Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/460

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444 '^^^^ Etiropean Sky -God.

Graine or ' Darb}^ and Graine's Bed,' ^ and several other cromlechs in the neighbourhood are known by the same name.^ But the folk-tale is chiefly valuable for the further light that it throws on the branch and the birds of the sacred tree. It will be remembered that at Nemi run-away slaves who succeeded in breaking a branch from the guarded tree might challenge the priestly king to a single combat ; and, as Servius puts it, ' the branch must needs be the reason of one man's death.' ^ Thanks to the Irish parallel, we can now see why whoso aspired to be King of the Wood at Nemi must first break a branch from Diana's tree. The berries of the quicken- tree at Dubhros (the mountain-ash of Doolas Woods) were the food of the Tuatha De Danann (the fairies of the land). As such they bestowed concentrated and super- natural strength upon the eater. For the time being he fed upon the food of the gods and himself posed as a god. Mael-Duin, who subsisted for 120 days on his Otherworld apple-branch,^ and Connla, who fed continually upon his Elysian apple,^ had a similar^ celestial diet and played a like celestial role. This makes it almost certain that the branch of the tree at Nemi was a branch bearing berries or apples of peculiar strength. Dr Frazer con- jectured that it was the mistletoe growing on an oak.'^ And this may well have been the case. For, apart from

^ S. Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland ed. 2 London 1847 ii. 179 s.v. ' Kiltubrid.'

^W. C. Borlase The Dolmens of Ireland London 1897 i. 193 ff.

^Serv. in Verg. Aen. 6. 136. '^Folk-lore xvii. 156, 169.

^ lb. xvii. 147, 154, 169.

^ E. Step Wayside and Woodland Trees London 1905 p. 106 says of the mountain-ash : ' The fruit are miniature apples, of the size of holly-berries, bright scarlet without and yellow within.' The fruit of the mountain-ash (pyrus aucuparia Gaert.) bears in fact a strong family resemblance to the small yellow and red fruit of the crab or wild apple (pyrus fnalus L.).

J. G. Frazer The Golden Bough ed. 2 iii. 449 ff.