The name “Cromleac”[1] signifies the stone of Crom: and these stones were so called from being used in the worship of Crom (the chief deity of the Pagan Irish), said to represent Fate; or, according to Lanigan and others, the God of fire or the sun, and sometimes called Crom Dubh or Black Crom, and Crom Cruagh or Crom of the Heaps (of stones, or cairns); and the last Sunday in summer is still, in the Irish-speaking localities of Ireland, called Domhnach Chroim Dubh [Dona Crom Duff] or the Sunday of Black Crom; being sacred to St. Patrick as the anniversary commemorating the destruction of that idol on Moy Slaght, now Fenagh in the county Leitrim. These cromleacs were Druidical altars on which the Druids offered up sacrifices to Crom, and very often human victims; and they were also used as sepulchral monuments: for, on excavating under them, funeral urns and remains of human bones have been found; and by the uneducated in Ireland the cromleacs are generally called “giants’ graves.”

The chief deities of the Druids were the sun, moon, stars, and winds; and woods, wells, fountains, and rivers, were also objects of adoration. The sun was worshipped under the designation of Bel, Beal, or Baal, as by the Phoenicians and other eastern nations; and also under the name of Grian. The oak was a sacred tree to the Druids, and the rites of Druidism were chiefly celebrated in the oak groves; and the name Druid, in Irish Draoi or Drui, is supposed to be derived from the Irish “Dair” or “Duir,” which signifies the oak; or, according to others, it was derived from the Greek word “Drus,” an oak tree; and to others, from the Gaulish word Derw or Deru, which also signified an oak. By Cæsar and other Roman writers, the Gaulish word for Druids was rendered Druidæ and Druides; and by modern Latin writers the word “Druids” has been often translated Magi. Three of the Tua-de-Danan kings of Ireland were named from their peculiar deities: one was called MacCoill or the Son of the Wood, as he worshipped the woods; another MacCeacht or the Son of the Plough, his god being that chief emblem of husbandry; and the third MacGreine, as Grian or the Sun was the great object of his adoration.

The cromleacs are generally composed of from three or four, to six or seven huge pillar stones, standing upright and fixed deep in the earth on their smaller ends, and varying from five or six, to eight or ten feet in height, and on the top of them is placed a prodigious flag or table stone in a sloping position—one end being much higher than the other. This sloping position it was that gave rise to the popular opinion, that “cromleacs” were so called; but that opinion is found to be erroneous. These table stones are of enormous size, and some of them estimated to weigh from twenty to forty, or fifty tons; and as many of these cromleacs are situated on high hills, or in deep valleys, and other places of difficult access, and in several instances those stones have been conveyed for a distance of many miles—no such stones being found in the neighbourhood—these circumstances have naturally led to the belief, that the cromleacs were constructed by giants or a race of men of immense strength: and it would appear, that a race of men of gigantic strength were alone capable of placing those prodigious stones or immense fragments of rocks, in their position; for, it would be found extremely difficult to convey those huge stones any considerable distance, and place them in their position, even by the great power of modern machinery.


[1] Cromleacs: These Cromleacs, cromlechs, or altars are thoroughly Eastern and primitive. Such an altar Noah “builded unto the Lord;” such an altar God himself commanded—“If thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone, for if thou lift up the tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.” According to Kemp’s Monumenta Antiqua, cromleacs similar to those in Ireland existed in Syria; and similar cromleacs are still to be found in the East, which are commonly called “Altars of the Gentiles.”