Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/79

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69
The European Sky-God.


Again, the allusion to a poet in four cases out of five is not without significance:—

The oak of Mugna was cast down by Ninine the poet.

The ash of Dathe killed the poet Dathen.

The ash of Tortu seems to have been the residence of the poet Bimudine.

The yew of Ross was hymned at length by the poet Druim Suithe.

Remembering the very close connexion between the poets {fileadh) and the druids of ancient Ireland,[1] we may fairly infer that these sacred trees were so many centres of a definitely organised cult.

Further, some explanation must be provided of the fact that the word bile came to mean 'a champion.' The latest Irish-English Dictionary, that by the Rev. P. S. Dinneen,[2] attributes the following senses to the word: 'a mast; a tree, esp. in a fort or beside a holy well; a large tree; a scion, a progenitor, a champion.' The full force of this signification we are not yet in a position to explain. But in the meantime I would observe that the wood of the sacred tree was sometimes at least used for the fabrication of a hero's shield or spear. From the wood of Balar's hazel a shield was made for Manannan, from whom it came to Tadg, and ultimately to Finn.[3] A poem by Dalian Forgaill 'Upon the arms of Duach Dubh, king of Oirgiall' states that the shaft of Duach's spear was formed of the yew of Ross.[4] Another poem by the same author 'Upon the shield of Hugh, king of Oirgiall' informs us further that Hugh, son of Duach,

  1. O'Curry Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish ii. 48 ff. Prof. O'Curry states (ib. p. 48) that 'it very often happened that these two characters (sc. poet and druid) were united in the same person.'
  2. P. S. Dinneen An Irish-English Dictionary London 1904 s.v. 'bile.'
  3. Supra p. 58 f.
  4. Transactions of the Ossianic Society for 1857 Dublin 1860 v. 12 f.