Irish Mythology and Ancient Gaul

Bran mac Febal and Diana Nemetona

1st century BC—4th century AD | 12th century—present, Irish folklore

Bran mac Febal became enraptured by beautiful music that came from a silver bough filled with white apple-blossom that had mysteriously appeared outside his fortress.

Diana Nemetona, or Diana of the Sacred Grove, holding an apple bough in Roman Gaul, conforms to the classical goddess Diana or Vesta, who, in her statues, also carries an apple bough in one hand.

Diana of the Wood, or Diana Nemorensis, was a Roman deity, inhabiting a sacred wood on the mountain shore of Lake Nemi, near the Roman town of Aricia. The Romans liked to equate the gods that they found in Gaul with their own equivalents. So given that Diana Nemetona in Gaul was probably a Romanised Celtic goddess, and regarding the image of this goddess holding an apple bough and that: The connexion of the apple-tree with immortality is ancient and widespread in Europe, here is a particularly fascinating feature of an ancient Irish tale called the Voyage of Bran:

Bran mac Febal becomes enraptured by beautiful music that seems to be coming from a silver bough filled with white apple-blossom that has mysteriously appeared outside his fortress. Bran takes this wonderful bough past his gatekeepers and into the hall. A little while later, a woman appears inside his fortress without any warning or announcement, as if by magic, and sings to him. It is, she says, a branch from a distant land, from an apple tree on a distant isle, an ancient tree that grows in a land without pain, without illness, without sadness, without disability.

Shortly afterwards, and under her instructions, Bran sets sail with his companions and arrives after many adventures at an Isle of Women. Spending only a year on this island, he insists at last upon returning and arrives back in Ireland to find that hundreds of years have passed since he set out.

Apples and Diana Nemetona retold from: Graves, Robert, 1961. The White Goddess: A Historical Grammer of Poetic Myth. Faber and Faber, London. Chapter XIV. The Roebuck in the Thicket, pp 245–58 in the 1961 edition, reprinted 1990.

Story of Bran recounted from: Gregory, Lady A., 1904. Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland, Arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory. John Murray, London. Reprinted, 1998. Irish Myths and Legends. Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia, USA. Part One: The Gods. Book IV: The Ever-living Living Ones. Chapter 10: [Manannan's] Call to Bran, pp 119–23.

Apples and pomegranates

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Tuatha de Danaan - Wikipedia

Voyage of Bran - Wikipedia

Nemetona - Wikipedia

Diana Nemorensis - Wikipedia

The Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal, to the Land of the Living, Kuno Meyer, 1890. Translated into English from Old Irish:

Gods and Fighting Men – ancient tales of Ireland put into English by Lady Augusta Gregory. 1904. Project Gutenberg.