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The 13 Most Haunted Places in the World: No. 12, Magh Sleácht, County Cavan, Ireland

Updated on April 5, 2013

Legend of the Bloody, Crooked God

A history of infant sacrifice, a bent and crooked god of blood, the mysterious death of a Celtic king and his army, and reputed miracles make Irelandâs ancient Plain of Prostration one of the most haunted places on earth.

This is number 12 in my series, The Most Haunted Places in the World, in which I take the reader to places across the globe that are notorious for ghosts, hauntings, and supernatural occurrences!

Crom Cruach, the "Bloody Bent One of the Mound," was worshipped with blood sacrifices - namely, one-third of all the infants of Ireland.

"The Plain of Prostration"

Of all the gods of pre-Christian Ireland none was more fearsome than Crom Cruach, the "Bloody Bent One of the Mound." A solar deity associated with fertility, Bloody Crom was worshipped across Ireland and propitiated at an annual ritual with offerings of milk, grain, and the blood sacrifice of one third of all infants of the land. The place of Crom's worship, Magh Sleácht, "the Plain of Prostration," can still be visited today, and ranks as one of Ireland's most haunted destinations.

Crom Cruach is the oldest of the oldest pagan gods of Ireland.

Historical Atlas Of The Celtic World
Historical Atlas Of The Celtic World

Excellent overview of Ireland's Celtic history.

 

The History of Magh Sleácht

The 12th century Book of Leinster describes Crom's Cruach's image as a gold figure surrounded by twelve stone figures standing on Magh Sleácht since prehistoric times. This is echoed by the 14th century Book of McGovern which contains a poem mentioning a stone associated with Crom Cruach standing in a circle near a road in Kilnavert; the entry further describes how, despite being converted to Christianity, the locals still trembled in fear of the old god whenever they passed the spot.

A decorated stone considered by some to have been the cult image of Crom Cruach was found at Killcluggin, County Cavan, in 1921. It was broken in several pieces and party buried adjacent to a stone circle dating from the Bronze Age, where it probably once stood. The site has a long history of association with Crom Cruach; Kilnavert was originally called Rath Sleácht, from which the plain of Magh Sleácht later obtained its name.

When reconstructed, this original stone, called the "Killcluggin Stone" and which now stands in the Cavan County Museum, was found to lean to the left when placed on a flat base, perhaps explaining the "bent" or sometimes "crooked" interpretation in the god's name. Curiously, a replica of the original stone placed beside the road in Kilnavert continues to inspire fear in local residents.

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Photo Credit: Crom Stone, Killykluggin. www.travelireland.com

Myth and Miracles

The last Sunday in July is still known as "Crom's Day" in parts of rural Ireland

One of the longest-standing legends concerning the god Crom associates him with the Near Eastern god Moloch, and the ritual sacrifice of children that distinguishes Crom's worship was also an essential practice in the cults of Moloch. Embodied in an elaborately decorated, gold-plated stone, Crom Cruach stood on Magh Sleácht surrounded by twelve other stones, all of which were covered in hammered bronze. This hints at Crom's nature as a solar deity, and also imparts upon him an astrological significance.

Tradition suggests the annual ritual honoring Crom Cruach may have been held on or about a date coinciding with July 31st in the modern calendar, and indeed the last Sunday in July is still known as "Crom's Day" in parts of rural Ireland. Other traditions connect Crom's annual blood feast with the Celtic celebration of Samhain (roughly October 31st in modern reckoning) and it is possible the ritual was moved as the celebration of Lugh (August 1st) became the cornerstone harvest celebration of the Celtic year.

A King Brought Low by Bloody Crom

One of the strangest legends associated with Crom Cruach is connected to his worship on Samhain. According to tradition, Tigernmas, one of the great elder kings of Ireland, was killed by a demonic manifestation during a Samhain ritual on the Plain of Prostration; a third of his army also disappeared that night, taken it was said, as blood payment for the king's foolhardy challenge of the old, crooked god. In spite of this fearful tragedy, or perhaps because of it, the Irish continued to worship on Magh Sleácht, just as they always had.

But nearby Kilnavert, and Magh Sleácht in general, soon became home to St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint and the historical nemesis of the pagan Crom Cruach. Kilnavert Church is said to have been founded by the saint, and a well nearby is still known as "Tobar Padraig," or St. Patrick's Well.

St. Patrick, Ireland's Patron Saint, The Historical Nemesis of Crom Cruach

St. Patrick, Ireland's Patron Saint, The Historical Nemesis of Crom Cruach
St. Patrick, Ireland's Patron Saint, The Historical Nemesis of Crom Cruach

St. Patrick Confronted the Bloody God on His Mound

Intent upon ending pagan worship, Patrick went out onto Magh Sleácht to confront the bloody god. According to tradition, Patrick held up his bishop's crozier before the golden stone and, demanding "the demon" Crom to come forth, struck it against the face of the rock. A deep imprint was cast into the stone and at that moment the gold fell away and the stone toppled forward, breaking into several pieces. As the twelve bronze stones begin to sink into the ground, a demon appears and challenges Patrick, who curses it and casts it into hell, its piercing shrieks resounding across Magh Sleácht.

The Ghosts

A place so saturated, and for so long, with the life's blood of innocent babies cannot help but have a fearsome atmosphere; add to this the murder of a king, mass disappearances, and exorcism, and it is easy to see why Magh Sleácht has a reputation for being haunted. Visitors to the old plain claim to have heard the pitiful cries of infants, perhaps wailing down the long years as their tiny bodies drained of blood or burned alive in the fires of the crooked god. A malingering mist is said to sometimes appear upon the ancient mound of the stones; it moves about here and there, without heed for the direction of the wind, as if it has a mind of its own. A feeling of unease is reported around the area where the replica of Crom's stone has been placed.

Find Out More About the Ghosts and Hauntings of Ireland

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A Haunted Land: Ireland's Ghosts
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Irish Tales of the Fairies and the Ghost World (Celtic, Irish)
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As old as Crom Cruach, the fay of Ireland are said to live among us today!

 
Castle Ghosts of Ireland [VHS]
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The quintessential armchair guide to the many haunted castles of the Emerald Isle!

 
Fodor's Ireland 2013 (Full-color Travel Guide)
Fodor's Ireland 2013 (Full-color Travel Guide)

The classic Fodor's travel guide to Ireland, updated for 2013.

 

How to Get There

Magh Sleácht is located in County Cavan, Ireland, approximately one and a half hour's drive northwest of Dublin. There are no rail services to County Cavan, but there is regular bus service from Dublin, Galway, and Belfast provided by Bus Eíreann (www.buseireann.ie).

Information about accommodations and other activities in County Cavan, Ireland can be found by visiting http://www.cavantourism.com/about-cavan.

If You Go

Remember, the first practical rule of the paranormal investigator is also the first rule of the paranormal traveler, and that is: Do not break the law. Although most historical sites throughout Ireland are open to the public, some are located on private property and appropriate arrangements must be made before visiting them. Your hotel concierge or local authorities can help you sort this out.

The second practical rule of the paranormal investigator should also be applied: Use the "buddy system." Do not explore alone, always have at least one friend with you, and stay aware of your surroundings at all time. Do not break up to explore individually, and don't forget, if you encounter the supernatural on your visit, your claim is more believable if at least two of you have witnessed something.

Finally, remember to be respectful at all times.

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      peter 23 months ago

      I'm from Ireland and while i had heard the St. Patrick story.

      i didn't know the actual place existed but i's not the least bit surprised it does.

      Ireland is probably one of the richest places when it comes to the paranormal, if the local tales are anything to go by.

      it's a shame this hasn't got more attention, but this is an american site and americans tend to not have any interest in anything that isn't american, they're quiet egotistical like that. they think the world begins and ends with them that's one of the many reasons we can't stand them when they come over here claiming to be Irish (LoL). we're more than happy to swindle them out of their cash though it's easy pickings.