Curious Cromlech and Druidic Relics in Cork

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter I-8 | Start of chapter

A very remarkable Cromlech or Druid's altar of immense size stands on the banks of the river Coman, within the pleasure-grounds of the castle, and numerous single pillar-stones, inscribed with ancient Ogham characters, and other Druidic relics, abound in the neighbourhood. These monolith pillars, so commonly met with in Ireland, are now generally admitted to be of Pagan origin, and as they are frequently to be found in the neighbourhood of those circles of stone which are supposed to have been consecrated to the purposes of sun-worship, there is every reason to conclude that they were in some way connected with the religious mysteries of the primeval inhabitants of Ireland, although the precise nature of that religion still remains buried in obscurity, in order, it might seem, to give to the antiquarians a debateable ground on which to create numerous fanciful theories. The resemblance of the single stone pillar to the Round Towers of Ireland, appears to favour the hypothesis of their affinity, in being both intended to represent visible images of the Deity; and should a perfect elucidation of the early system of religion in Ireland be ever obtained, there is little doubt that it will afford a key to the origin and intention of the cromlechs, stone circles, pillars, temples, rocking-stones, and other gigantic but apparently objectless works, usually termed Druidical, so abundantly scattered over the country.

Besides those massive stone pillars, which it is imagined were devoted to the ceremonies of religion, there are others which seem to have been merely sepulchral monuments; but these latter are distinguished by being wrought by man's art into a conical summit, whereas the former are wholly unwrought. Urns, containing human bones, ashes, and other funeral remains, are found at the base of the monumental pillars, and sometimes within the circles of upright stones. Dr. Ledwich quotes a law of Odin, which directed "great stones to be erected on and round the sepulchre of the deceased; and the rule was, that a single circle round the base of the barrow indicated it to be the tomb of some chieftain or general, and there sacrifices were performed in memory of the deceased." But it is apparent that these sepulchral stones were of a totally distinct character from those erected for the celebration of religious rites, and also from those circles and stones which it is believed were used for purposes of inauguration and judicature.