Crom Cruach is a figure in Irish mythology who is imagined as an ancient fertility god and later, as a demon who confronted St. Patrick and subsequently banished by the said Saint. Being a fertility god, Crom Cruach grew to be associated with human sacrifice.
Its name is roughly translated as "crooked and bloody", which further grant the entity a malicious reputation in the modern age.
Prior to St. Patrick's arrival, the ancient Ireland was said to be ruled by the Old Gods, one of which was the fertility god known as Crom Cruach. It offered good yields of milk and grain to its worshipers in exchange of first-born sacrifices, and is said to have been worshiped since the time of Érimón, which is around 1287–1286 BC.
An early example of Crom Cruach's cruelty was the death of the early High King, Tigernmas, along with three quarters of his army, died while worshiping the god on Samhain eve, leaving the Ireland without a High King for nearly seven years after the incident. Even so, the worship of the continued regardless across the ages.
St. Patrick's Arrival and Downfall
Fortunately, Crom Cruach's dark reign meets its end upon the arrival of St. Patrick in his campaign against the Old Gods. In its confrontation against the Saint who located its cult, Crom Cruach emerged with its true demonic form from its gold and silver figure, causing twelve smaller bronze figures to sink into ground. The fertility god soon defeated by the Saint who cast him to hell, ending the practice of human sacrifice on the island.
Crom Cruach was originally envisioned as a wizened god hidden by mists, represented as a gold figure surrounded by twelve stone or bronze figures. The latter depiction was interpreted by some as representing the sun surrounded by the signs of the zodiac, suggesting a function as solar deity. As its image as a god became demonized following the arrival of Saint Patrick, Crom Cruach's depiction warped to that of a demonic snake or monstrous worm (possibly referring to a Wyrm, a type of dragon).
Being a deity of bloodshed and sacrifice, its previous role as a fertility god often takes second place to these more malevolent aspects of its being, especially after the spread of Christainity and the subsequent cease of Crom Cruach's worship.
In Popular Culture
- Mount Cenn Cruaich, a mountain in Australia's Warrumbungle National Park, is arguably named after Crom Cruach.
- The Irish market town of Macroom is a corruption of the place-name 'Meeting place of followers of the god Crom.
- A novel titled Cromm by Kenneth C. Flint published by Doubleday in 1990 tells about modern human sacrifice in Cavan.
- A character named Rhys in Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series, is revealed to have once been Crom Cruach.
- Crom Cruach is featured as one of characters in the light novel High School DxD where he is featured as an antagonist-protagonist.
- The radio program Hall of Fantasy had an episode named "The Idol of Cromm Cruac", which focused about a hidden Crom Cruac cult in the 20th century United States. The program identified the god as "Keltic" but not specifically as Irish.
- In Conan the Barbarianc series, the titular character's patron deity is named Crom, though whether this reference is derived from the Gaelic deity is uncertain.
- Michael Moorcock wrote a second trilogy of novels, Bull and the Spear, Oak and the Ram, and Sword and the Stallion, which tells about Prince Corum where he travels to a Celtic themed realm, of his world's far future, where Corum has become Cremm Croich (Cremm/Corum of the Silver Hand), The Lord of the Mound.
- In the fantasy novel The Hunter's Moon by O.R. Melling Crom Cruac, the Great Worm, is the main peril which the main characters must face and defeat.
- In Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole, Crom Cruach is the main antagonist, with the ability to infect beings with a mad need to sacrifice whoever they love most.
- In Samhain in The Isles of Winter, the second volume of Philip Armstrong's epic series The Chronicles of Tupiluliuma, Crom Cruach is featured as a toraborm, a monstrous worm-like creature that demands annual child sacrifice at Samhain in The Isles of Winter.
- In Michael Scott's House of the Dead, Crom is imprisoned under Newgrange, a prison that is magically renewed when the light of the solstice reaches the central chamber each year.
- In Peadar O'Guilin's The Call, Crom appears as King of the Sídhe and interacts directly with human teenagers.
- Crom is featured in a poem titled The Plain of Blood by John Montague
- Crom is mentioned in Thomas D'Arcy McGee's 19th-century poem called The Celts as well as that of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill's poem which titled The Mermaid Smooring the Fire.
- In Pat Mills' fantasy series Sláine, Crom Cruach appears as a monstrous "time worm" feeding on human misery.
- In Robin of Sherwood episode "Cromm Cruac", the name applies to a phantom village created by Gulnar. The village appears periodically and is populated by evil spirits due to its residents having practised human sacrifice (of their children) in the past.
- The Gargoyles TV series episode "The Hound of Ulster" has the Banshee taking the form of a gigantic worm-like creature by the name of Cromm-Cruach to do battle with Goliath, Elisa Maza, Goliath's daughter Angela and their gargoyle beast Bronx.
- Crom Cruach appears as a dragonfish-like serpent in the film The Secret of Kells, possessing only one eye, as the second was taken by the monk Collum-Cille to be used as a lens for illuminating.
- In the Nexon game Mabinogi, the boss for the 3rd generation storyline is Cromm Cruaich, re-imagined as a dragon. In the prequel Vindictus, Cromm Cruaich makes another appearance this time as the final boss of the game's second season, this time represented as a Humanoid Demon God.
- Crom Cruach is similar to the Biblical Moloch, both of whom were pre-Christian deities later described as demons and both of whom would become heavily symbolic of human sacrifice.
- Crom Cruach is also related to the Wicker Man legend, much like the tale of the Wicker Man there is debate as to whether Crom Cruach actually performed human sacrifice or if it was a medieval tale made to vilify pagan religion (much as Termagant and Baphomet were medieval inventions).