Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/73

This page needs to be proofread.


The Etcropean Sky -God. 63

southern Europe is in more northern latitudes played by the ash. The winged oak of Zas is paralleled by the ash of Yggdrasill. It would seem that this north- European connexion of ideas holds good, at least in part, of Ireland also.^ For of the five bile mentioned in the Dinnsenchus no less than three are ashes, namely ' the Ancient tree of Dathe and the Branching Tree of Uisnech and the Ancient Tree of Tortu.' ^

Of the Tree of Dathe we read : ' Now the Branchy Tree of Belach Dathi is an ash, and 'tis it that killed the poet Dathen, and it fell upwards as far as Cam Uachtair Bile, and from it the Fir Bile are named.' ^ The epithet ' Ancient ' is at first sight surprising ; for, as Mr. Step * informs us, ' The Ash is not one of the long-lived trees, its natural span being about two hundred years.' Still, some specimens are certainly older. The ash at Carnock, which was planted about 1596, was in full vigour and beauty in 1825, being then 90 feet in height and 31 feet in circumference at the ground-level.^ Ireland could boast sacred ashes of equal magnitude. The Big Bell Tree near Borrisokane, county Tipperary, had a trunk at least 30 feet in girth : ' Bell ' is a corruption of bile ; and tradition said that any house, in which even the smallest fragment of this ash- tree was burned, would itself also be ultimately burned.®

^O'Reilly's Irish- English Diciionary p. 386 has '• ttion the ash tree ... a cloud ; Heaven, the expanse or firmament. ' Is this a confusion of two similar words, or may we infer that the Irish had a cosmic ash cor- responding to Yggdrasill 's tree ?

^Whitley Stokes 'The Rennes Dindsenchas' in the Reviie celtiqiie xvi. 278.

'^ Id. ib. xvi. 279. *Step Wayside and Woodland Trees p. 48.

'J. G. Strutt Sylva Scotica p. 8, pi. 8. Id. Sylva Britannica p. 22 f., pi. 22, describes the great ash at Woburn as 90 feet high and 23^ feet in girth at the ground-level.

®W. G. Wood-Martin Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland London 1902 ii. 159, with a wood-cut (fig. 46) of the Big Bell Tree as it appeared in the year 1833, reproduced from the Dublin Penny Journal.