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Essie: If you are who I think you are, I have no quarrel with you.
Mad Sweeney: Nor I with you. Although it was you that brought me here, you and a few others like you. Into this land with no time for magic, no place for faeries and such folk.
Essie: You have done me many a good turn.
Mad Sweeney: Good and ill. We're like the wind, we blows both ways.

Mad Sweeney and Essie MacGowan

"A Prayer for Mad Sweeney" is the seventh episode of the first season of American Gods and the seventh of the overall series. It debuted on June 11, 2017.


Following her brief reunion with Shadow, Laura turns to an unlikely travel companion to find her way back to life; Mad Sweeney's long, winding, and often-tragic past is explored.


Mr. Jacquel puts on a jazz record as he begins his mortician work on a corpse at Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor. Mr. Ibis enters the room, bringing Irish red ale for them to drink at the end of the workday. Mr. Jacquel wants to finish his work because he knows they will have two more bodies coming the next day. He sends Ibis away because Ibis "has a story to tell." Mr. Ibis begins writing when the phone rings to announce the two new bodies. As Jacquel answers the phone, Ibis continues writing his story about criminals being transported to the Americas as indentured servants. He tells how hundreds of years prior, Mad Sweeney approached the porch of a former indentured servant, Essie MacGowan of Ireland.

When Essie was a child, she would wait for her father's ship to return while her grandmother told her stories of faeries, púcas, banshees, and leprechauns. She warns Essie about the leprechauns who are too busy guarding their gold to do anything else but they should still leave the leprechauns gifts to receive their blessings.

As Essie grows older, she continues to leave gifts for the leprechauns while passing along the tales of the merry folk to the children in the house where she works. She shares a story about a time she was walking to a lighthouse and heard a hammering noise. She follows after it and becomes lost in the moors. She offers her bread to the leprechauns and falls asleep. When she wakes up, the bread is gone and she can see the lighthouse.

One time, Essie steals some bread and takes it out to the moors. She cuts a strand of hair and wraps it around the bread before she places a gold coin on top. She is giving an offering to the leprechauns in order to ask a favor of them. After she leaves, Mad Sweeney appears to receive the offering.

Essie begins an affair with Bartholomew, the son of the house, who is about to leave to Oxford. He gives her his grandmother's ring and promises to return at Christmas. The other maids catch her admiring her ring and tell the lady of the house who promptly accuses Essie of theft. When Bartholomew returns, his mother asks if he gave the ring to Essie. He doesn't admit to it so Essie is taken away and tried for theft. She is sentenced to seven years Transportation to the Carolinas.

While Essie is on the ship to the Americas, she leaves a crumb for the leprechauns. To escape being held captive with the other prisoners, she starts an affair with Captain Clark and convinces him to take her back to London. They marry and the Captain brings her home before leaving again eight weeks later. Once he leaves, Essie gathers all the valuables to sell and becomes a thief.

In present day, Mad Sweeney sleeps in the back of Salim's taxi. They stop at Derek Arnold Jr.'s ranch where there is a massive white buffalo statue for tourists to come visit. A Tatanka Ska had been born there but it died a year after it was born from a lightning strike so the visitors stopped coming. Sweeney tells Laura it's because they put the god in a "zoo." Salim brings out his prayer mat and Laura sits on the base of the buffalo statue to watch him pray. Sweeney goes out to a hedge and begins to relieve himself when a raven caws at him. He gets in an argument with the raven about how he is holding up his end of the bargain. Laura interrupts them and tells Sweeney they should let Salim go. Sweeney argues with her, accidentally revealing that all the gods are meeting up at the House on the Rock in Wisconsin. Laura lets Salim know that he can find his Jinn at the House on the Rock and Salim takes off in his taxi. While Sweeney breaks things in anger, Laura walks over to an ice cream truck to steal it. She explains to the driver that he can tell his boss he was robbed and Sweeney punches him to make him look like it.

In London, Essie has established herself as a shoplifter and thief. She continues to to leave gifts for the leprechauns who still visit her. As she grows wealthier, the more she forgets to leave gifts. One day, she is caught stealing lace and sent to Newgate, where she is charged for returning from Transportation and for theft.

While in prison, Essie strikes up a conversation with Mad Sweeney who is in the neighboring cell. Essie leaves a portion of her bread for the leprechauns as they chat about Transportation to the Americas. Sweeney reveals that he once had his share of gold and made sure the "King" received his share on time. Essie mentions a woman she met in the Americas named Susan even though that was not her original name. In America, everyone can be whoever they want. Essie longs for a content life with a home and someone to share it with. She tells Sweeney he should go to the Americas and "deliver gold to their king" even though the Americas doesn't have a king yet.

When Essie awakens the next morning, the cell next to her is empty. The warden offers her good food over the next twelve weeks before her trial in exchange for sex and she accepts. She is pregnant by the time she goes before the judge and is spared the noose and sent to the Americas instead. The ship ride over is miserable as people die around her. Essie gives birth to a son and becomes a wet nurse and maid for John Richardson. He is a Virginia farmer whose wife had died, leaving behind a baby daughter. As Essie nurses the babies, she tells them tales of the faerie folk.

Laura drives the ice cream truck while Sweeney shivers in the front seat. Sweeney explains that the man who will resurrect Laura will only do it for a favor, not any of Sweeney's gold. He has a hoard of gold from when he was once a king before becoming a bird and ultimately a leprechaun. He was supposed to go to war but saw his death on the battlefield and flew away instead. He is joining Wednesday's war now to make up for that. A white rabbit darts into the road and Laura swerves to miss it, flipping the ice cream truck and throwing Laura out the front windshield. The gold coin flies out of her chest and rolls along the road, stopping a few feet away.

On the farm, Essie regales the two toddlers with stories about spirits and why they leave food for the leprechauns to keep their blessings. John has developed feelings for her but she refuses him because even though she has feelings for him, she is his indentured servant. He frees her from her indenture and they marry. They have a son and Essie passes on her tales of leprechauns to their three children. John dies from a fever ten years later, leaving Essie to care for the farm on her own.

Over the years, Essie continues to leave food out for the leprechauns and shares her stories of leprechauns with her grandchildren. The tales frighten them and Essie is told keep the stories to herself. One evening while Essie is sitting on her porch, a man arrives.

Mad Sweeney awakens from the accident in the flipped ice cream truck. He sees Laura dead and lifeless before finding his gold coin on the side of the road. He picks it up and remembers the night Laura died. He was in the oncoming car and pulled over afterward, discovering Laura still barely alive on the ground. He tells a raven watching over the accident site that "it's done" as Laura's last breaths gurgle out.

In the present, Mad Sweeney curses in Old Irish at the sky before turning around and crouching down next to Laura's body. He places the coin on Laura's sternum and she returns to life with a punch to Sweeney's face. She flips the ice cream truck back over and is able to get it started again so they can proceed on their journey.

Mad Sweeney approaches an elderly Essie MacGowan on her porch. She doesn't recognize him at first so he tells her how he was brought to the New World by her and others like her. He shows her the gold coin she left for him long ago and offers her his hand. She accepts it and dies. Mr. Ibis finishes writing the tale of Essie and closes his journal.


Main cast[]

Guest starring[]






Inside The World- A Prayer for Mad Sweeney (Episode 7) - American Gods

Notes and trivia[]

  • The episode title is a reference to the novel by John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meaney. John narrates about his lifelong friendship with Owen, a boy who believes he has a special gift from God. The story starts out in present day before segueing to their childhood through high school and ending with Owen's death. John starts out disbelieving Owen is special but ultimately believes in him.
  • Púca are Irish spirits of both good and bad fortune.
  • The Aos Sí is a supernatural race similar to faeries and elves.
  • Samhain is a Gaelic seasonal festival celebrated from October 31st to November 1st.
  • Much of Essie's story is similar to that of Jenny Diver, an eighteenth century Irish woman who grew to notoriety in London as a leader of a gang of pickpockets. She was twice transported to the Americas and bribed her way back to London both times. When she was arrested a third time, she claimed she was pregnant but her sentence was not commuted and she was executed.
  • Mad Sweeney was a medieval Irish king who was cursed by St. Ronan to madness and wandering. On the eve of a battle, he is transformed into a bird and flees in derangement.
  • When Mad Sweeney shouts in Old Irish, the rough translation is: "Why does the shit always happen to me? Have I not suffered enough? I am not bad! I am not!!!"[1]
  • Bryan Fuller revealed that the ending of Essie's story was a reference to the ending of an episode of the Twilight Zone, named "Nothing in the Dark" [2]