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St Patrick

36 37 croagh PatrIck a sacred mountain Croagh Patrick or the Reek, overlooking Clew Bay in Mayo, is the greatest pilgrimage centre associated with Patrick, and possibly also the source of prehistoric Irish gold. Tirechns Patrick came with hundreds of followers, built a cairn over his charioteers grave, after a pagan had killed him, and spent forty days on the Reek, like Moses or Christ, while mighty birds flew round him so he could see neither sky, sea nor land. By the eighth century hymn the birds were angelic. They sang and beat a lake with their wings so it sparkled like silver. A century later they were demonic. Patrick rang Saint Brigids bell at them, threw it and a piece broke off. Until the last of the Geraghty family emigrated about 1840 they were guardians of this battered bell, the Clog Dubh. Pilgrims had to kiss it and pass it three times round their bodies before climbing the Reek. Patrick also defeated the devils mother here, the serpent Corra, and women wanting babies spent the night on a boulder, his bed. The pilgrimage is on Domhnach Chrom Dubh, the last Sunday of July. Crom Dubh is a god usually disguised as a pagan lord, and the date concerns the pagan feast of Lughnasa, the old harvest festival.
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