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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.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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