The Eo Rossa or Eó Ruis (Yew of Ross) was one of the five sacred trees of Ireland (the Bile* Trees or the Bileda) and said to grow by the River Barrow at Leighlinbridge. It grew from three natured berries from a branch born by the Irish God, Trefuilngid Tre-ochair (Triple Bearer of the Triple Key, Master of All Wisdom and consort of Macha, the triple goddess). The God appeared as a giant to an assembly at Tara which was gathered by King Conaing Begeglach. He came from the West carrying the branch on which were nuts, apples and acorns. The Giant explained that he had originally come from where the Sun rose in the East and had travelled to where it set in West as he was investigating why it had stood still for a day. He was on his way back from the West when he had came across the gathering. He took his branch and shook it, letting the fruit fall and be collected by some of those attending. Seeds taken from this fallen fruit were planted throughout Ireland creating the five sacred trees. Some sources say the seeds were given to Fintan who planted the five trees.
Yews were regarded by the Irish as symbols of life and death and the sacred trees were said to be important meeting sites for tribes and may have been where their kings were inaugurated.
The Eo Rossa was felled in the seventh century and St Molaisse distributed the wood amongst the Irish Saints, thus in a way Christianising this important pagan symbol. Some of the limbs were given to St Moling and used in the construction of his oratory’s roof at St Mullins.
Connellan wrote a riddle in 1860 concerning the Eo Rossa. The riddle asked; Which are the two trees whose who’s green tops do not fade until they become withered? The answer being the Fidh-Sidheang and the Eo Rossa.
The other four sacred trees were the;
- Eó Mugna (Yew of Munga) or Craebh Mughna from Bealach Mughna in Magh Ailbhe, County Kildare.
- Craebh Daithi (Dathi’s Branch) (ash) from Ferbil (Farbill), County Meath.
- Craebh Uisnigh or Bile Uisneg (Bile Uisneg)(ash) on the hill Uisnech, Usnagh, County Meath
- Tortu (Bile Tortan) (ash) from Magh Tortan, Ardbreacan, County Meath. This was a huge tree was visited by St Patrick and is said to have sheltered to the men of Tortu in time of need.
Both the Yew of Ross and Yew of Munga have been described as being oaks, probably because they were said to bare the three fruits of acorns, apples and hazel nuts as their parent branch did and hence were not your usual tree and maybe hard to identify. They were all said to have blown down in high winds during the seventh century.
*Bile – Ancient Tree
(Obviously the map below cannot show the exact location where the tree stood 1300 years ago).