Magical Branch

From Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, 1894

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An odd story of the Druid Mananan is preserved in the Ossian Transactions. It concerned a magical branch, bearing nine apples of gold. They who shook the tree were lulled to sleep by music, forgetting want or sorrow.

Through that, Cormac, grandson of Conn of the hundred fights, lost his wife Eithne, son Cairbre, and daughter Ailbhe. At the end of a year's search, and passing through a dark, magical mist, he came to a hut, where a youth gave him a pork supper. The entertainer proved to be Mananan. The story runs, "After this Mananan came to him in his proper shape, and said thus: 'I it was who bore these three away from thee; I it was who gave thee that branch, and it was in order to bring thee to this house. It was I that worked magic upon you, so that you might be with me tonight in friendship.'" It may be doubted if this satisfied King Cormac.

A chessboard often served the purpose of divination. The laying on of hands has been from remote antiquity an effectual mode for the transmission of a charm. But a Magic Wand or Rod, in proper hands, has been the approved method of transformation, or any other miraculous interposition. Here is one Wand story relative to the romance of Grainne and Diarmuid:—"Then came the Reachtaire again, having a Magic Wand of sorcery, and struck his son with that wand, so that he made of him a cropped pig, having neither ear nor tail, and he said, 'I conjure thee that thou have the same length of life as Diarmuid O'Duibhne, and that it be by thee that he shall fall at last.'"

This was the boar that killed, not the Syrian Adonis, but a similar sun-deity, Diarmuid. When Fionn, the disappointed husband, in pursuit of the runaway, found the abductor dying, he was entreated by the beautiful solar hero to save him. "How can I do it?" asked the half-repentant Fionn. "Easily," said the wounded one; "for when thou didst get the noble, precious gift of divining at the Boinn, it was given thee that to whomsoever thou shouldst give a drink from the palms of thy hands, he should after that be young and sound from every sickness." Unhappily, Fionn was so long debating with himself as to this gift to his enemy, that, when he walked towards him with the water, life had departed from the boar-stricken Irish Adonis.

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