Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/448

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432 The European Sky-God.

As king of the Fianna Finn led a woodland life, and his followers were subjected to tests that were worthy of a King of the Wood. In The Enumeration of Finns People^ we read :

' No man was taken till in the ground a large hole had been made (such as to reach the fold of his belt) and he put into it with his shield and a fore-arm's length of a hazel stick. Then must nine warriors, having nine spears, with a ten furrows' width betwixt them and him, assail him and in concert let fly at him. If past that guard of his he were hurt then, he was not received into Fianship.

Not a man of them was taken till his hair had been interwoven into braids on him and he started at a run through Ireland's woods ; while they, seeking to wound him, followed in his wake, there having been between him and them but one forest bough by way of interval at first. Should he be overtaken, he was wounded and not received into the Fianna after. If his weapons had quivered in his hand, he was not taken. Should a branch in the wood have disturbed anything of his hair out of its braiding, neither was he taken. If he had cracked a dry stick under his foot [as he ran] he was not accepted. Unless that [at his full speed] he had both jumped a stick level with his brow, and stooped to pass under one even with his knee, he was not taken. Also, unless without slackening his pace he could with his nail extract a thorn from his foot, he was not taken into Fianship : but if he performed all this he was of Finn's people.

A good man verily was he that had those Fianna, for he was the seventh king ruling Ireland : that is to say there were five kings of the provinces, and the king of Ireland ; he being himself the seventh, conjointly with the king of all Ireland. '

I would suggest that the stringent rules of the Fianna are best understood as survivals from a time when the King of the Wood was expected to be a man physically perfect, who could face all comers in the fight. Further, to judge from the sentence that I have italicised together with the myth concerning the defence of Tara summarised above,'^ the king of the Fianna was an a/ter ego to the king of all Ireland. Indeed, Finn in a folk-tale is even called 'the monarch of Erin.'^ It may be surmised that, since the

^ S. H. O'Grady Silva Gadelica ii. lOO, Lady Gregory Gods and Fighting Men p. 169 f., Squire Mythology of the British Islands p. 207. "^ Stipra p. 429 f. ^ Curtin Myths and Folk- Lore of Ireland p. 232 ff.