé Danann (Danu's children) of Irish mythology. This suggests The Dagda was derivative from Crom, not the other way around. Thus, Crom is likely the Chthonic deity of the descendants of the southern European early farmers and Mesolithic hunters, or possibly the first wave of Celtic invaders. But as anthropologists associate the The Tuatha Dé with these invaders from Scotland from northwestern coastal French, whose overgod in mythology is The Dagda, it's probably more likely that Crom was the overgod of the descendants of the darker-skinned Mesolithic hunters as they mixed with the olive-skinned Neolithic farmers.
It thus could be that Crom was the older god of fertility, the harvest, winter, death, and darkness of the original darker people (Fir Bolg Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, or Fomarian south Spanish/Sardinian Neolithic pastoralists) displaced by the Celts and whose religion the Celts appear to have adopted and integrated. Balor and his conflation with Crom fits the Irish Catholic monastic vilification of Crom in replacing this ancient old god with the chief villain of Irish myths. The outer stone circle at Crom's Killycluggin stone circle was almost certainly erected by these earlier people (or the descendants of the older solar cult mixing with the first wave of Celtic invaders from northwestern coastal France), and so this explanation seems perhaps the most likely.
The Dagda, the over-god of Irish mythology (like the Greek Zeus), was associated with the harvest and fertility (and the giver of both life and death) but also death (with his club having the power of life and death and him doling out both). Lugh, his great grandson and the eventual successor of his great grandfather as chief god of the Tuatha Dé, led the defeat of the evil Fomarians (sea invader demons, possibly the early European farmers) in Irish mythology. Lugh is associated with the Goidelic Druidic solar cult (and is the most likely the truest namesake of the spring May 1st Beltaine in his Gallic name Belenos, and thereby both the solar cult of both Beltaine and Samhain).
If mythology is to prove instructive here, perhaps then as the Fomarians were the bad guys of the story (perhaps because they were in the way of Celtic invasion as the Emerald Isle's secondary inhabitants), and The Tuatha Dé, the first Celts arriving around 3,000 BCE, with Crom's cult icon featuring Celtic artwork (from 800-100 BCE), its good guys, perhaps it is doubly clear that he is their chthonic deity instead, and the Killycluggin stone circle records the integration of the older solar cult of the Mesolithic hunters and south European early farmers with the newly arrived solar cult of the northwestern coastal French Celts who arrived ca. 3,000 BCE, about a half century before the outer stone circle was erected, and the Milesian arrival correlates with the central stone cult icon around 1,000 BCE and integration of their solar cult with the 3,000 BCE northwestern coastal French Celts' solar cult. Thus it might appear that the Milesian over-god and chthonic deity was Crom, so the replacement of Crom with The Dagda as over-god instead records covert cryptic rebranding by Celts now forbidden from his worship.
Lugh was prophesied to kill Balor in Irish mythology. Anthropologists propose the mythical epic battle between the Tuatha Dé forces of order and light and Fomarian forces of chaos and darkness (fitting the motif of most Indo-European spiritual cosmologies) encodes the actual displacement and violent end of the original inhabitants of Ireland by the Goidelic Celts. So perhaps Lugh killing Balor and the Tuatha Dé vanquishing the Fomarians, and then the Milenesians vanquishing the Tuatha Dé to the fairy mounds in typical Indo-European fashion records the triumph of light over darkness, which seems to be a departure from older Meso- and Neo-lithic solar cult cosmology which was more dualistic. Perhaps it simply recorded the Celtic triumph and assumption of the older burial practices and solar cult from the Mesolithic Fir Bolg hunter-gatherers and Neolithic Fomarian early farmers, and maybe even the first northwestern coastal French Celtic people replaced by the basque Celtic sons of Mil.
If The Dagda is actually older (which appears unlikely), perhaps instead Crom may have evolved over time as a god over death and the Otherworld afterlife due to the need for a scapegoat juxtaposed against “the good god" of “life and death" overgod The Dagda. It's also interesting that no other god in the Irish mythological pantheon is recorded or described as “the good god," when being described nor are any other deities described as “the evil god(dess)," when named in myths which begs the question, “Who needed to qualify that The Dagda was the good god or good in the first place, and why?" and, “Isn't his goodness evident in his deeds in each myth without pointing it out?" It's redundant, so perhaps it does point us to something else going on here, a coded reference the initiate will understand revealing The Dagda is actually Crom.
It begs the question, “If there was never the evil god, or similarly a/an evil god to The Dagda, why did The Dagda need clarification as being good, or ‘the good god,' in the first place?" So maybe scholars who have speculated that The Dagda may, in fact, be Crom, just codified in Irish myth only to the initiated in order to hide his cult and his worship from the Christians who were intent on destroying it. Maybe there was benevolent enhancement of Crom by the Celts in The Dagda. So maybe Celtic bards developed this convention in naming The Dagda lest there be any doubt Crom is Dagda or good god, just like from surviving clan lore we know all good Celts actually knew who Crom was before he was demonized and vilified by the Christians and his cult forbade.
Modern clan lore within the black dragon clan of Celtic Seanchai (pronounced SHAWN-ha, keeper of clan lore and stories) J.D. Castle's family teaches that Crom was actually a dragon—actually two dragons (one of the land and air, or of light and order; one of the sea, or of darkness, chaos, and wildness) as his primordial dualistic avatars. Castle explains these avatars or physical bodies (as a pair of dualistic dragons) were the embodiment of Crom's neutral draigsl natural energy in perfect neutral balance. He elaborates that his clan lore teaches Crom was the grand chieftain of both the Tuatha Dé and the Fomarians, ranking above The Dagda and Balor, ultimate ruler of all of the aos sí (pronounced ee-SHE), both light and dark, sitting atop Carrauntoohil's peak (or in alternate lore in a different place, Croagh Patrick). The surviving clan lore, only some of which is shared for public consumption, in elucidating Crom as not an all-menacing and all-sinister god then as the grand chieftain of both the Tuatha Dé and Fomarians, above their respective chiefs in the mythology, Dagda and Balor, may also actually suggest The Dagda in Irish mythology thus could be a cryptic covert concealment or coded covert continuation of Crom Cruach's cult more palatable to the disapproving early Christians.
Recall both Crom and The Dagda share domain over the harvest and death and the Otherworld, and are two of the ancient old gods in the annalistic sources. Did ancient Milesian Celts contending with the Roman invaders and Christian missionaries reinvent Crom as The Dagda, concocting jovial heroic stories of an essentially good god to conceal and continue his worship more openly perhaps, having a good perpetual inside joke and laugh at the outsiders?
But if this speculative interpretation is inaccurate (The Dagda is not equivalent to Crom, or Crom wasn't resurrected in Irish mythology in a form more palatable to the Christians after nearly being stamped out by them as The Dagda), and The Dagda preceded Crom in the development of Goidelic Druidic religion, perhaps instead The Dagda may have evolved over time into both Lugh with the sun god representing Dagda's good side of light, order, and life, and Crom representing darkness, chaos, and death.
Some have supposed Lugh's mixed Tuatha and Fomarian parentage also echoes The Dagda's dualistic nature, echoing Crom's older dualistic nature, insisting The Dagda and his cult thus must have preceded both Lugh and Crom, with Crom differentiating as a necessary “evil" but not actually evil, just necessary. Every culture has mythological explanations for death and misfortune—meeting the human need to understand why bad things happen, and at first Crom then Balor and Fomarians by the Medieval Period seemed to have been assigned the job.
It may appear these three old gods and their cults mentioned in The Annals developed together, and their cults worshipped alongside each other. Lugh (becoming the god of life and light) and Crom (becoming the god of death and darkness) may have evolved in differentiating a possibly older The Dagda (god of life and death whose club takes or gives life) as Irish mythologies began with the good god. Whether The Dagda and Lugh derived from an older Mesolithic, Neolithic, or ancient Celtic cult to Crom, or Crom and Lugh derived from dualistic The Dagda, or if perhaps there are even older cults from which Crom's, The Dagda's, and Lugh's cults derived involves speculation. Unfortunately, we may never know definitively and are left to endlessly speculate. The only clue we have is that of surviving clan lore and oral tradition, which many scholars disregard as necessarily suspect. But if we use them as a clue, we might conclude that Crom is likely older and dualistic and The Dagda and Lugh likely derived from his cult. After all, the early lore of placename poems assert he was the primary god of all the Celts before the Christians came.
Just WHO is Crom? Crom's Mystique Produces Endless Speculation & Popular Fascination
“Crom is my god…Crom is the god I need because he is the opposite of the interventionist gods who care about the petty details of men’s lives. You don’t pray to him, because he probably won’t listen, and if he hears you, he probably won’t even pretend to care.”
Crom serves then to remind us we're alone. In Howard's Weird Tales Magazine, in his short story Queen of the Black Coast, republished in 1969's Conan of Cimmeria, Howard has Conan describe Crom (from Howard's personal study of the Celtic Crom in all the sources):
“He dwells on a great mountain. What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune! He is grim and loveless, but at birth he breathes power to strive and slay into a man’s soul. What else shall men ask of the gods?”
In Howard's 1938 essay explaining his mythopoeia (with Bori as a stand-in for any deity mentioned, including Crom), “The Hyborian Age," Howard shared his conclusions about Crom's (and other deities' origins and functions [in their indifference]):
“Bori—some great chief, whom legend made even more ancient as the king who led them into the north, in the days of the great Cataclysm, which the tribes remember only in distorted folklore."
Clearly, Howard here unmistakably elucidates his belief that the gods aren't to be revered. To Howard, they're just deifications or anthropomorphized personifications of old long forgotten warriors and kings. But by studying them, just like studying the deeds of heroes from the past, he seems to say, we can find inspiration to strive and to fight. So when Conan prays to Crom, one might say, Conan is steeling his nerves and with iron resolve praying to himself for strength in exercising the core principle of self-reliance.
Perhaps Howard's extensive study of the Celts in the early part of the 20th Century of the ancient Celtic Druidic religion and Crom in all of the then known sources—historical, literary, mythological, and even early ethnographical (oral tradition, tribal/clan lore handed down) concluded Crom is and was an indifferent, non-interventionist deity, and that certainly contradicts the version of Crom in the Samhain deity Tigernmas' sacrifices to in the annals of Irish history as written down by Christian monks as a bloodthirsty devil who'd wipe out the king's host who introduced his worship to the Celts. Perhaps we shouldn't take those accounts so seriously. Howard didn't.
Some scholars also suppose Crom is actually the Greek Kronos, the king of the dark old gods and titans and father of the Olympians, overthrown by Zeus and the Olympians in Greek mythology. They do so on the basis of the child sacrifices recorded to Crom which they associate with Kronos' child eating, and Plutarch's description of the place Kronos was imprisoned in sleep in his account on an island off the coast of Britain, surrounded by twelve gods to keep watch on him eternally which they believe are emblematic of Crom's Killycluggin stone's original twelve surrounding stones.
Crom and Chronus/Kronos are both depicted with sickles in the myths that survive, and are both also associated with death and an underground underworld. Others say that Indo-European mythologies almost always involve a battle between the gods of light and darkness, with light being eventually triumphant, a motif to which both the Greek origin story and the Celtic Irish mythology conform (the Olympians defeating the Titans and the Tuatha Dé defeating the Fomarians, respectively). The Greeks were Indo-European cousins to the Celts (they came from the same ancestral people) after all these scholars insist.
Yet other scholars speculate the twelve stones are idols to the twelve ecliptic constellations of the Zodiac given the indisputable solar cult of the predecessors of the Celts they displaced but whose cosmology they maintained. See The History (and prehistory) of Halloween for a longer discussion. Perhaps they did serve as a kind of calendar. We'll never know because early Christians all but destroyed the Killycluggin stone and the twelve encircling stones and removed all but two of them as they forbade Crom's cult (thus we cannot see if they align with the constellations or sun at certain times of year).
In review, some scholars of Druidic religion suppose either Crom (fertility and harvest underground Otherworld god) and Dagda (good god of life and death overgod of the Tuatha Dé Dannon) are the same god with Dagda being a rebranding after the disapproval of the Christians or perhaps with the arrival of the Milesian Celts from northern Spain, or else that, alternately if Crom did not precede The Dagda, The Dagda preceded with Crom and Lugh deriving from Dagda to represent a different side of his dualistic nature. Or maybe it really was that The Dagda and Lugh and Balor all evolved from an older dualistic Crom as suggested by surviving clan lore.
But we can be sure from these sources that Crom, corroborated by the earliest Celtic relative dates for the Killycluggin Stone's curvilinear La Tène style archaeology as well as the earliest annalistic references, and his cult, is the oldest cult for which we have textual and archaeological evidence linking him to Samhain.
Dubious Roman Claims: Celtic Infanticide, Human Sacrifice, & Cannibalism
Roman pagans circulated rumors that early Christians practiced infanticide (the murder of infants [historically, oppressed minorities are accused of drinking their blood in rites for eternal life]), cannibalism, and human sacrifice. The elite Roman Patricians (5% of the Roman population; the elites who owned vast estates of land and possessed most of the political power) were challenged by the political threat of the incorrigibly rebellious Jews of Judea and a Jewish leader and cult who threatened them in claiming to be their Jewish savior and Messiah, claiming to be the son of God and the Jewish Messiah (the savior of the Jews prophesied in the Torah whose coming they awaited in prayer as they do today at the Wailing Wall of King Soloman's Temple before the Romans destroyed it a second time in 70 CE/AD).
The gospel Christ preached involved the equality of all as children of god and as sinners in need of forgiveness and the undeserved gift of God's love and forgiveness through faith in him. It was a message that appealed to the extremely unequal Plebeians (75-85% of the Roman population) and slaves (10-20 % of the Roman population) to whom little was ever given upon which the Patrician class depended—and that message was spreading. Patricians and their way of life were directly threatened in every way by this rebellious Jewish cult that was spreading like wildfire among the Plebes and slaves and replacing the worship of the old Roman gods. Christians made an easy scapegoat for Patrician ills and an empire in decline.
In context, the fall of Rome was a gradual decline spanning centuries. Placed in the context of: Ostrogoth and Visigoth barbarians at the gates driven into the Roman Empire by the Huns in the 4th Century CE; deserting and disloyal Germanic mercenaries demanding to actually be paid; the increasing unwillingness of Roman male citizens to serve as legionnaires as the empire grew led to increasing reliance on mercenary auxilia which spurred more rebellions in conquered territories; ever-increasing inflation eating into the value of Roman currency driven by colonial rebellions impacting raw materials and wars with rivaling empires that disrupted trade routes and increased transportation costs; the approaching bankruptcy of the treasury from maintaining the Roman Empire and its infrastructure in its roads and system of fortifications; war with the Persian Empire and disruption of trade; growing east-west sectionalism of the empire soon to be formalized by Diocletian; the loss of Brittania in 410 CE with the recall of its legions to defend Rome; and the series of mysterious cataclysmic diseases that ravaged the Roman Empire that all contributed to its slow decline from the end of the first century to the end of the fifth (from the end of Caesar Octavian Augustus's Pax Romana in his death in 180 CE to the sacking of Rome first by Alaric the Visigoth in 410 CE followed by the converted Germanic Arian barbarian Odoacer's sacking of Rome in 476 CE), as it declined, the last thing on Earth that Rome needed was an internal division spurred by this new religion that threatened its entire political, social, and economic structure.
Threatened Patricians pretending to be well-informed warned each other about the moral depravity of Christians who might steal their babies in the night in order to drink their blood in misunderstood resurrection rites for immortality. Early Christians were known by the Romans for their remembrances of the last supper and Christ's words about taking bread as the literal body and wine as the literal blood of Christ, thus making them cannibals.
Patricians told each other Christians believed in and performed human sacrifice to their God. There was basis for this claim expressed in the central belief of Christians that Jesus' human sacrifice (by Roman crucifixion on the orders of the Jewish Sanhedrin) was required by God to appease his blood lust, a price that must be exacted for his forgiveness—clearly a capricious and angry God. Thus, it was clear that Christians believed in and practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism.
So the idea that they stole Roman infants to drink their blood for eternal life didn't seem as outlandish to them as it does to us today, and it's easy to see how those misunderstanding proliferated throughout the Roman Empire.
The Patricians spread false rumors about Christians in the same way German Catholics spent centuries hearing in their parish churches from priests that Jews would do the same to their children (the Late Antiquity Roman Catholic doctrine of blood libel that ironically began with the false allegations towards the early Christians but then were associated with the Jews led directly to the Holocaust), or suburban soccer mothers warn new arrivals to their suburbs in urban legends of not flashing your headlights in the inner city, or inform others about “those" other people, the stuff of fear and prejudice that is all too human.
These false allegations claimed of Christians led directly to the both unofficial and official persecutions by Romans throughout the empire of Christians and Christian communities (as well as the 20th Century's Holocaust many centuries later). Emperor Nero famously fed Christians to lions for entertainment and sport in Rome's Coliseum stadium/amphitheater (Christians only needed to recant their faith to be spared). He famously dipped them in tar and burned them alive in front of spectators to light his feast after the Great Fire as their judicial sentence for the arson he blamed on them. Early Christians were persecuted in the late Roman Empire, but it was not official imperial policy until 303-312/3 CE or barely a decade of time when those persecutions reached their height.
Until 250 CE, a sort of unofficial Roman “don't ask, don't tell" policy applied to Christians. Yet, provincial governors were pressed by local mobs of Patricians threatened by Christians to denounce and put them on trial, believing their increasing personal misfortunes in the declining Roman Empire to be attributed to the loss of faith in the old Roman gods (evinced in the growing number of Christians) angry with Roman complacency, decadence, apostasy (abandonment of faith), and inadequate sacrifice. It is important to note that during these persecutions, any Christian would be forgiven by committing sacrifice and recanting their faith publicly. Ironically, their refusal to do so and choice to instead be publicly attacked and viciously eaten alive by the beasts or burned alive rather than recanting gained new converts and fervent adherents, both shocked and inspired by the fervor and steadfastness of the Christian martyr's faith.
In 250 CE, barbarian invasions prompted Emperor Decius to declare all Romans should sacrifice to the gods and submit a certificate of proof they had. In 257 CE, Emperor Valerian re-decreed the same, specifically targeting Christians and dubbing those who refused to sacrifice (the Christians) as un-Roman (early Christians saw the same akin to Moses' golden calf Baal idol worship). Their refusals resulted in exile, hard labor, or torture and death by crucifixion (on an X or T cross, not the cross depicted in art in Medieval paintings and universally recognized today as Christ's iconic cross with the perpendicular intersecting horizontal plank) for those who refused to sacrifice. Emperor Valerian's first official persecution ended in 260 CE after three years with Valerian's capture by Persians. His son Gallienus rescinded his father's order and decreed personal religious freedom.
In 303 CE, Emperor Diocletian and co-Emperor Galerius began the “Great Persecution," involving destruction of churches, seizure of church property, and destruction of Christian texts in which historians estimate perhaps 3,000-3,500 Christians were tortured, condemned to the beasts in amphitheaters, crucified, sent to deaths by hard labor, or otherwise slain. Records indicate that amnesty was provided to any Christian if they would simply recant and denounce Christ and sacrifice to the Roman gods.
Yet those who refused either suffered or were ignored depending on the behest of local Patrician mobs and the whims and bias of the local provincial governors for or against Christians. Provincial governors responded based on the whims of the local mobs and their own biases for- or against- Christians, so the notion that all of the machinations of the Roman imperial state were dedicated to hunting down and torturing and killing Christians everywhere are exaggerated, although not entirely. The infrastructure for Christianity was actively and intentionally targeted by the imperial state, but the persecution of rank-and-file believers may be a tad exaggerated in context.
Those persecutions would end with Constantine's conversion and his mother's conversion, with his decree ordering Christianity tolerated and persecutions ended in the 313 CE/AD Edict of Milan, and especially after Theodosius decreed Christianity the official religion to replace Roman paganism in the Empire in 380 CE/AD, now instead making the persecution of pagans the official imperial policy instead. Please note the Cappadocian Greek Kaymakli Underground City was used by early Christians as defense against Muslims in the Arab–Byzantine wars (780–1180 CE), not Romans pagans as maintained erroneously by many modern Christians today.
No serious scholar today even remotely believes these anti-Christian accounts of the pagan Romans which appear in the histories of several otherwise trusted Roman historical sources and even in the writings of emperors. Why anyone would believe them about the Celts then is just as curious. These claims, having a virtual cacophony of echoes in all of the trusted Roman historical sources, might not be so suspicious if Rome didn't have a long history of levying these very same charges against the Christians.
It would seem those allegations were common for Romans to make about the people they conquered—whether Christian or Celtic—to justify their dehumanization, conquest, subjugation, and enslavement. And they also represented genuine misunderstanding of Christian rites concerning Christ's last supper and beliefs about sacrifice for the remission of sin, so why is it such a stretch for many to believe Celtic practices were similarly misunderstood? Yet there is a veritable cacophony of trusted Roman historical sources that insisted the Celts performed human sacrifice. It's a mystery why more people today don't apply the same scrutiny to the Roman claims about the Celts that they do apply to the early Christians.
Despite early Christians having been similarly victimized, demonized, and vilified by such false allegations for centuries in the Roman Empire, they now became the abuser instead of the abused. In the now Byzantine Roman Catholic, Christian Roman Empire (which would fall in 476 CE in Western Europe, with the monastery system and church in Rome evolving to replace the infrastructure of the Roman Empire with church as state there, but would survive in the Greek speaking east to the middle 15th Century CE/AD [1450s] as the Greek speaking Eastern Orthodox Byzantium), persecutions of pagans at the hands of the Christians would become official imperial and church policy. The now Christian Roman Catholics continued to denounce and malign oppressed people still under Roman rule with the exact same false allegations they'd faced, and the persecuted became persecutor. After 380 CE, they had official imperial sanction to do so, and they did. St. Patrick, the Roman Catholic slave, would arrive in Ireland in 415 CE, five years after the Romans left the British Isles with his mission to drive out the snakes and Christianize the island.
It's odd how quickly the persecuted can become persecutors. But as no one would today take seriously the rampant rumors that early Christians practiced infanticide, human sacrifice, and cannibalism, so too ought we remain skeptical of the many claims made over the centuries towards the Celts of a similar nature.
By contrast, in the case of the human sacrificial practices of the Mexica (Aztec) and the Maya, we have the writings of Bishop Diego de Landa and others and archaeological evidence to corroborate the sacred blood-letting and ceremonial ritual human sacrifice of the Mayans. We have the writings of Franciscan friars Bernardino de Sahagún, Marcos de Niza, and Dominican friar Diego Durán as well as of Conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men of the human sacrifice of the Mexica (Aztecs). We also likewise have archaeological evidence to corroborate the sacrifices they recorded. We also have a few extant Mayan and Mexica (Aztec) records to corroborate them. In the case of head-hunting and cannibalism in Papua New Guinea, we have historical records, archaeology, and the oral tradition of New Guineans to rely on that all corroborate those practices.
In the case of the Celts, there are no Celtic accounts from Classical Antiquity, the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire or the entire Medieval Period corroborating human sacrifice as a practice. Oral accounts today flatly reject that these were ever authentic practices of the Ancient Druidic Celts. There are only Roman pagan and Roman Catholic records that survive that make these claims. As the Celts had no written records of their own and only had their spoken oral tradition and histories, we must rely on archaeological corroboration of the dubious Roman claims about them, as well as the spoken oral traditions in clan lore that deny all three charges of infanticide, human sacrifice, and cannibalism.
We have found virtually no evidence to date corroborating those claims, so we may safely conclude those claims are highly suspect. We should no more believe them than the accounts of the many Roman historians about the early Christians. It may not be unthinkable that the Celts might burn their prisoners of war in wicker figures, after all. But if that is true, then we should find archaeological evidence corroborating it, like we have found evidence of the ritual livestock of animals.
Thus, more than likely, conquering Roman pagans (greedy for Celtic lands and resentful of their resistance in Gaul in the first century BCE) mistook the legitimate cultural ritual sacrifice of animals and embellished accounts to vilify and demonize the Celts to justify their conquest and subjugation before emperors and Roman Senate.
We should note a few human cultures did engage in human sacrifice, cannibalism, and infanticide. In the case of infanticide, it should be noted that it is usually practiced in preference to infants starving to death in bad years for hunting, foraging, farming, or grazing in foraging, pastoralist, and horticuluralist peoples. When practiced, infants were left out often at the edge of a forest to be eaten by animals and as sacrifices to the gods for a better year in the coming year. In the case of human sacrifice, it appears associated with bad farming years in agriculturalist peoples with blood equated with life, and an attempt to placate gods that must have been angered. And in the case of cannibalism, it appears to be practiced functionally as a consequence of inadequate protein rich food sources in the environment. So it is possible, however improbable based upon our best attempts to verify these claims, that the ancient Celts did perform human sacrifice, cannibalism of their enemies, and the sacrifice of children.
But what appears far more likely on the whole is that Christian missionaries—whether Catholic or Protestant—were too easily tempted to embellish or use false claims about other people in order to attempt to secure more financial or human support for their missions to indigenous peoples from their respective Crown, or the Pope (or later home churches or Congress or the President), or later to justify their removal or annihilation (as in the case of American Indian Policy during the roughly 150 Plains Indian Wars). The accounts of missionaries, governors, bureaucrats, and business interests from the colonizing societies generally ought be mistrusted in their accounts when exploring relations with indigenous or aboriginal peoples the world over. And that skepticism and scrutiny absolutely must be applied against the Roman (Irish) Catholic Christian mission in Ireland as well.
For an interesting case study of the same, Spanish Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas's descriptive, qualitative accounts of the atrocities of Columbus and his men to the Arawaks on Hispaniola (once seen as awful exaggerations) have in recent years been corroborated by newly discovered writings of friars Antonio de Montesinos and Pedro de Córdoba and even Las Casas's enemy Toribio de Benavente Motolinia. So it turns out that Las Casas' charges levied at Columbus and his men appear to be actually true, but that he exaggerated in the size and frequency of those atrocities in order to get King Ferdinand and Pope Paul III to intervene.
Virtually all serious historians today have a nuanced view of his accounts in that they were largely exaggerated quantitatively (exaggerating frequency and total numbers) to influence monarch and clergy, but qualitatively (descriptively) accurate in describing the atrocities committed by Columbus and his men against the native Arawak on Hispaniola.
There is ample historical precedent beyond this single case for less than fully accurate accounts by missionaries and monastic sources from settler colonizers, which should thus be regarded with suspicion. The Irish Celts themselves in their own mythology demonized the Fomarian early European farmers they displaced who had in turn displaced the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer Fir Bolg (similarly demonized). In the same mythology, the Sons of Mil (second Celtic invaders from basque Sapain, ca 1,000 BCE) similarly demonized or villifed the Tuatha Dé (first Celtic invaders from Normandy, ca 3,000 BCE).
Unfortunately, the Celts had no written language, so what we know about them comes exclusively from outside and ostensibly biased sources. But we can reasonably bet that what the Romans or early Irish Catholic monks wrote about them is about as accurate as Roman claims about early Christians, or the vilification of the original inhabitants of Ireland in its mythology.
If these sources are to be believed, the Celts allegedly performed human sacrifice to Crom as annalistic sources have Milesian high king Tigernmas who is said in those histories to have introduced Crom's cult to the Celtic people. Tigernmas is alleged to have required the firstborn of every family and the scion (eldest inheriting male) of every clan sacrificed to him.
The twelve surrounding stones encircling the golden central Killycluggin Stone as the cult icon of Cromm Cruach (where the ancient Celtic druids performed at least animal sacrifice to Cromm on Samhain) are located on the plains named Mag Slecht by the Bronze-Iron Age ancient Celts (in English: The Plains of Slaughter) and the place's historical Goidelic Gaelic name at least hints to the credence of it being a place of sacrifice (whether human or animal), so we may be reasonably certain that this was one place where the Goidelic Celts at least ritually sacrificed animals each year. Some Roman sources suggest spring Beltaine sacrificial fire imolation customs of animals replaced voluntary human sacrifice in more ancient times in which a member of a tribe was chosen by lot in a piece of charcoal baked into a piece of a cake. They too are dubious.
The false etymology (falsely identifying a common word origin between Sumerian Baal and the Celtic Beil of healing that derived from Lugh's May 1st Beltaine) of Beltaine to Baal instead of Beil (healing/fire god), belo-te(p)niâ (bright fires), or Belenos (Gallic sun god), is the ultimate source of the mistaken belief that ancient Celts worshipped Baal. Subsequent to this pseudoetymology, the early Irish Catholic monks implicated Crom to a completely imagined and fictional Canaanite god Moloch who demanded child sacrifices (it seems entirely based on a translation error of the word sacrifice, an error that was made repeatedly because of the original translation error and then created false theology about a fictional made up Canaanite god that God condemned that never existed in the first place). Their mistake further implicated Celts and Crom with devil worship and human or child sacrifice.
Baal, by contrast, was an actual Canaanite god in that he was the Sumerian son of their over god El, both of whom were worshipped millennia before Druidic religion even appeared. Baal is identified biblically as one of the principal rivals of the biblical God, so thus often associated with or equated to Lucifer or Satan. And Baal was also associated by them with the fabricated biblical never a real god that was concocted by biblical mistranslation in Moloch. Read Cromm, not Baal to understand how Christians grossly misunderstood Cromm. No, Cromm is not a god called Samhain either (there is no such Celtic god).
However, what is less dubious is that sacrifices of animals, food, harvest, and jewelry would have originally taken place as part of a new year fall harvest festival celebrating the conclusion of that year's harvest in thanksgiving to solar deity Lugh, and as ransom to Celtic Otherworld boss Cromm to release Lugh after winter. The time to thank Lugh and pay Crom's ransom was October 31st, Samhain.
At Samhain, Crom was annually remembered in solemn and frightful (perhaps ever more so after the coming of Christianity to the British Isles because of the increasingly menacing and sinister tone adopted in accounts of Crom by Christian writers) supplication to protect and bless herd and crop to ensure bountiful spring. Perhaps solemnity was required in contemplating the seriousness of the certainty of death in the annual tribute paid to the lord of winter, darkness and death Cromm who allowed lost relatives to visit after death on Beltane and Samhain. Julius Caesar had Samhain traditions originating in the British Isles and then spreading to continental Europe or Gaul.
Annual sacrifices took place (according to the early literate Christians) on the Mag Slecht (pronounced mog-SCHLECHK 🔊), or the Plains of Slaughter in English, to Cromm on October 31st every year, the Celtic New Year demarking ,“Summer's end," the end of the Celtic year and the start of a new pastoral cycle. With the harvest complete, winter would soon arrive.
It bears reassertion that Samhain has long been falsely and wrongly associated with infanticide, devil worship, human sacrifice, and cannibalism. This may be in part due to Roman misunderstandings of the authentic and archaeologically verified yearly ritual animal sacrificial practices of the Celts. Yearly animal sacrifices at Beltaine and Samhain are also recorded in the earliest written sources. They are corroborated by archaeology in the ritual deposits examined in both excavation spoil (piles of material removed by the ancient Celts as ancient Celts dug new passages into, around, or between the ancient burial mounds) and at ritual hoards excavated at known ritual sites. They have revealed ritual sacrifice of jewelry, crops, and livestock.
It bears mentioning. So far, the human bones uncovered in excavation spoil or at ritual hoards yield no skeletal evidence of human sacrifice, and instead appear to come from disturbed ancient burials within burial mounds. The complete lack of evidence found at these sites ritually associated with Samhain rituals of even a single human sacrifice suggests the claims of the pagan or Christian Romans to the contrary are likely very dubious and should be regarded with extreme skepticism.
Pliny the Elder's history in his section on Emperor Claudius' reign, has Suetonius summing up the Druidic religion, “druidarum religionem diræ immanitatis," or, “the religion of the Druids is of terrible cruelty," in English. Pliny the Elder's history recorded head-hunting and blood being drank from the skulls of enemies by Celtic warriors. The first to second century Roman historian Lucius Cassius Dio (165 – c. 235 CE) recorded of the Brittonic/Bryonthic Celts in Brittania to female prisoners of war:“their breasts cut off and placed over their mouths, and a stake driven through their bodies, which were then hung in the sacred grove." The earlier Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56 – c. 120 CE/AD) recorded the altars of the Celtic Welsh Anglesey island of Mona were, “laved (washed) in human blood." Julius Caesar claims in 58-50 BCE/BC Commentarii de Bello Gallicohis, or Commentary on the Gallic Wars, that Celts burned prisoners of war and sacrificial animals in wicker figures. Pliny the Elder suggested Celts cannibalized their enemies to gain their strength. Lucan recorded in the first century CE/AD alleged Celtic sacrifice to Celtic gods Esus, Toutatis, and Taranis.
In the earliest textual sources referencing Crom's cult at the Killycluggin Stones, it's also mentioned but similarly dubious. The 12th Century CE (1100s CE) Dinsenchas (Lore of Placenames) poem about the Plains of Slaughter, Crom Cruach is given sacifices of “the firstlings of every issue and the chief scions (eldest sons) of every clan," in order to ensure a plentiful harvest (of grain and milk) ordered by mythical Celtic King Tigernmas who loses three-fourth of his host after sacrificing to Crom.
These Roman pagan then Irish Catholic sources insisted on the human sacrifice and cannibalism of the Celts. Most modern scholars and historians regard these accounts with strong skepticism, especially given the almost complete lack of archaeological evidence for the same at every site where human sacrifices were claimed to have occurred in analysis of excavation spoil or ritual hoard deposits that have been painstakingly analyzed.
There is no reliable evidence for it as a widespread practice. There are a handful of archaeologically proven cases involving ritual sacrifice of humans in the Cashel Man and Old Croghan Man bog bodies and Lindow man ritual sacrifices, who were all apparently ritually sacrificed (inferred from the violence committed to these corpses beyond that required to kill them). But we don't find evidence of widespread human sacrifice in archaeological excavations of the sites associated with Samhain, and that should be enough to put these spurious claims to rest.
Thus claims of Celtic human sacrifice are disputed and may largely be dismissed as anti-pagan, pro-Roman, pro-Roman Catholic Christian embellishments or exaggerations of the at first Roman pagan (53 BCE-313 CE) and then Roman Catholic Christian (313 CE-present) cultural outsiders covetous of Celtic lands, echoed in the 6th-9th Century (500s-800s) monastic culture of the scribes copying these manuscripts so that they would not be lost to the ages.
It's believed those claims may have been made in order to justify Roman conquest of the Gauls and Brythonic/Brittonic and Gaelic and Goidelic Celts. The grotesque practices alleged of the Celts were meant to disgust Roman emperors and senators beseeched for appropriations for a Celtic conquest of Hibernia, just like similar claims of Christians were. The Romans from other writings seem more likely concerned with the tin and grazing land Romans coveted in the British Isles. Because of the almost complete lack of physical evidence, despite the cacophony of Roman sources insisting otherwise, earlier and later, both Roman pagan and Roman Catholic, the allegations ought generally be taken as seriously as claims of infanticide, human sacrifice, and cannibalism by early Christians ought to be taken.
Just who is Crom? Hints about Crom & his Cult from Modern Cultural Survivals
In Crom Dubh's cult which survives today in pockets throughout Ireland, Crom's remembered on the night before Lugansadh, or on the last Sunday in July (before the August 1st Catholic Lammas or Celtic Lughnasadh) by Roman (Irish) Catholics and neo-Celticist pagans, but no longer on Samhain (possibly due to the stigma Crom devotion gained with Christianization of Ireland to distance it from the stigma applied over the centuries), strangely enough:
at Liscannor in County Clare, Munster, Ireland with a feast and festival;
at Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Connacht, Ireland with a barefoot climb to Croagh Patrick's peak to where sacrifices were once left to Crom (and then Lugh historically; the site was later appropriated by Catholics dedicated to St. Patrick's descruction of Crom's cult as “Reek Sunday" and a test of their faith, the practice has been continued by Irish Catholics and Celtic Lugh and Crom devotees today); historically, similar barefoot climbs were undertaken by Irish Catholic and Celtic people before Lammas or Luggansadh at all the high places associated with Crom Dubh: Carrauntoohil, Knocknadobar, Drung Hill, Mount Brandon, and Slievecallan in Munster, Slieve Donard in Ulster and Church Mountain in Leinster, representing the Christian appropriation of Crom Dubh's Sunday; and
at the Altóir na Greine or Altar of the Sun at Mount Callan in County Clare, Munster, Ireland where Crom's devotees leave flowers and a several day Buaile na Greine festival is held before Crom Sunday,
The last Sunday of July (Reek Sunday, Crom Dubh Sunday) or on July 31st (alternately is known as Crom's Day) Irish Catholics and neo-Celts celebrate with gifts of produce and crops taken to the hillside and left for Crom (preceding Lugansadh) and a feast of new bacon, new cabbage, and new potatoes ensues. Those unable to contribute food are dubbed “wind farmers." But even to the modern day, the myths and legends of Crom are intimately tied to Lugh's annual journey and his solar cult.
In some of the clan lore (oral tradition from those families claiming to have carried on the Druidic traditions, most of whom also identify as Irish Catholic), Crom carries Lugh's mother Eithne on his back (whose name means grain or kernel or seed and is associated with bountiful harvests and Boann [from “Bò Fionn,” meaning White Cow, a sacred animal, and whose associated burial mound is strongly associated as a fairy mound] associated with the health and bounty of livestock) at Lughnasadh (the August 1st first harvest festival named for Lugh).
Thus, in the surviving clan lore oral traditions, Crom carries the ability to germinate with him into the dark soil of the Otherworld and each Samhain and returns her to the surface each Beltaine as well. Thus, his fertility power is also derivative from Eithne in clan oral tradition lore, and once again Lugh is implicated with Crom as dualistic light and dark deities juxtaposed and opposing each other—fitting the war of the gods of light and darkness in true Indo-European cosmology motif fashion.
On Crom's (Dubh's) Day, Crom judges whether or not to have a festival determined by the quality of the sacrifice and demonstrates his pleasure or displeasure today by whether or not the clouds clear in response to the sacrifice (like an Irish Ground Hog's Day predicting the quality of next year's harvest) with Crom breathing fire to clear the clouds to allow Lugh to shine through if he's satisifed by the sacrifice, rewarding the festival with good weather. Once again, Crom is associated with Lugh in modern practice of the surviving cult.
Their annual struggle hearkens to the Tuatha-Fomarian war's Second Battle of Moytura when Lugh slays Balor with a single slingshot shot to his eye and vanquishes the lords of chaos and darkness back into the sea, the lords of light and life being triumphant over the lords of death and darkness. It's definitely interesting how in the modern Crom Dubh cult in the clan lore, Lugh and Crom are today comfortable with their roles and annual arrangement like bookends on a park bench, having danced this dance from time immemorial like old friends, judging the sacrifices of the foolish mortals together in tedious boredom and continuing their dance that gives and takes life each year, and, following form, the Roman (Irish) Catholics in Ireland celebrate Reek Sunday next to Crom's or Lugh's devotees in similar fashion.
Samhain Begins the Dark Half of the Year: The Solar Cult of the Celts & the Celtic Otherworld's Intersection with Our World
According to Iron Age Roman histories, throughout Gaul, Celtic Druids , or priests, worshiped the sun in solar cults to the Celtic god Lugh (Gallic Belenos) or alternately Crom. Celtic Druidism was fully established more than seven hundred years before St. Patrick arrived in Ireland (ca. 432 CE, established by 270 BCE throughout the island) to Christianize it. In those intervening 700 years, a cosmology and worldview unique to the Goidelic Celts of Ireland, consolidated by the invading first Tuatha-associated Celts from northwestern coastal Normandy (France, ca. 3000 BCE) and second Milesian (ca. 1000 BCE) Celts had emerged and was firmly in place by the start of the third century BCE.
Their society was divided into two ruling classes of knights who kept the people in state of near slavery and Druids who were shamans, scientists, priests and teachers according to Julius Caesar's accounts of Celts in continental Gaul or Western continental Europe. As the sun waned in daylight, day after day until the shortest day of the year on December 21st, or the Winter Solstice, early pre-Christian pagan rituals across Europe seemed to have been aimed to guarantee the sun's return by the springtime.
June 21st, Midsummer's Solstice, marked the height of the sun's power in the year round and was celebrated by ancient Celts with joyful midnight fires and dances, blazing wheels representing the sun rolled down hills. Fern and hemp seeds charms were performed and read for fortune telling assured to be more accurate on liminal Samhain or Beltane, omens in dreams were heeded. These rites sought to enhance Lugh's heat and power to give him the strength to break free from Cromm's hold on him in the Otherworld.
The various names of that Otherworld illuminate that it wasn't imagined by the ancient Celts as a dark underworld or land of the dead until the much later manuscripts as a result of Chrsitian influence. Wikiwand's Irish Mythology page puts it thusly:
In Irish mythology, the Otherworld has various names. Names of the Otherworld, or places within it, include Tír nAill (“the other land"), Tír Tairngire (“land of promise/promised land"), Tír na nÓg (“land of the young/land of youth"), Tír fo Thuinn (“land under the wave"), Tír na mBeo (“land of the living"), Mag Mell (“plain of delight"), Mag Findargat (“the white-silver plain"), Mag Argatnél (“the silver-cloud plain"), Mag Ildathach (“the multicoloured plain"), Mag Cíuin (“the gentle plain"), and Emain Ablach (possibly “isle of apples") .
Yet, all sources are clear that on Samhain, the ancient fairy burial mounds were opened, the Otherworld intersected with our own, and the supernatural beings, spirits, and creatures from the Otherworld could interact with us.
The ancient burial mounds (in particular, the two most famous fairy mounds, Brú na Bóinne and Cnoc Meadha) and other sidhe (pronounced SHE) portals to the Otherworld opened on liminal threshold days of the year. Spirits and the aos sí (pronounced ees-SHE 🔊) supernatural creatures (elves, fairies, and other supernatural beings) were free to wander and roam, so torches were carried in fields to protect people from possession, being dragged to their world, or to ward off their mischievous pranks. 'Guising, short for disguising, evolved as a practice in wearing masks and costumes either to scare these creatures away or to blend in so as not to be noticed by them.
These rites sought to guarantee fertility in the spring and bountiful harvests in the fall of the new year. Animals—in this case cattle, pigs, and sheep—were sacrificed as archaeologists have shown. If Julius Caesar's account is accurate, perhaps livestock immolation in wicker figures occurred with the death struggles of the animals read by Druids to predict the future. If it happened, it would have been to ensure the sun's return but also to ensure a fertile spring in plentiful offspring of livestock and a bountiful harvest for the upcoming fall's harvest through sympathetic magick practiced by the ancient animists (who sacrificed of the same of what they wanted to get, hence sympathetic magick; animists believe mountains, sky, and rivers have spirits, and they often engage in ancestor worship and animal totemism). Animal sacrifice, however, was undoubtedly a real thing to these ancient Celts.
After cattle were slaughtered and butchered at or near the central Killycluggin Stone to the ancient Celtic god of the underworld Cromm Cruach and his cult image (which was half buried in the ground to indicate his domain over the underworld and the grave), the bones of sacrificial animals, mostly cattle, were burned by bone fire which is where we get the modern term: bonfire.
After the sheep and cattle were driven in for the coming winter, men, women, and children enjoyed the first leisure from their harvest toil. And the Druid priests would have lit a forced fed fire of a wheel on a spindle spun sunward from east to west and the sparks given off by the centrifugal force were taken to light hilltop fires surrounding the spinning fire wheel. According to Roman sources, the black sheep was especially chosen for immolation in the sacrificial Samhain bonfires. Gifts of food, milk, and cream were left out at the ancient fairy burial mounds for lost loved ones and to please creatures who might otherwise steal infants, spoil the harvest, curse the spring plantings, or wreak other havoc.
After the bonfire at the Killycluggin Stone burned out, and the hilltop fires burnt out or were extinguished, fires were extinguished in homes which had previously that day been swept from back to front. The next day, the Druids lit the New Years fire, and the new fire was given to the community by torches to relight their fires, symbolic of the New Year.
Lugh would now fall victim for six long winter months (November, December, January, February, March, and April) to the powers of winter darkness, subdued by Cromm, god of the Otherworld. So it's easy to see how Christians have long misinterpreted Cromm. But Cromm, seeming enemy of Lugh, had his reign over the year, subduing Lugh, and so winter was equated with death and dying and the underworld of winter.
Consequently, as the gods of light and life's power waned, and the gods of death and darkness rose with Samhain each year, the veil between the living and dead was thought to be thinnest on October 31st as the submission of Lugh by Cromm was annually achieved. Naturally, those who had died as well as those who'd never lived in the aos si, meaning supernatural spirits, fae, fairies or elves could more easily enter our world. On Samhain, the early Irish sources say that the ancient burial mounds were opened, opening portals to the Otherworld, thus Cromm allowed the magical demigod descendants of the Tuatha and Formarian aos si creatures, beings, and spirits (including fairies, leprechauns, banshee, and elves) to wander along with the souls of the departed.
Families who'd lost a relative would leave a window open to welcome departed relatives, and left them simple flour and water cakes, but went to bed early if they weren't at the great feast festivals of Samhain to avoid seeing them. The souls of those who died during that year were believed to visit their homes seeking welcome or to resolve issues, and a place was set at the table for them during a meal. The departed would visit as they were just visiting the Land of Youth Otherworld for a time before they reincarnated. Sweeping one's home from its rear to its front door was a way of clearing the last year and ushering in the new one, just as extinguishing a Samhain fire after midnight to be rekindled with the new year fire with embers of it starting new fires was about beginning anew and putting the hardships of the last year behind them.
Most of the creatures who exited the portals on Samhain in Irish mythology surrounding the ancient burial mounds at Samhain were dark, evil, or mischievous even if the vast majority of myths about that Otherworld do not describe it as a sinister place. Thus, the wearing of masks in a practice known as guising (short for disguising) evolved to scare or imitate in order to disguise oneself from the aos si and those recently departed revisiting homes wandering the earth on Samhain that they might not carry one back with them as happened in the stories told around the hearth fire.
The aos sí were said to live in fairy mounds underground in fairy forts, in an invisible mirror hidden world or dimension invisible that coexists with our plane of existence some seers or shamans are able to see, or across the western sea, but wherever they lived, all sources agree, they were somehow able to enter our world and interact with us and be seen by us on Beltane and Samhain. Many Neolithic passage tombs have archaeoastronomical alignments with sunrise on Samhain, marking the start of the dark death of winter, Cromm's reign.
As Lugh sacrificed himself annually in the annual death of the sun, so too did people pay tax or tribute to king or sacrifice to now Cromm as ransom for his return. They paid tribute to Cromm just as they had to the Fomarians of a third of their harvest to secure Lugh's freedom from winter in the spring. Lugh paid a sacrifice of death to Cromm's evil powers, and Celts paid sacrifices of crops and animals to fires representing Lugh to satisfy Cromm and allow Lugh's liberation from Cromm's annual subduing.
Lugh's sacrifice of death to darkness explained why charms to find out the will of the gods or spirits, good and evil, and charms and invocations worked better on Samhain marking the annual death to Lugh and payment of tribute to Cromm. One tradition in the Scottish highlands surviving today is that of sitting on a three legged stool at a crossroads of three roads where fairies would await questioners. A questioner would listen for fairies at midnight on Samhain at this location and could offer them gifts of clothing, bread, cream, or milk. If pleased, the fairies would whisper the names of those who would die in the next year. With each name mentioned, if pleased by the gift of the questioner, the fairies might intervene and repeal each person's death sentence. If care was taken not to anger and to pay honor to the good and evil spirits and the dead, the power of charms and invocations was stronger on Samhain on this liminal (threshold) day of the year like its pair match: Beltaine.
The Killycluggin Stone as Cult Icon of the Celtic God of the Underworld Cromm Cruaich (or Crom Cruach alternately)
Cromm's cult image was the Killycluggin Stone discovered by archaeologists (specializing in neolithic Ireland) on the Plains of Slaughter, or Mag Slecht, in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1921 and 1954. The surrounding stones possibly date from the Irish Bronze Age (~2500 BCE) from carbon dating of similar stone circles across Ireland with the central Killycluggin Stone carbon dating from the Iron Age in Ireland (400 BCE - 100 CE).
According to local folklore, the central Killycluggin Stone and surrounding stones were destroyed by Saint Patrick who struck it with a hammer, thus causing it to break apart (like the other surrounding stones were fabled to be broken and carried away by the early Christians who forbade animal sacrifice). Or, other local folklore implies the missing stones and broken Killycluggin resulted simply from farmers trying to clear the field for pastoral use who carried off the missing encircling stones to some unknown place or broke them into many smaller pieces and distributed or buried them, somehow interrupted in the process which was left incomplete with two stones remaining. It was fabled to have once housed a cist burial beneath the Killycluggin Stone that included treasures.
The Killycluggin Stone was fabled to appear gilded (golden) and to have been surrounded by twelve stones:
“Ranged in ranks stood idols of stone four times three; to beguile the hosts grievously the figure of the Cromm was formed of gold,”
from the c. 14th-century Metrical Dindshenchas (Lore of Placenames) at The Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT) under Mag Slecht (English: The Plains of Slaughter).
The actual Killycluggin stone (in its two broken pieces: the first [left] is the base discovered in 1921 and the second [right] is the top discovered in 1954) which had been removed from the original site in time immemorial for unknown and fabled reasons.
It would have been buried to where the discoloration stops on the base piece, but represented Cromm Cruach's head. It's now located in the Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff, Ireland; Photo credit: Jim Dempsey,
While the burnt area shows evidence of nearby ancient bonfires, the two pits and modern disturbances depicted in these images from the following archaeological journal article were apparently the result of local treasure hunters and grave robbers looking for the fabled treasure and cist burial.
The burnt area is the location of the first bone-fires which is where we get our term: bonfire.
This somewhat misleading and poor stone replica of the actual Killycluggin Stone (circa 100 BC) was officially unveiled by Andrew Boylan T.D. Chairman Cavan County Council on 7th March 1992. Photo Credit: Jim Dempsey
The replica sits at coordinates N 54° 05′ 33″, W 007° 38′ 10″, or about 300 meters or 984.25 feet from where the original Killycluggin stone originally sat in SITU at its original coordinates N 54° 05' 41.6" W 007° 38' 24.3". See the following photos to see the IN SITU location of the original (now broken and in the Cavan County Museum) Killycluggin stone. Photo Credit: Kenneth Allen.
The Size and placement of the Iron Age Killycluggin Stone's Twelve Bronze Age Encircling Stones
In size, the Killycluggin stone is 11.8 feet in circumference. Its petroglyph (prehistoric rock carving) panels feature Celtic artwork, covered in Iron Age La Tène curvilinear designs (dated relatively to 400 BCE-100 CE). Some archaeologists argue there is evidence of erection of its encircling stones in the Early Bronze Age (2500 BCE) from carbon dating of similar stone circles around Ireland. They believe the surrounding circles were erected first by Ireland's original inhabitants, the dark-skinned, blue-eyed Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, with the central Killycluggin Stone erected by the Iron Age. If the Killycluggin Stone was circular in circumference (it's more like a slightly lop-sided egg-shape), its diameter would have been 3.75'.
Two of the original twelve surrounding stones remain in situ (their original location), with a third broken stone resting against one of the two stones left standing as originally erected, as pictured below (see the archaeological illustrations above and below to visualize the twelve surrounding stones in the center Killycluggin Stone serving as the cult's icon encircled by the outer surrounding stone circle).
Only two of the original stones remain in situ as pictured above (with a third broken stone resting against one of the two remaining upright stones). The remaining nine stones have been lost to history and likely farmers clearing fields, or else early Christian fanatics forbading animal sacrifice, with early Irish Roman Catholic Christian sources crediting St. Patrick for smashing these icons. The missing stones were long ago in time immemorial carried away.
From the Irishstones.org description,
“Two aligned stones in a private land. The permission to enter the field was given to me by the owner. The two stones are 60 metres north from the cattle gate and are aligned along the southeast-northwest (110°-290°) axis. The southeast stone is the taller and measure 1.90 metres in height, 1.18 metres in width and 97 centimetres in thickness. The other stone is 2.90 metres far and is 1.62 metres tall, 90 centimetres wide and 83 centimetres thick. A third stone would stand between the two, but now it rests against the second one."
We can deduce from the same descriptions, the height of the surrounding twelve stones would have been around 5-6' tall, around 3' wide, around 3' thick. The metric to standard conversions of the above measurements follow: the first stone would be 6.23 feet tall, 3.87 feet wide, and 3.18 feet deep/thick; and the second stone would be 5.312 feet tall, 2.95 feet wide, and 2.72 feet thick/deep.
The encircling stone circle was 65 feet in diameter so would have stood at a radius of approximately 31 feet from the edge of the central Killycluggin Stone. The pits were disturbances by people looking for fabled treasure under the golden Killycluggin Stone but were fabled to have disturbed a cist burial at the base according to folklore—although only a single burnt bone was discovered there in 1921 and no other evidence of a cist burial.
Thus, the central Killycluggin stone is likely not nor was it ever likely a cist burial (an underground dolmen, see The History of Halloween) nor where sacrifices happened per se but merely possibly so. Any residual organic matter from the last sacrifices on it would have long ago washed away in many centuries of rain since Christians forbade the practice.
With the central golden stone representing Cromm's head itself, the god of the dark half of the year and Otherworld—with his cult icon's head half-buried into his domain, his forehead, nose and eyes peering into the land of the living—each year the ancient Celt's Druid priests performed at least animal sacrifices at this place then burned their bones in the first bonfires.
They did so wearing masks to scare away or blend in with the wandering spirits and host of supernatural beings who with the onset of dark escape their portals to the Otherworld at Samhain and Beltaine, and feasting with a harvest festival of the fall's bounties to a raging bonfires fed with the bones of the slaughtered animals (bone-fire).
Thus, the Killycluggin Stone and twelve stones encircling it represents the place where our Halloween traditions began deep in time immemorial.
Maestro Azriel wanted to pay homage to the fire and candle traditions that hail from the ancient Celts, which also include mask-wearing and Halloween bonfires to scare wandering spirits away and the monsters found in the dark.
Roman Pagan Origins: Pomonalia (& her Husband's Vertumnalia)
Azriel wished to pay simultaneous homage to the ancient Roman pagan origins of Halloween involving apples and nuts — featured cryptically in the iconography of Candlelight's logo as well.
Those origins are expressed in the Roman Augustana Font in which the company name is chiseled into the full moon (the moon being another nod to Celtic pagan origins). These origins are also remembered in the superimposed natural apple core pentagram imposed on Luna's full moon—the Roman fertility and harvest goddess Pomona's icon or symbol. A horizontally-sliced apple core reveals a natural pentagram and pays homage to both the pre-Christian pagan Celtic traditions of Hallow's Eve as well as the Roman pagan and Roman Catholic Christian traditions grafted onto the holiday over the centuries.
Julius Caesar led Roman expeditions to the British Isles in the first century BCE (in 55 BCE/BC), but the Roman conquest of Brittania (the Roman name for the island of England) began officially in 43 CE, nearly a century later. Romans brought apple orchards to the British Isles, and their fall harvest Pomonalia festival grafted onto Halloween all of our traditions involving apples and nuts (Snap Apple Night and Nutcrack Night were alternate monikers for AllHalloweventide in the British Isles) onto the more ancient Celtic traditions.
According to oral tradition, Celtic Druids would make their wands out of apple or yew trees, for example, after being introduced by the Romans in England. Pomona's apple has long been a symbol for her Roman festival and traditions which have become confused with Vertumnalia. The original Etruscan-influenced Roman fall harvest festival Vertumnalia was celebrated on August 23rd originally. Its celebration migrated over the centuries to late October to be replaced by Pomonalia likely due to clerical errors on calendars throughout the Empire. The confusion of the two Roman fall harvest festivals likely occurred due to Vertumnus and Pomona's marriage in Roman mythology, the latter associated with the last harvest of apples and nuts (occurring in late October versus the beginning of harvest season in late August with the former's Vertumnalian autumnal equinox and the ripening of the first crops), and integration of- and confusion by- Gallic, Brittonic/Brythonic, Gaelic, and Goedellic Celtic harvest festival customs as the Romans and Celts acculturated together in the British Isles.
According to the famous seducer Ovid, Pomona was uncommonly beautiful so was pursued by many orchard gods but wished to remain unmarried. Vertumnus, “the changer," was the victorious suitor who had domain over commerce, the changing of river channels, and the ripening of fruit. He appeared to her as a ploughman (spring), fisherman (summer), and reaper (autumn) before appearing as an old woman (winter) to plea with Pomona through a fictional story she told him to spare Vertumnus' despair and inevitable suicide by hanging by giving in to his proposals. The story Vertumnus told as an old woman also suggested Pomona could spare herself from her fate of turning into a statue of marble in her grief as she watched his funeral train. Vertumnus' manipulative deception preposterously and outrageously succeeded to the chagrin of every feminist ever. Endeared, she relented and married his proper form of a handsome young man, moved by the old woman's story and his physical comeliness. Her sacred grove at Ostia in Rome was where her festival was celebrated around November 1st. Pomona was assigned by the Romans with one of the fifteen flamina (like the Vestal virgins who kept Vesta's fire lit) who kindled her sacrificial sacred fire in her sacred grove in Ostia (Rome).
Like the Celtic pagans, the Roman solar deities (Sol Indignes through the first century [aughts] CE, and Sol Invictus the Syrian solar deity whose cult spread across Rome influence by Mithras after) were sacrificed to each fall. Rome's water deity, Neptune (from the Greek Poseidon) was placated and propitiated as well to bless the next fall's harvest. Solar and water deities were worshipped to ensure bountiful offspring with minimal winter kill and an adequately wet spring and summer (but not too wet or too dry) and bountiful sunshine to ensure robust harvest in the fall and spring grasses for summer grazing of livestock, just like the Celts that their disfavor might not ruin the next year's harvest or the slaughter. But as the solar and water gods were supplicated, Roman fertility gods required their recognition as well.
On Pomonalia, Romans gave offerings of the ripened last harvest fruits of nuts and apples (ripening them was her domain) on November 1st to Pomona in thanks of her favor that season, just as they'd thanked her husband on August 23rd in offerings of the first fruits of harvest in Vertumnalia to Vertumnus thanking him for his ripening of them (his domain) in earlier times. The horses released from summer planting and the work of the harvest were released from their toil for racing contests. Thus all of our charms and omens derived from nuts and apples around Halloween can be attributed to Roman paganism in Pomonalia, the sister festival to Vertumnalia (August 23rd).
Although Rome never conquered Ireland, they fortified Britannia's western coast against the Goidelic Celts with military outposts to defend against attacks. Possible incursions of Romans into Ireland would have begun into Ireland around the time of the subjugation of the Welsh island of Mona now known as Anglesey by 60 CE led by Roman General (and Governor of Brittania) Gaius Suetonius Paulinus with 20,000 legionnaires before he returned home to put down the opportunistic rebellion of Boudica, queen of the Brythonic/Brittonic Celtic Iceni, in southeast England.
Suetonius's contemporary, Pomponius Mela of Baetica (southern Spain, Andalusia) remarked of the people of the land Roman historian Tacitus dubbed Hibernia that they were, “a people wanting in every virtue, and totally destitute of piety," and of a land so luxuriant in grasses for ranching that if cattle were “allowed to feed too long, they would burst," simultaneously capturing the dehumanization required to subjugate another group of people and their motivation to do so. Romans called the British Isles the Tin Islands before their conquest of Brittania, noting they were conquered for their tin and grazing land.
The following Roman governor of Britannia, Agricola, is believed to have had Túathal Techtmar, the son of a deposed high Irish king in his entourage who invaded Ireland from afar to regain his kingdom. However, there are no records of an official Roman incursion into or invasion of Ireland, even if Agricola's (Paulinus' successor) desires to do so are recorded and corroborated in the likely establishment of a Roman trading post at Drumanagh, Ireland by 80 CE and coastal garrisons against Irish attacks by the watchtower they established south of Anglesey on the Llyn Peninsula.
By CE 150, when Claudius Ptolemy made the first map of Ireland, it noted several Roman settlements in Ireland including royal settlements like Emain Macha (Navan fort) in County Armagh. There is clear evidence too of subjugated Roman allies colonizing in Ireland in the British Brigantes. The Brittonic/Bryonthic Celtic Ogham (pronounced Aumm) alphabet and writing system is believed to have been derived from Latin through contact and intermarriage through Romanticized Britons. In fact, several Welsh Ogham stones in Wales were bilingual, featuring both the Old Irish Goidelic and Brythonic (Gaelic ancestor language to Welsh) and Latin.
The Romans never conquered Hibernia, the land of winter. It was no doubt a place they desired to subjugate as Agricola's“refuge for fugitives," and the last remaining stronghold of Celtic Druidism in the British Isles after Tiberius and Claudius routed the Gallic Celts from mainland Europe to their British Isle stronghold on the Welsh island of Mona. Romans throughout the empire began converting to Celtic Druidism so that Emperor Caesar Augustus Octavian forbade conversion on penalty of death. Tiberius militarily banished the Celtic Druids from Gaulish mainland continental Europe who fled to the Welsh island of Mona. The Emperor Claudius stamped out the remnants of Druidism in continental Gaul and executed a Roman knight for wearing the telltale badge of a Druid priest in wearing an Adder's Stone or Druid's Egg globe necklace (see Halloween History to learn more) to win a civil lawsuit.
By the time the Romans left the British Isles in 410 CE (five years later, the Roman slave Saint Patrick came to Ireland in 415 CE), there'd been nearly a century of increasing Roman Catholic Christianity, and Celtic Samhain and Roman Pomonalia began to blend with Roman Catholic Christianity.
Roman Christian Origins: Roman Catholicism Absorbs Samhain and Pomonalia Traditions
The Gallic Druids vanquished by Tiberius and Claudius from Gaul fled to the Welsh Island of Mona (Anglesey) where they were finally massacred by Seutonius in ~60-61 CE by 20,000 legionnaires. Consequently, with the keepers of its traditions mostly slain, the Druidic religion waned throughout the British Isles.
After Christian convert Emperor Constantine ordered Christianity tolerated and Christian persecutions to end in 313 CE through his mother's conversion and his vision of the Christian Chi-Rho at the Battle of the Milvan Bridge, and his Christian successor Emperor Theodosius I (the last Roman emperor of a united Roman Empire before his successor Diocletian split the empire into the Latin-speaking Roman Catholic West and Greek-speaking Greek Orthodox East, or Byzantium) made Christianity the official religion of Rome in 380 CE/AD, he and succeeding Christian Roman Catholic Emperors ordered the Druidic religion eradicated from Brittania and Gaul over the next three centuries, replacing it with Roman Catholicism (although Christians probably only made up less then 20% of the Roman Empire). After 410 CE when the Roman legions left the British Isles to defend Rome after Alaric the Visigoth sacked it, Roman Catholic missionaries like the Roman Catholic slave Saint Patrick and his growing cult would continue that mission.
The Roman Catholic missionaries to Ireland told the Celtic Druidic holdovers that their aos si pagan gods had been exiled or died after Christ rose again after descending and conquering hell. Christian church fathers said the fire, candle, nut, and apple omens and charms worked due to “black magic," further conflating Cromm's old Druidic Celtic cult with devil worship or Baal worship.
Midsummer became St. John's Festival, Lugnasad became Lammas, and so Samhain became All Hallows Eve in preparation for All Souls Day as part of the triduum of AllHallowtide. Samhain's bonfires were still lit, but the Roman Catholic converts were told they would now light souls from “Purgatory to Paradise" as they once lit Lugh to his yearly death on Samhain. The old sacrificial rites to induce Cromm's protection were now lit to protect them from the same god who now became an evil lord of darkness equated with Baal/Beelzebub, Belial, Lucifer, Baphomet and Satan in black masses to the devil. That stigma is an unfortunate stain that still haunts Halloween.
Azriel wished to pay simultaneous homage to the ancient Roman pagan as well as the Roman Christian Roman Catholic origins of many of our Halloween traditions involving apples and nuts — featured cryptically in the iconography of Candlelight's logo as well. That story is next.
Roman Catholicism Grafts Christian Allhallowtide (All Hallows Eve, All Hallows Day, All Souls Day) onto Samhain
Samhain became Hallowmas after Nov. 1st's All Saints or All Hallows Day. Then, Nov. 2nd's All Souls Day, Dia de las Muertos in Latin America, was added and along with it the Hallow's Eve collection of alms for the poor the night before All Hallows (Saints) Day (hence All Hallows Eve) throughout late Medieval Europe. Allhallowtide had been born.
When there weren't enough days in the year to celebrate all in the panoply of Christian saints and those who were martyred to spread the faith, Pope Gregory IV in 835 CE established All Saints or All Hallows Day to solemnly remember all of the Christian martyrs en masse. He then moved it from its original station on May 1st (Beltaine) to Nov 1st ( just after Samhain) to make it easier to feed the throngs of people who came to Rome to celebrate Allhallowtide as a festival to all the Christian martyrs and saints, and those poor souls purifying in Purgatory, and ostensibly to make the conversion of the Celts in Western Europe and the British Isles easier.
All Soul's Day Creates All Hallows Eve's Souling & Trick-or-Treating
Nov. 2nd's All Souls Day was added to Allhallowtide or Hallowtide triduum in the late 10th (900s), early 11th (1000s), and 12th (1100s) Centuries CE gradually over time to assist in afterlife purification of souls in Purgatory (an implied third place of cleansing after death between heaven and hell) and to support the Medieval poor by Christian charity.
The Doctrine of Purgatory. The Catholic church's doctrine of Purgatory was defined by the Councils of Lyon (1274 CE/AD), Ferrara-Florence (1438–45 CE/AD), and Trent (1545–63 CE/AD). In these meetings, the doctrine was first justified in scriptures rejected by Protestants and Jews in the Catholic Bible's apocryphal 2 Maccabees 12:42–45 suggesting prayers and alms for the poor collected for those already dead could redeem those who were killed but not already redeemed. Protestants thought the idea that prayers for the dead could redeem them preposterous, with only an individual's faith in Christ's sacrifice on the cross and God's grace being the only thing that could redeem anyone. That single difference of opinion would eventually result in the death of 70 million Christians killing other Christians.
Doctrinal Differences that Created the Modern World. Of course these doctrinal differences led to the Christian: Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation; the Spanish, French, and Roman/Italian Inquisitions; publication of the Malleus Maleficarum (famous witch hunting guide-book, The Witch Hammer) in 1487 CE resulting in centuries of witch hunts, false accusations of the church's or neighbors' enemies, trials, and witch burnings; and, famously, The European Wars on Religion in which 70 million Christians killed other Christians from the late 15th Century (1400s CE/AD) through the early 18th Century (1700s). Ironically, they led to the freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and church-state separation that America's founding fathers insisted upon in the Bill of Rights' First Amendment. The framers of the U.S. Constitution, America's founding fathers, wrote extensively about these things as being necessary antecedents for (conditions that must precede) Republican (representative) self government, the rule of law, and even for freedom itself to exist during the age of Political Revolutions starting with the American Revolution (in the late 18th-19th Centuries).
The aforementioned councils clarified Purgatory was also implied in the New Testament in Christ's “forgiveness in this age and the age to come," Matthew 12:31-32 Peter's “trial of faith" in 1 Peter 1:6-7, Paul's “cleansing fire" of 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. These councils constructed the theological doctrine of the Catholic seven sacraments from these scriptures (baptism, confirmation, communion, confession, anointing of the sick/last rites, marriage, and holy orders/service to church) required for a soul to be in a state of grace to bypass Purgatory's cleansing to enter heaven.
Martin Luther would retain three: confession, communion, and baptism as necessary for a soul to be in a state of grace, and rejected the idea of Purgatory. Incidentally, this doctrine is also what led to the sale of indulgences (payment for full or partial remission [payment for a debt] for purification of sins on earth or after death in Purgatory) that Martin Luther objected so heavily to, among 94 other complaints, leading to his 95 Theses, or claims/complaints, and The Protestant Reformation (and by consequence, the Age of Reason/Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution).
The Addition of All Soul's Day to Hallowtide. The Bishop of the most important monastery in Western Europe, St. Odilo, the Bishop of Cluny, insisted upon a day to pray for each year's faithful departed, those faithful to the church who died in the last year, but most especially the poor. To justify the day and practices he introduced on November 2nd, following All Hallows (Saints) Day of November 1st, All Souls Day, Odilo would tell the story of a shipwrecked pilgrim who, while stranded and living in a cave, was plagued by visions involving torturous screaming, voices, and the howling of devils torturing souls in the purifying flames of Purgatory. The pilgrim realized from 2 Maccabees that these souls could be freed from torture through an annual day of special prayer and alms for the poor. Upon his rescue, he came straight to Odilo, Odilo claimed, to ask why there is not a special day of prayer for that year's deceased, and Odilo immediately obliged.
The practice spread from Odilo's monastery in Cluny, France in the late 10th Century (900s), first adopted by the Belgian Diocese of Liège in 1008 CE, and spread throughout the Holy Roman Empire by the 1200s (13th Century) CE. Now with a special day to pray for the souls being tortured in Purgatory, alms of coin, nut, apples, and simple flour and water soul cakes would be collected on All Hallow's Eve (the night before All Hallowmas, All Saints Day) in a practice called souling in which Catholic youth would go door to door begging for alms of soulcakes (simple flour and water cakes), apples, nuts, and coin for the poor, which would eventually become trick-or-treating. They did so in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales while continuing the Celtic practice of 'guising on Samhain (now thanks to Odilo, All Hallowed Evening) to befuddle, frighten away, or blend in with the supernatural creatures and departed spirits wandering the earth.
Thus, Celtic pagan, Roman Pagan (Pomonalia), and Roman (Irish) Catholic traditions blended in the British Isles in All Hallowed Evening's souling and guising, which their immigrants to the New World would bring with them in the 1830s-1860s during the Irish potato famine (1845-1852) in which roughly 4-6 million Irish emigrated to the United States.