Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/346

This page needs to be proofread.

332 The European Sky-God.

speaks of the former as a bare branchless oak with coins, nails, screws etc. stuck into cracks in its stem, and of the latter as a small dark hole at its foot. Twenty years since it used to be said that 'if anyone removes an offering that has been attached to the tree, some mis- fortune, probably the taking fire of the house of the desecrator, is sure to follow.' ^ Now St. Maree was the well known Ulster saint Maelrubha (642-722 A.D,), whose name ran through the following series of forms : Mael- rubha, Malriibiiis, Malriibe, Mulray, Motirie, Moury, Maree? He was 'the most popular saint of the north of Scotland,' ^ and is said to have been descended, like St. Columcille, from Niall of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland.* In fact, he was a most likely person to step into the shoes of an old priestly-king. When Pennant suggested that St. Maree took over an ancient druidical cult, he was well on the right track. I should conjecture that, living beneath his sacred oak on the island in Loch Maree the Christian saint received all the honours due to the Celtic man-god. In support of this conjecture I would cite Sir Arthur Mitchell, a most careful enquirer, who mentions some very remarkable facts with regard to the local prestige of our saint. Writing in i860 he says^: ' The people of the place speak often of the god Mourie instead of St. Mourie.' And an old man in the locality told him that the island's name 'was originally Eilean- Mo-Righ (the Island of my King), or Eilean-a-Mhor-Righ (the Island of the Great King), and that this king was

^J. A. Dixon Gairloch Edinburgh 1886, cited by Miss Godden ib. p. 499.

2 Dean Reeves ' Saint Maelrubha : his history and churches ' in the Pro- ceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Y^d^mbxyt.^ 1861 iii. 258-296.

^ Rev. J. Gammack ' Maelrubha ' in Smith-Wace Dictionary of Christian Biography iii. 782.

  • Dean Reeves loc. cit.

^Sir A. Mitchell 'The Various Superstitions in the N.W. Highlands and Islands of Scotland, especially in relation to Lunacy ' in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Edinburgh 1862 iv. 254 n. 3.