Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/78

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68 The European Sky -God.

The yew of Ross was also the 'faggot (f) of sages ' ; and in the Irish tale entitled the Adventures of the Lad of the Ferule'^ the hero can always boil a cauldron by means of three magical billets of yew, which he carries with him.

If, as I have urged, these sacred trees {bile) were the visible symbols of the sky-god in his darker aspect {Balar, Belt, Bile), we should expect to find them con- nected with priestly kings; for the sky-god, whether bright or dark, must needs have his human representative. In point of fact the one thing stated of all five bile is just this connexion with a king or kings : —

according to one account were hid- den until the birth of Conn of the Hundred Battles :

according to another account were first seen in the time of the sons of Ugaine.

according to one account fell to- gether in the time of the sons of Aed Slane.

According to another account the oak of Mugna fell in the time of Domnall son of Murchad.

The oak of Mugna The ash of Dathe The ash of Tortu The yew of Ross

The oak of Mugna The ash of Uisnech The ash of Tortu

The naming of these kings is no mere method of dating. Such a phrase as ' it was for a long while hidden until the birth of Conn' implies a sympathy between the tree and the king, of which we shall see other examples. Bile and Beli, who bore the name of the sacred tree, were respectively king of Spain and king of Britain. Moreover, there was, we may be sure, a meaning in the metaphor by which the term bile was applied to a prince.^

1 Ed. by Douglas Hyde in Irish Texts Society London 1 899 i. 4 ff. ^K. Meyer Contrib. to Irish Lex. i. 216 s.v. 'bile,' 'metaph. of a prince: bill tortm bfer mBrefni, H. 3. 18, p. 769. in bile biiada, LL. 307^39.'