Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/68

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58 The European Sky- God.

connected rather with an apple-tree, and Nuada perhaps both with apples and with nuts.

Nuada, god of the summer-sky, was slain by Balar at Samain, the beginning of the Celtic winter.^ Allhallow Even, the night before Samain, was indeed a critical time, when the powers of the sky-god or sun-god needed to be replenished. Hence the various sun-charms that are still kept up in Ireland on the eve of November i. The evening is known as Snap -apple Night or Nut- crack Night. My friend Mr. W. M. Coates, Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, tells me that as a boy in Ireland he used to celebrate Snap-apple Night in the following way. Crossed sticks bearing an apple and a lighted candle at opposite ends were hung by a cord and set spinning : those who took part in the fun had to snap at the apple as it passed, with a chance of getting a mouthful of candle. The crossed sticks in this pastime were doubtless originally one form of the solar wheel : the apple may have symbolised the sun itself. Nuts too are often burnt by the Irish on Nut-crack Night, and love-omens drawn from the way in which they crack or jump.^

In the self-same battle Lug slew Balar, the slayer of Nuada, struck off his head, and hung it in the fork of a hazel-tree. The tree split, and the leaves fell from it by reason of the poison that dripped from the head. For fifty years that tree was a dwelling-place of crows and ravens. Then Manannan mac Lir passed by and bade his men to dig it up. They did so, though thrice nine of them were killed or blinded by the poisonous mist that rose up from its roots. Luchtaine the carpenter made a shield of the hazel-wood for Manannan, who gave it, and a set of chessmen along with it, to Tadg,

^ Supra p. 29 f.

^J. Brand Popular Antiquities of Great Britain enlarged by Sir H. Ellis London 1849 i. 377 ff.