328 The European Sky-God.
when St. Columcille was celebrating the Mass, a ball of fire like a comet was seen burning brightly on his head^; and we read more than once that there shone round him a golden light, bright as the sun, descending from the sky,^ or a gleam as of lightning,^ or a brilliance that others could not bear to look upon.* May we not conclude that the populace regarded St. Columbcille as a spiritual successor of the old oak-kings, who personated the sun-god, and ascribed to him miracles appropriate to them ? This would suit his descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages, king of Ireland,^ and might account for the extraordinary veneration in which his foundation at lona was held. Here he inaugurated Aedan, Dalriadic king of Scotland about 570^ A.D.; and hither for more than a thousand years came kings and chiefs, even from far-off Norway, to be buried, in order that their bones might mingle with the dust of the Holy Isle.'^ lona, where dwelt the saint of the oak-trees, was to the Christian what Emhain of the Apple-trees had been to the pagan.8
St. Kentigern, an older contemporary of St. Columb-
^ Adamnan Life of St. Columbkille, trans, from Dr. W. Reeves' text, Dublin 1875 p. 131.
"^ Id. ib. p. 132. '^ Id. ib. p. 133. '^ Id. ib. p. 134, cp. ib. p. 6 f.
^ Id. ib. p. 4. ^ Id. ib. p. 117 f.
The Duke of Argyll lona new ed. Edinburgh 1889 p. 87.
^The apple-tree too was connected with St. Columbcille. A certain very fruitful apple-tree near the monastery of Durrow, when blessed by him, changed its fruit permanently from a bitter to a sweet kind (Adamnan Life of St. Colwiibkille p. 63).
St. Serf, when on his way to Fife, threw his staff across the sea from Inchkeith to Culross : it there took root and became the famous apple-tree called Morglas (Folkard Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics pp. 130, 219). This incident reminds us on the one hand of the apple-branch borne by the Irish divine king, on the other hand of St. Ninian's staff which, when planted, grew into a considerable tree with a healing spring at its base (A. P. Forbes, Bishop of Brechin, Lives of S. Ninian and S. Kentigern Edinburgh 1874 p. 19 ff.). See further J. M. Mackinlay Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs p. 235.