American Gods Wiki
American Gods Wiki

I only met Mad Sweeney twice, alive. The first time I thought he was a world class jerk with the devil in him. The second time I thought he was a major fuckup and I gave him the money to kill himself. He showed me a coin trick I don't remember how to do, gave me some bruises, and claimed he was a leprechaun. Rest in peace, Mad Sweeney.

Shadow Moon at his wake, Chapter Eight

Mad Sweeney is a leprechaun.


Mad Sweeney is originally from Ireland where he was guardian of a sacred rock over three thousand years ago. He was brought to America by a girl from Bantry Bay and eventually lost his accent after living in America for so long.

Significance in narrative[]

Chapter Two[]

Mad Sweeney arrives at Jack's Crocodile Bar in Nottamun and joins Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. Shadow begins doing a coin trick and Mad Sweeney then performs his own coin trick, making gold coins magically appear from all over and collecting them into an empty glass. He drops the coins into his pocket where they disappear once more. Shadow is impressed and thinks it is a variation on the "Miser's Dream." Sweeney challenges Shadow to fight him and he'll reveal how he did the trick. When Shadow won't accept the terms, Sweeney starts a fight anyway. Later, Shadow discovers Mad Sweeney had given him a gold coin. It is this coin that raises Laura Moon from the grave.

Chapter Eight[]

Shadow again encounters Mad Sweeney in Cairo, IL. Shadow goes out for a walk in the early morning after it had snowed the night before. He sees Mad Sweeney under a bridge smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. He asks Mad Sweeney what is wrong, and Sweeney says that he made a major mistake. He refers to the coin he gave Shadow when they first met at the bar, the coin that Shadow gave to Laura, and says that it was the wrong coin, reserved only for royalty. He asks Shadow to give him the coin back and tells him he’d give him as many coins as he wants, but Shadow explains that he no longer has the coin. Sweeney explains that Wednesday had asked him to pick a fight with Shadow at the bar to see “what he was made of”, and warns him against working for Wednesday, who he refers to as Grimnir. He is also shivering, and Shadow recognizes the shiver of a junkie in withdrawal. Mad Sweeney asks for some money for “a ticket out of here”, and Shadow gives him a twenty.

When he returns, Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel are hosting a service for Lila Goodchild, and they ask Shadow to pick up a body the police phoned about. When he arrives at the site, he sees Mad Sweeney frozen with a twenty-dollar bottle of whiskey in his lap. On the way back to the funeral home, Mad Sweeney talks to him, saying that Shadow killed him. Shadow, however, insists that it’s the cold and the alcohol that killed him, not Shadow. Sweeney also asks that he get one more meal.

That night, Shadow, Ibis, and Jacquel set an extra place on the table and pour everyone expensive Irish whiskey. Ibis tells Mad Sweeney's story: he was made to protect a precious stone in Ireland, and was brought to America by a young Irish girl looking for a place to make money. They all get drunk to the point that Sweeney starts adding to the conversation and Sweeney reminds Shadow how to do the coin trick: you take the coin out of nowhere, out of the hoard, and out of your mind.

Physical appearance[]

Mad Sweeney is described as having a short, red beard and mustache with "pale blue eyes." He is lanky and taller than Shadow, who has to look up at him.

  • He wears a denim jacket covered with sew-on patches, one of them showing two vultures on a dead branch and beneath them, the words PATIENCE MY ASS! I'M GOING TO KILL SOMETHING!
  • He wears a T-shirt which says: IF YOU CAN'T EAT IT, SMOKE IT, OR SNORT IT...THEN F*CK IT! and a baseball cap which states: THE ONLY WOMAN I HAVE EVER LOVED WAS ANOTHER MAN'S WIFE... MY MOTHER!


Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Graphic novel

Notes and trivia[]

  • Mr. Ibis reveals that Mad Sweeney is the American version of Shuibhne Mac Colmain, a Medieval Irish ruler.
    • Mad Sweeney started out as the guardian of a sacred rock in a small Irish glade over three thousand years ago. His madness gave him power.
    • Most Irish focused on local myths such as the Bean Sidhe, the banshee, who came to wail at the walls of a house where death soon would be, and Saint Bride, who was once Bridged of the two sisters (each of the three was a Brigid, each was the same woman), and the tales of Finn, of Oisin, of Conan the Bald, and the leprechauns (which were actually the tallest, not the smallest, of the mount folk).
  • He smokes Lucky Strikes.
  • He drinks Southern Comfort and Coke instead of Guinness.
  • Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab created a perfume oil inspired by Mad Sweeney for their "American Gods" line. It is described as: Barrel-aged whiskey and oak.
  • When American Gods was adapted as a television series, Neil Gaiman sent to the production team of the show a long email in which he explained the full backstory of Mad Sweeney "starting as a God and being a King and a bird and other things on the way..." [1]