Appendix I of Maire MacNeill’s The Festival of Lughnasa gives a detailed account of the many different tales associated with the festival. Some of them are more Paganish in context than others, so in the next few posts I’ll excerpt a couple of them.
This one has a couple of versions; the first version describes Crom Dubh as a tyrannical Protestant landlord who insisted on his tenants burning a bullock in his honour in celebration of his birthday, whereas this one describes him as a pagan and “a kind of a small god”; either way the resulting sacrifice is made in his honour, but eventually the practice shifted to a different day. The first version says it was when Crom died and the people built a bone-fire of old bones on St. John’s Eve to herald his end, but the following version evidently tries to reconcile the surviving practice of a “beef-animal” traditionally being killed at Martinmas (roughly coinciding with the Old Style date of Samhain):
Crom Dubh was a landlord, a pagan and a kind of a small god.1 Each year on the last Sunday of July each householder had to put the best beef-animal on his farm into a fire in Crom Dubh’s honour. That is why the days was called Domhnach Chrom Dubh. The animal was laid between two stone walls or stone heaps and the fire was lit beneath it. When the Catholics won they changed the feast to St. John’s Eve, and that was the night on which the beef was roasted afterwards. Some say it was to St. Martin’s Eve the change was made. Others say that Crom Dubh was a saint but they know no more about him.
Maire MacNeill, The Festival of Lughnasa, 1962 (2008), pp583-584.
1 The original Irish: Deirtear gur tighearna talmhan ab eadh Crom Dubh. Págánach a bhí ann, agus bhí an ghráin shaoghalta aige ar na Caitlicigh bochta.