Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/455

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

The Europemi Sky -God. 439

could seize on any one who ate three of its berries, but he felt the exhilaration of wine and the satisfying of old mead,^ and were it at the age of a century he that tasted them would return again to be thirty years old. When the Tuatha De Danann heard that these powers belonged to the quicken-tree, they sent the Searbhan Lochlannach, a youth of their own people, to guard it. He was a thick-boned, large-nosed, crooked-tusked, red- eyed, swart-bodied giant of the children of wicked Cam, the son of Naoi,^ whom neither weapon could wound, nor fire burn, nor water drown. He had but one eye in the middle of his forehead ; he wore a thick collar of iron round his body ; and he was fated not to die till he should be struck thrice with his own iron club. He slept in the top of the quicken-tree by night, and remained at its foot by day to watch it. Moreover he made a wilderness of the cantreds around, so that Finn and the Fianna dared not hunt there for fear of him.

Undeterred by these explanations, the men who wished to join the Fianna sought out Diarmuid and challenged him to fight. Diarmuid fought them and bound them both. Hereupon Grainne, who was already pregnant, declared that she should die unless she tasted the berries of the quicken-tree. Diarmuid repaired to Searbhan, and found him asleep. He waked him with a stroke of his

^ Prof. Rhys Hibbert Lectures p. 359 conjectures ' that the berries of the rowan were used in some early period in the brewing of an intoxicating drink, or, better still, of the first intoxicating drink ever known to the Teuto-Celtic Aryans.' This is in part confirmed by J. Cameron Gaelic Names of Plants Edinburgh 1883 p. 24, who says of the rowan-tree : 'The Highlanders formerly used to distil the fruit into a very good spirit.' Similarly J. Evelyn Silva York 1776 p. 219 : ' Some highly commend the juice of the berries, which, fermenting of itself, if well preserved, makes an excellent drink against the spleen and scurvy : Ale and beer brewed with these berries, being ripe, is an incomparable drink, familiar in Wales, where this tree is reputed so sacred, that there is not a church-yard without one of them planted in it (as among us the Yew).'

■I.e. 'Ham or Cham, the son of Noah' (O'Grady op. cit. p. 120 n. i).