Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/339

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The European Sky -God. 325

goddess Brigit, daughter of the Dagda.^ St. Brigit or St. Bridget, her canonical name-sake, is said^ to have loved and blessed a certain very high oak-tree, the trunk of which was still standing at the close of the tenth century and was regarded as so sacred that no one dared to cut it with a weapon. Under this oak St. Brigit built her cell, calling it Kildare, i.e. Cill-dara, ' the Church of the Oak.' A perpetual fire of extraordinary sanctity was maintained there in her honour down to the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII.^ St. Brigit's festival falls on February i, the eve of Candlemas ; and the Candlemas bonfires and illuminations, like the fire-ritual of Beltaine and Samain,^ are almost certainly sun-charms.^ Note also that in Ireland small crosses, resembling the Maltese, are made of wheaten or oaten straw on February 2 and stuck somewhere in the roof, especially in the angles and over the doors — witness the old

couplet :

St. Bridget's cross, hung over door. Which did the house from fire secure.®

Such crosses are often shaped like the swastika'^ and may fairly be interpreted as solar in character. St.

^ D'Arbois Vdpopiie celtique p. 433 f. , Squire Mythology of the British Islands p. 78.

-According to Joyce Irish Names of Places ed. 2 p. 109 f., Animosus, the writer of the fourth Life of St. Brigid published by Colgan states : ' That cell is called in Scotic, Cill-dara, which in Latin sounds Cella-quercfcs. For a very high oak stood there, which Brigid loved much, and blessed it ; of which the trunk still remains ; and no one dares cut it with a weapon.'

Mr. D. Fitzgerald in the Revue celtique iv. 193 cites the distich — That Oak of Saint Bride, which nor Devil nor Dane, Nor Saxon nor Dutchman could rend from her fane. — and observes that 'a lizard appears at foot of the oak, the crest of the Vi Duinn, who claim Saint Brigit as their kinswoman.'

^ P. W. Joyce A Social History of Ancient Ireland London 1903 i. 335, J. G. Frazer Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship London 1905 p. 222 ff.

  • Folk-lore xvii. 30, 58, 64 f. ^ Frazer Golden Bough ed. 2 iii. 248, 300 ff.

^Lean Collectanea ii. i. 417 f.

^ My informant is Prof. A. C. Haddon, who possesses a series of these crosses.