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Mt. Croach Patrick

Listed under Sacred Spaces in West Coast Ireland, Ireland.

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Rising to 2510 feet, the quartzite peak of Croach Patrick was a pagan sacred place long before the arrival of Christianity. Neolithic foundations have been found on the summit as well as prehistoric rock art along the pilgrimage trail to the peak. For the Celtic peoples of Ireland the mountain was the dwelling place of the deity Crom Dubh and the principal site of the harvest festival of Lughnasa, traditionally held around August 1. According to Christian stories, St. Patrick visited the sacred mountain during the festival time in 441 AD and spent forty days banishing dragons, snakes, and demonic forces from the site. Were there dragons and demonic forces actually living atop this mountain, or does the legend have a metaphorical rather than a literal meaning?

To shed light on this matter it is important to know something of the person known as St. Patrick. Patrick is not actually Irish. Born in Britain around 385 AD, captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland, he later escaped to Europe. Spending some years studying at the monastery of St. Martin of Tours in France and ordained as a priest, he decided to return to Ireland to undertake the conversion of the Celtic pagans. Arriving in Ireland in 432 AD, Patrick spent thirty years traveling about the countryside, introducing Christianity and establishing churches and monastic foundations upon many Druidic sacred sites, which were themselves often situated upon far more ancient megalithic sites.

Patrick later retired to Glastonbury, England, where he died at the age of 111. It was common for early Christians to view pagan religious practices as devil worship; thus the legend of Patrick slaying dragons and demonic forces on the sacred mountain is actually a metaphor for his subjugation and conversion of the pagan priests. By the 7th century the mountain had become one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in all Ireland and currently nearly one million pilgrims climb to the summit each year, as many as forty thousand on the last Sunday in July.

Croach Patrick on the Sacred Sites Website.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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