Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/338

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324 The European Sky -God.

county,^ it may be that these oaks with white-spotted leaves were the Cornish substitute for mistletoe-bearing oaks; and it is of interest to note that they were thus related to their owners. Still more significant is that relation, when the speckled oak is said to be in sympathy with a king. 'At Boconnoc, near Lostwithiel/ says Miss M. A. Courtney,^ ' not long ago stood the stump of an old oak, in which, in 1644, when Charles I. made this seat his head-quarters, the royal standard was fixed. It bore variegated leaves. According to tradition, they changed colour when an attempt was made to assassinate the king while he was receiving the sacrament under its branches. The ball passed through the tree, and a hole in its trunk was formerly pointed out in confirmation of the story.'

We have now passed in review the scattered indica- tions, which go to prove that among the Insular Celts, Gaelic and British alike, the king was originally believed to discharge the role of the sky-god or sun-god and that in this capacity he was thought to stand in a peculiar relation to the sky-god's tree (apple or oak), a portion of which (apple-branch or oak-mistletoe) he was entitled to bear.

In Christian times the divine king was succeeded by the saint.^ As the former mounted guard over his sacred tree, so the latter dwelt beneath its hallowed boughs. The records of Celtic saints, if searched for the purpose, would probably yield many details of pagan import. For example, Bres, king of the Tuatha De Danann and successor of Nuada,"^ was married to the ancient Irish

white, as another, called Painter's Oak, grows in the hundred of East. Some are of opinion that divers ancient families of England are preadmonished by oaks bearing strange leaves.' Cp. J. Evelyn Silva York 1776 p. 75 ff-

^ R. Polwhele The History of Cornwall Falmouth 1803 i.

"^ M. A. Courtney Cornisk Feasts and Folk-lore p. 104.

^See e.g. Folk-lore xvii. 42 ff. * Folk-lore xvii. 45 f.