Samhain
Irish History From The Annals


Halloween derives from the ancient festival of Samhain. Samhain is one of the four cross-quarter days, with Beltaine, Lugnasadh and Imbolc.

Halloween derives from the ancient festival of Samhain. Samhain was one of the main ancient Irish festivals that marked the beginning of winter and of the dark half of the new year. As a new day began after sunset samhain begins at dusk on the 31 of october. Originally it would have been celebrated at the start of the lunar cycle that occurred closest to a point equidistant between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice.

The Annals of the Four Masters refer to Samhain in an account dealing with early mythology under the year 3656 after the creation. The annals place the creation 5194 years before the birth of Christ.

It was by Tighearnmas also that gold was first smelted in Ireland, in Foithre Airthir Liffe. It was Uchadan, an artificer of the Feara Cualann, that smelted it. It was by him that goblets and brooches were first covered with gold and silver in Ireland. It was by him that clothes were dyed purple, blue, and green. It was in his reign the three black rivers of Ireland burst forth, Fubhna, Torann, and Callann, their names. At the end of this year he died, with the three fourths of the men of Ireland about him, at the meeting of Magh Slecht, in Breifne, at the worshipping of Crom Cruach, which was the chief idol of adoration in Ireland. This happened on the night of Samhain precisely. It was from the genuflections which the men of Ireland made about Tighearnmas here that the plain was named.

Assemblies or oenachs were held at the times of the important festivals. Barry Raftery has discussed the oenach held at Tlachtga on the Hill of Ward in Co. Meath on Samhain. The account from the annals relates to another Samhain oenach held at Magh Slecht in western Cavan and centred on the worship of the god Cromm Cruach.

This is also mentioned in Metrical Dindshenchas and may be where the anallistic version was derived from.

MAG SLECHT
Here used to stand a lofty idol, that saw many a fight, whose name was the Cromm Cruaich; it caused every tribe to live without peace.
Alas for its secret power! the valiant Gaedil used to worship it: not without tribute did they ask of it to satisfy them with their share in the hard world.
He was their god, the wizened Cromm, hidden by many mists: as for the folk that believed in him, the eternal Kingdom beyond every haven shall not be theirs.
For him ingloriously they slew their hapless firstborn with much wailing and peril, to pour their blood round Cromm Cruaich.
Milk and corn they asked of him speedily in return for a third part of all their progeny: great was the horror and outcry about him.
To him the bright Gaedil did obeisance: from his worship—many the crimes—the plain bears the name Mag Slecht.
Thither came Tigernmas, prince of distant Tara, one Samain eve, with all his host: the deed was a source of sorrow to them.
They stirred evil, they beat palms, they bruised bodies, wailing to the demon who held them thralls, they shed showers of tears, weeping prostrate.
Dead the men, void of sound strength the hosts of Banba, with land-wasting Tigernmas in the north, through the worship of Cromm Cruaich—hard their hap!
For well I know, save a fourth part of the eager Gaedil, not a man—lasting the snare—escaped alive, without death on his lips.
Round Cromm Cruaich there the hosts did obeisance: though it brought them under mortal shame, the name cleaves to the mighty plain.
Ranged in ranks stood idols of stone four times three; to beguile the hosts grievously the figure of the Cromm was formed of gold.
Since the kingship of Heremon, bounteous chief, worship was paid to stones till the coming of noble Patrick of Ard Macha.
He plied upon the Cromm a sledge, from top to toe; with no paltry prowess he ousted the strengthless goblin that stood here.


St. Patrick's destruction of the idol of Cromm Cruaich is also related in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick. The poem appears to be describing a ceremony taking place within a prehistoric stone circle. There are a number of stone circles in Magh Slecht but the stone circle at Killycluggin had an important stone stone that was ornamented in the La Tene Iron Age. Was the Killycluggin stone the idol of Cromm referred to in the annals?
 
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