Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/351

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

The European Sky-God. 337

a challenge to single fight, one who had powers and responsibilities somehow connected with the sun — posing perhaps as champion and consort of a sun-goddessJ But, it will be said, if Cuchulain was a second Virbius, where was his sacred tree ? We naturally turn to Emain. In this palace of the Ulster kings the three principal forts were called the Royal Branch {Craehh Ruadh), the Red Branch {Craebh Derg), and the Speckled House {Teite Brec)} But the word Craebh is constantly used in place- names of a sacred tree. Dr. Joyce ^ writes: 'Craebh [crave] signifies either a branch or a large wide-spreading tree. This name, like bile, was given to large trees, under whose shadow games or religious rites were celebrated, or chiefs inaugurated ; and we may conclude that one of these trees formerly grew wherever we find the word perpetuated in a name.' Hence it appears that a sacred tree or trees formed the nucleus of the palace at Emain ; and it becomes highly probable that the Red Branch knights of Ulster succeeded to the position once occupied by champions of the sacred tree.*

'^ lb. xvii. 163.

-Miss E. Hull The CuchiiUin Saga p. 36 n. i.

^ P. W. Joyce The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places ed. 2 p. 483.

•* After reaching this conclusion I found that I had been to some extent anticipated by Miss E. Hull, who in Folk-lore xii. 438 suggests that the three halls of Emain were called the Royal Branch, the Red Branch, and the Speckled House, while the knights of the king were styled Champions of the Royal Branch, because of the 'Apple-tree of Emain.' The golden apples of Conchobar's sceptre {Folk-lore xvii. 160) and the 'apple-tree from Emain' on Manannan's isle [ib. p. 143 f.) certainly support this conjecture. On the other hand, Conchobar's palace was built of red yew (D'Arbois Vepopie celtique p. 12, Lady Gregory Cuchulain of Muirtketnne p. 43, though Douglas Hyde A Literary History of Ireland ■^. 295 says red oak); and, if the folk-etymology of Emain from E6-tnuin (O'Curry Manuscript Materials pp. 71 f., 528) con- tains a germ of truth, we might refer the first element in the name to E6, 'a yew-tree' (Joyce Irish Na}nes of Places ed. 2 p. 568), as well as to E6, 'a brooch.' When Cuchulain met Fand beneath a yew-tree {Folk-lore xvii. 150),