In my hunting for ritual traditions for this time of year I’ve come across the cruel deity Crom Cruach. He was a pre-Christian God of Fertillity in Ireland who was propitiated with human sacrifice. His cult idol image was a gold figure surrounded by twelve stone or bronze figures. The first born child would be sacrificed to this idol in exchange for a good yield of milk and grain. An early King, Tigernmas, along with three quarters of his army, is said to have died while worshipping Crom on Samhain eve, commonly held on the 31st October.
Crom Cruach, the name possibly meaning “bloody crooked one”, “crooked stack of corn”, “crooked one of the mound”, or “bloody head”, was worshipped until St. Patrick destroyed his icon. According to medieval legend St. Patrick raised his crozier (the ornamental staff of high ranking catholics) and the central golden figure fell face down to the ground with the imprint of the crozier left on it. The other figures then sank into the earth. The demon that lived inside the image appeared but St. Patrick cursed him and cast him to hell.
A bonfire ritual practiced in parts of Scotland and Wales this time of year may once have involved human sacrifice. The practice involves a bonfire with each participating person placing a stone in a circle around the bonfire. Everyone then runs around the bonfire with a torch shouting and exulting. In the morning the stones are checked, if any have been mislaid the person who set down that stone wont see out the year.