Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/347

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The European Sky -God. 333

long ago worshipped as a god in the district' We have here what looks like a genuine trace of a divine king connected with an oak-tree and a wonder-working well. His cult seems to have survived down to the seven- teenth century; for as late as 1656^ the Dingwall pres- bytery was doing its best to prevent the people at Applecross^ from sacrificing bulls on August 25, a day dedicated to St. Mourie.^ At Gairloch too, bulls were sacrificed on his day and milk poured upon the hills. Contemporary records mention ' these poore ones who are called Mourie his derilans/ and again so-and-so ' quho receaves the sacrifices and off'erings upon accompt of Mourie his poore ones.'* Mr. J. A. Dixon derives the word derilans from the Gaelic deireoil, ' afflicted.' If so, he may be right in his conclusion that ' the lunatics would seem to have served as priests to the grove.' ^

It seems a far cry from the brilliant figures of Irish story. Bran and Cormac, Mael-Duin and Connla, with their silver branches and their golden apples, to ' these poore ones ' of stunted intellect subsisting on the charity of the country-side. But the history of religion has its Nebuchadnezzars. Was not the vice-roy of the sky-god at Nemi a run-away slave .■*

Now the rex Nemorensis, sword in hand, defended his sacred tree against all comers, thereby proving his

^Miss G. M. Godden in Folk-lore iv. 506.

^According to Irish tradition, St. Maelrubha founded Apurcrossan (Apple- cross in Ross-shire), where he died on April 21, 722 a.d. According to Scotch tradition, he was slain at Urquhart by a body of Norwegians and buried at Apurcrossan in 1024 A.D. See Rev. J. Gammack 'Maelrubha' in Smith- Wace Diet. Christ. Biogr. iii. 782.

^ Dean Reeves lac. cit. supposes that the name Mah-iiiiies led to confusion with St. Riiffus of Capua, wnose feast is August 27. Hence in a seventeenth century document Inchmaree is called ' the iland of St. Ruffus,' and fairs named after St. Maelrubha are held in Ross, Moray, Banff etc. in the last week of August or the first week of September. See Miss G. M. Godden in Folk-lore iv. 503 ff.

^ Ead. ib. p. 506. ^ Cited by Miss Godden ib.