Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/63

This page needs to be proofread.


The European Sky-God. 53

Zeus and Jupiter, were normally associated with the oak of the sky-god or with some surrogate of the same. Can any analogous connexion be made out in the case of Celtic kings ?

To begin with, I shall endeavour to show that among the Insular Celts, as among the Greeks and Italians, the oak was regarded as the sky-god's tree. The well-known assertion of Maximus Tyrius — 'The Celts worship Zeus, and the Celtic image of Zeus is a lofty oak ' ^ — refers presumably to the Continental, not to the Insular, Celts. But an ancient glossary, the Dnil Laiikne, in the hand- writing of Duald Mac Firbis, gives among other early Irish names for God the word Daur, glossed by Dia, i.e. ' God.' 2 This word Daur is neither more nor less than daur^ the early Irish for ' oak.' ^ In fact, we have here, and that from a trustworthy native source, a striking confirmation of the statement of Maximus Tyrius. May we not infer that in Ireland, as on the Continent, the divinised oak-tree stood for the sky-god .-*

Lydney, the cult-centre of Nodons, was first explored by Major Hayman Rooke in 1777 A.D.; and one of the few facts noted by him is that on the adjoining bank of the Severn are ' the remains of a number of oak trees, visible at low water, all laying one way, that is with their roots to the North-East ; the soil on which they grew having, as is imagined, been washed away by the encroachment of the tide.' * Lydney was indeed situated in the famous forest of Dean, where there were some

^ Max. Tyr. dissert. 8. 8 KeXroi ae^ovai fxh Aia, &ya\fj.a, 8^ Atos KeXriKov vif/r]\T] 8pvs.

^Stokes in the Revue celtique i. 259. Dr. Stokes there comments on Daur-Dia as follows; * Daur is possibly, as Siegfried thought, borrowed from the Old-Norse Thdrr. But I should prefer to regard it as a deriva- tive from the root dhar, whence Skr. dharana, ' preserving,' dhartri, dharitri, 'supporter.

^Cp. D'Arbois Introd. a I'^tude de la littirattire celtique p. 119.

  • Major Rooke in Archaeologia London 1779 v. 207 if.