Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/70

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6o The Eitropean Sky -God.

oak, perhaps an apple, perhaps a hazel. Our expectation is amply fulfilled. The Irish word bile, denoting ' any ancient tree growing over a holy well or in a fort,' is identical with the name Bile} It follows that Bile, the national forefather, was simply a divinised tree. In fact, just as the Italian Aborigines boasted their descent from ' trunks and heart of oak,' on the acorns of which they fed,^ so the ancient Gaels were children of a deity, who resided in a tree and supplied them with its fruit.

The conclusion just arrived at is sufficiently remark- able. But can we go further and identify any particular tree as a bile of the sky-god, dark or bright .-• Fortun- ately the DinnsencJms, an important work in Middle Irish, which gives the legendary history of numerous hills, caves, lakes, islands, etc., specifies no less than five trees under the name of bile.

One such tree was a gigantic evergreen oak growing on the plain of Mugna beside the river Barrow in the east of Leinster. We are told : ' equally broad were its tops and the plain (in which it stood).'^ And again: ' thirty cubits was its girth, and its height was three hundred cubits, and its leaves were on it always.' * Also : ' it was for a long while hidden until the birth of Conn of the Hundred Battles (when it was revealed). Ninine

^ Rhys Hibbert Lectures p. 678, where the equation of bile with Bile is tentatively suggested, but without discussion of its consequences.

^Verg. Aen. 8. 315 ff. See further Classical Review xviii. 371 n. 4.

^ Whitley Stokes ' The Rennes Dind'senchas ' in the Revue celtique xv. 420. Id. 'The Edinburgh Dintisheiichas' in Folk-lore iv. 485 cites the scrap of folk-song : " Mughna's oak-tree without blemish, | Whereon were mast and fruit, | Its top was as broad precisely | As the great plain without ..." This is somewhat inconsequently subjoined to the statement : ' Woods, great oak-trees grew there, so that their tops were as broad as the plain.' But folk-song deserves more attention than a rationalising explanation.

  • Id. Revue celtique xv. 420, Folk-lore iv. 485 f.