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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/463

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The European Sky -God. 447

Further, the two robins of Doolas Woods may correspond to the two birds associated with Virgil's Golden Bough. The berries of the mountain-ash are, as old John Evelyn^ has it, ' such a tempting bait for the Thrushes, that as long as they last, you shall be sure of their company.' Mr. Step 2 says of them: 'They ripen in September, and are then a great attraction to thrushes, blackbirds, and their kind, who rapidly strip the tree of them. Though this at first sight may appear like frustrating the tree's object in producing fruit, it is not really so, the attractive flesh being a mere bait to induce the birds to pass the seeds through their intestines, and thus get them sown far and wide.' Aeneas was directed to the Golden Bough by two pigeons {cohnnbae)f and, according to Pliny,* mistletoe cannot grow unless it be passed through the maw of birds, especially of the wood- pigeon {pahimbes) and the thrush.^ Athenaeus too states that a mistletoe-plant springs from the droppings of a pigeon {olva<i) that has fed upon mistletoe.'^ Naturally birds that fed on food divine were themselves deemed sacred ; and it is probable that the robins^ of Doolas

^Evelyn Silva p. 219. ^Step Wayside and Woodland Trees, p. 106 f.

^ Verg. Aen. 6. 190 ff. * Plin. nat. hist. 16. 247.

^ The missel-ihrvish {turdus viscivorus L. ) was called l^ojSopos or l^o<pdyos by the Greeks, and is known as viscada in Italy (D'Arcy W. Thompson A Glossary of Greek Birds Oxford 1895 p. 70). Hence Erasmus Chiliad. I cent. I adag. 55 turdus ipse sibi malum cacat.

^ Athen. 394 E.

■^ The botanical facts are set out by Prof. H. M. Ward Trees iii. 266 :

  • The viscin of the fruit {sc. mistletoe) prevents birds from swallowing the

seed, which they therefore rub off on to branches while cleaning the beak : the seed is then washed into a crevice by rain, and germinates.' The same view is recorded in Dr. A. Hunter's notes on Evelyn's Silva p. 8 f.

^ On the robin as a sacred bird see C. Swainson The Folk Lore and Provincial Names of British Birds London 1886 p. 13 ff. : note especially the Scotch and Breton belief that the robin has some of God's blood within his veins (p. 15 f. ), and the Welsh and Breton tales of the robin as a fire- bringer (p. 16 f.).