Tag Archives: lugnasad

The Good People’s Question to Saint Patrick

Usually Crom Dubh is seen as an adversary and possibly a forgotten deity (or demon, depending on your point of view), and Patrick is often seen doing battle to subdue the mighty Crom Dubh. This tale tells a different story, with Crom Dubh a mere mortal who meets the Good Folk as he carries out his duties; just one of the many permutations of the tale that tries to explain the origins of Dómhnach Chroim Duibh. Maire MacNeill’s The Festival of Lughnasa has a collection of many different versions in the appendix of her fantastic book, which is well worth a read.

This particular tale was collected in Limerick:

Saint Patrick had a serving man called Crom Dubh, and he sent him out one day to get wood for the fire for cooking; for ail the beggars of the country used to be fed at Saint Patrick’s house. Crom Dubh met some people who offered to draw the wood for him if he would put a question to his master at the moment of the Elevation in the Mass. Crom Dubh did so on the Sunday following. “A Phádraig,” he said, “gad é an úair a ra’ig na Slúagh Sídhe go Parrathas?” (Patrick, what time will the Slúagh Sídhe go to Paradise?) “Donas dúbhais air t’oide múinteadha”, said Saint Patrick, “ní ra’ig síad go Lá an Breitheamhantais go háirighthe (Grief and ill-luck to your teacher, they’ll not go there till the Day of Judgment, for certain).”

Before that the Good People used to put the sickles in the corn and the spades in the ground, and spade and sickle used to be seen working for men without visible assistance ; but thenceforward the Sidhfir [sic] would do nothing. That question was put on the last Sunday in July, and ever since, that day (or the first Sunday in August, it sometimes is) is called in Ireland, Dómhnach Chroim Duibh or Crom Dubh’s Sunday.

(Old woman from Askeaton, 30 march 1879.)

David Fitzgerald, ‘Popular Tales of Ireland,‘ in Revue Celtique Volume IV, 1880, p175.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,


There is a well-known body of Irish placename lore called the Dindshenchas, which can be found in several different Irish manuscripts. The best known Dindshenchas tales are perhaps the Metrical Dindshenchas, which were translated by Edward Gwynn, and these can be found online in four volumes. There are also prose versions, which Whitley Stokes translated in a further four volumes. The following Dinnshenchas tales are from the lesser-known Edinburgh manuscript, which is dated to the fifteenth century. The selection of tales I’ve chosen relate to several well-known gods of the Irish landscape and also offer slightly different versions of the Dinnshenchas, some of which can only be found in the Edinburgh manuscript.

This tales recounts the tragedy of Lug’s foster-mother Tailtiu, and the origins of Lugnasad, ‘the assembly of Lug’. Tailtiu is identified with Teltown in Meath.

Mag Tailten, whence is it ?

Not hard (to say). Tailltiu, daughter of Maghmor, King of Spain, wife of Eochaid the Rough, son of Dua the Dark-grey. She was Lugh mac Ethlenn’s foster-mother, and ’tis she that used to dig the plain. Or ’tis there that she died. On the first day of autumn her tomb was built, and her lamentation was made and her funeral game was held by Lugh [whence we say Lughnasadh, “Lammastide”. Five hundred years and a thousand before Christ’s birth was that, and that assembly was held by every king who took Ireland until Patrick came, and there were five hundred assemblies in Tailtiu from Patrick down to the Black Assembly of Donnchad, son of Flann, son of Maelsechlainn]. And these are the three tabus of Tailtiu: crossing it without alighting; looking at it over one’s left shoulder when coming from it ; idly casting at it after sunset. Whence Magh Tailten, “Taltiu’s Plain.”

Taltiu, slow Magmor’s daughter,
‘Tis she that cut down the forest.
Lugh’s foster-mother, men declare,
The place of this assembly (is) round Tailtiu.

Whitley Stokes, ‘The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas‘, in Folklore IV, 1893, p486-487.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,