The European Sky -God. 335
These concessions are ratified by Curoi, who shortly after returns home with the heads of Cuchulain's victims. In the sequel the vanquished warrior reappears one evening among the heroes of Ulster assembled in the Red Branch at Emain. He comes as a big uncouth staff-bearer, carry- ing a great spreading club-tree and a heavy axe, and offers to let any hero hew off his head, on condition that next night he may hew off the hero's head. Three of the company, including Laegaire and Conall, accept the chal- lenge, but, when the beheaded giant each time walks off with his head in his hands, fail through terror to keep their part of the compact. At length Cuchulain beheads him, and alone awaits his return. The stranger deals him a counter-blow, but with the blunt side of the axe,^ and bids him rise as acknowledged champion. He himself proves to be Curoi son of Daire, who had come on purpose to confirm his promises to Cuchulain.
So the warrior armed with oak-branches was none other than Curoi. Indeed, it is probable that Curoi son of Daire means Curoi son of 'Oak' (Irish dair)? Curoi with a branch of oak in his hand attacking Cuchulain, who defends himself with a sword, resembles the would-be king at Nemi with a branch in his hand attacking the sword-bearing successor of Virbius. And, be it observed, this attack formed the crowning test of fitness for the kingship of Ireland's warriors. It established Cuchulain's right to the golden cup decorated with a bird in precious stones, the significance of which we have already con- sidered.^ Further, Cuchulain, like Virbius, was a solar
^ Dr. Frazer has suggested to me that this business of pretended decapitation, of which we shall see another example ittfra, may well be the mythical counterpart of an actual custom.
^ D'Arbois L'epop^e celtique p. 506, La civilisation des Celtes p. 28, connects Daire with the Dario-s of Dario-ritum, on which see Dottin Manuel de C antiquite celtiqtie p. 331, Holder Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz i. 1241.
^Folk-lore xvii. 168.