Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/40

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


30 The European Sky-God.

What was the original character and significance of Nuada ? The Tuatha De Danann, over whom he ruled, are said to have come to Ireland enveloped in clouds or borne on the wings of the wind ; and, according to the oldest version of the tale, it was from the sky that they descended upon the favoured land.^ On this showing Nuada was a sky-god of some sort. Further, they reached Ireland on May i, the feast of Beltaine, the first day of the Celtic summer ; and the battle in which Nuada was slain began on November i, the feast of Samain, the first day of the Celtic winter.^ This suggests that Nuada was a god of the summer sky. Lastly, the ritual of Beltaine, when the druids of Erin made two fires and drove cattle between them as a safeguard against the diseases of the year,^ and the ritual of Samain, at which all the hearths in Ireland were supplied with fresh fire from a common centre at Tlachtga,* are almost certainly solar,^ and support Professor Rhys' contention that Nuada was somehow connected with the sun.^

Among the Greeks Zeus the sky-god became Zeus the storm-god and so passed by easy transitions into a god of rivers and even of the sea.'^ Similarly among the Italians Jupiter was sky-god, storm-god, river-god, sea- god.^ Possibly the Irish Nuada underwent the same successive changes. His powers as a storm-god are perhaps attested by the tradition of his invincible sword,^ which, like the sword of Zeus Chrysaorios, Zeus

^ D'Arbois Cycle mythologique pp. 141 f., 159.

"^ Id. ib. pp. 158, 180. ^Rhys Hibbert Lectures p. 520.

^ Id. ib. p. 515, W. G. Wood-Martin Traces of the Elde7- Faiths of Ireland London 1902 i. 280 f.

^J. G. Frazer The Golden Bough ed. 2 1900 iii. 30x3 ff.

®Rh5^s Hibbert Lectures p. 124 'a divinity of the sun and of light.'

' Folk-lore xv. 265 fif. ^ Ib. xvi. 260 ff.

^ The Battle of Mag Tured 5 in D'Arbois Vipopie celtique en Irlande Paris 1892 i. 403.