Saint Patrick, Druids, Snakes, and Popular Myths

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a yearly holiday celebrating Ireland’s favorite patron saint. While it’s a big event in Ireland (and used to be a very solemn occasion), in America it’s a green-dyed bacchanal where everyone is “Irish for a day” (let’s not even start on the horridly stupid “unofficial” St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on college campuses). For some modern Pagans (whether Irish or not), St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a day of celebrations, as they see Patrick, famously attributed with converting Ireland to Christianity, as committing something akin to cultural genocide.

“The “snakes” that Patrick drove out of Ireland were the Druidic priests, who had serpents tattooed on their forearms. Celebrating him is like celebrating Stalin or Hitler.”

Pagan author Isaac Bonewits called the day “All Snakes Day”, and penned songs calling for the return of the “snakes” that Patrick is famously attributed with driving out, since many claim the “snakes” are actually a metaphor for Pagans (Ireland hasn’t had real snakes in it since the last ice age).


“St. Patrick casting out the serpents”

“He did not banish the snakes: Ireland never had any. Scholars now consider snakes a metaphor for the serpent of paganism.”

For years now, several individuals have worked to debunk this idea as well. It seems the “snakes = Druids” metaphor is a relatively recent invention, as was the idea that Patrick “drove them out.” P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan (and scholar) who has extensively studied Irish myth and folklore, had this to say on the subject.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t true, and the hagiographies of St. Patrick did not include this particular “miracle” until quite late, relatively speaking (his earliest hagiographies are from the 7th century, whereas this incident doesn’t turn up in any of them until the 11th century). St. Patrick’s reputation as the one who Christianized Ireland is seriously over-rated and overstated, as there were others that came before him (and after him), and the process seemed to be well on its way at least a century before the “traditional” date given as his arrival, 432 CE, because Irish colonists (yes, you read that right!) in southern Wales, Cornwall, and elsewhere in Roman and sub-Roman Britain had already come into contact with Christians and carried the religion back with them when visiting home.”

His assertions are backed up by historian Ronald Hutton in his book “Blood & Mistletoe: The History of The Druids in Britain.”

“[Saint Patrick's] letters do, however, strongly suggest that the importance of Druids in countering his missionary work was inflated in later centuries under the influence of biblical parallels, and that Patrick’s visit to Tara was given a pivotal importance that it never possessed – if it ever occurred at all – to suit later political preoccupations. [...] The only appearances of Druids in documents attributed to Patrick himself occur in some that are generally thought to have been composed after his death.”

The simple fact is that paganism thrived in Ireland for generations after Patrick lived and died, and, as Lupus puts it, ” the ‘final’ Christianization of the culture didn’t take place until the fourteenth century CE.” There was no Irish pagan genocide, no proof of any great violent Druid purge in Ireland, it simply doesn’t exist outside hagiography. By the time hagiographers started speaking of snakes and Druids, Irish paganism was already a remnant, and Irish Christianity the dominant religious force on the island. They were more worried about establishing heroic Irish saints than eradicating traces of paganism.  Further, as Celtic Reconstructionist Morgan Daimler points out, it makes almost no sense within the context of Patrick’s tales to equate his snake-driving action as an anti-pagan allegory.

“Quite frankly the rest of Patrick’s hagiography has him dueling Druids right and left, killing those who oppose him with callous righteousnes, so why would the story suddenly get cryptic about him driving the Druids out? Every other page was proclaiming it proudly! No, this particular tidbit – which is suspiciously exactly the same as a story from the life of a French saint – was always meant to be literal. The earliest reference I have found to anyone thinking the snakes meant Druids (and thanks to the friend who helped me find it) is in the Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries from 1911 where someone states that he believes based on a story that because a certain place was where the Druids last stronghold was and also the place Saint Patrick drove the snakes that the snakes must represent the Druids, but it’s just faulty logic (Evans Wentz, 1911). The snakes in the story were just meant to be snakes, just as the toads were toads and Saint George’s dragon was a dragon.”

Others have made these points before, yet the snakes =  Irish pagans meme persists, fueling all sorts of reactions. Some cling to it simply because it feels right, or because they like the idea of a holiday dedicated to pagan/Pagan resistance to conversion. However, as Alexei Kondratiev pointed out in “The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual,” one who wants to practice a Celtic form of Paganism, connected to the living, breathing, Celtic lands and peoples, should connect to them as they are, not simply as they wish them to be.

“Neo-Pagans, who will be familiar with the two ritual cycles we discussed previously, but not with this one, may be tempted to reject it as too ‘Christian’ in inspiration. To this we may again reply that Christianity is a major part of the Celtic heritage, and cannot be removed from it without seriously distorting the whole. [...] Our circle’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, for instance, need not be given over to green beer, plastic leprechauns, and such commercialized images of ‘Irishness’. One could, if one wished, ritually use the figure of St. Patrick, in a way that emphasized positive aspects of Irish identity…”

Kondratiev goes on to note that St. Patrick’s day became a hugely important holiday during a time of English oppression, becoming a “manifestation of both religious and ethnic identity.” To simply deny the huge role this holiday has played in Irish history, in the Irish’s sense of themselves, would be a disservice to those who believe that honoring our ancestors is vital. To erase St. Patrick’s day also erases a vital connection to Irish history and culture. This doesn’t mean one has to actively celebrate it, but it also means that those who want to grapple with this day need to do so honestly.

If, as a Pagan, one cannot stomach the thought of honoring the name of any Christian missionary, no matter what the circumstance, then the effort should be in creating a positive replacement instead of a protest or rebellion. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus makes a very good case for replacing St. Patrick’s day with a day to honor Cú Chulainn.

“What I would suggest is that, given that Patricius may have usurped a local festival of Macha in the area around Armagh, perhaps what could instead be celebrated is the date that Cú Chulainn first took up arms, upon which he did so in order to fulfill a partial prophecy he heard that whomever took up arms for the first time on that day would be famed forever after; he only learned later that the rest of the prophecy revealed that the famous hero would only live a very short life, to which he responded that it would be better to live but one day and one night in the world if everlasting fame were to be attached to him. This active taking up of the heroic life and all of its responsibilities, including death (most likely on behalf of one’s people, as a warrior), was the date on which he became the protector of the people of Ulster and thus of Emain Macha and his uncle Conchobor mac Nessa’s kingship. What more appropriate occasion, therefore, to celebrate the hero-cultus of Cú Chulainn than on the day that he decided to take up the heroic life?”

There are no doubt other worthy replacements, but the point is the same, building on and changing a holiday organically within the cultural context. A day about honoring Irish culture instead of thumbing one’s nose at an insulting metaphor. The popular myth may be that snakes were pagans, and that Patrick drove them out, but that doesn’t mean we are obligated to believe it.

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • Judy Bent

    Thank you for writing this-as an native NY’er (Brooklyn, NY) from an Irish family, St. Patrick’s Day has never really been about a Catholic holiday (and I spent 7 years in Catholic school).  It’s always been (barring the green food/beer and bad behavior of some) celebrating Irish heritage/culture, especially in New York.  It’s been (at least for my family and circle of friends that claim Irish descent) looking back and seeing where we came from and how we got here.

    As a Pagan, I have no problem with St. Patrick’s Day from a cultural stand-point (I’m not particularly bothered by it from a religious stand-point, either-I believe in live and let live).

  • Pkeeler

    Great article!  March 17th was the Spring Equinox when St. Patrick’s Day was invented.  It was a later calendar change/correction that moved the Equinox to March 20-21.  St. Patrick’s Day is therefore, just another Christian wall papering of a solar holiday.  Would make sense to me to honor Ostara/Eostre on the Equinox; or a convenient day near it which might be St. Patrick’s Day.  In the USA, SPD has become Irish heritage day and whether you are Pagan or not, you wear green, etc.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/boniface777 Boni F. Ace

    Nice article overall, but it also makes this statement, “The snakes in the story were just meant to be snakes, just as the toads were toads and Saint George’s dragon was a dragon.”  Don’t you know what the poetic imagination is?  Jeez, they are metaphors and valid ones!

    • Bookhousegal

      There does seem to be a lot of ‘debunking’  a literal-mindedness there that really isn’t how that meme was passed down, however recent it is.  Pagans didn’t make it up, you know.  Even if it just came out of Christian folklore and uncharitable metaphors. 

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Literal-mindedness can be found in any spiritual cohort. Sometimes it becomes a fad for a while. It can be annoying or it can be liberating.

  • William

    None of that disputes that St. Patrick still worked toward the conversion of non-Christians. I don’t really care how successful a missionary is, I’m still not going to celebrate them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527822420 C. Lee Vermeers

      So celebrate Cú Chulainn!

      • William

        I’m cool with that, but I’m a Germanic Heathen so it isn’t specifically relevant to my own particular path. I’d be glad to celebrate with those who ARE Celtic, however. :-)

    • Bookhousegal

      I always take it in the spirit of celebrating still being here anyway. :)  In America, especially, it’s about Irish heritage and community and  such: I like the term All Paddies Day  to reflect that.  (It’s been well observed that it’s a rare culture that actually invites people to ‘join’  for a day:  even non-Irish celebrate: )     There’s very little of ‘celebrating the missionary’  about it to most, likely much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church: if anything,  there’s a bit of that friendly rebellion about still having a spring festival when the Church wants people to be having Lent, 

      …and for that reason I hesitate about trying to make the day an Ostara replacement,  since, for one,  a lot of people out there are just having a drinking holiday,  and for another,  it does happen to be a good day for even Irish Pagans to have some merriment and storytelling:    for me it’s more about connecting to that heritage  (Often indeed through poetry and storytelling of the old myth,  certainly including those of  Cuchulain, )  but also all the other heritage of after Christianity came:  it just happens to be a pretty good time to connect with non-Pagans about that Pagan heritage. 

      Not to mention to somewhat counter the notion that there *was* no Irish culture until supposedly Patrick came along and converted everyone immediately,   which is of course not the historical reality.  

      • Crystal Kendrick

         “Not to mention to somewhat counter the notion that there *was* no Irish
        culture until supposedly Patrick came along and converted everyone
        immediately,   which is of course not the historical reality.”  The BBC and History Channel are still promulgating that particular myth.  I have never been so disappointed in BBC as when I saw their series on Ireland and its people which begins with the life of St.Patrick.  

  • Mia

    I like the alternatives presented, it’s similar to what I do when digging into my own heritage and running into Christian or Christianized festivals and meanings.

    I never liked St. Paddy’s day though, the “traditional” food makes me ill (which is odd, but oh well) and the drunks have turned this into their high holiday around here. Driving is going to be rather stressful. I’m not even Irish, so I never understood why my family would go along with this either.

    Then again, I live in Chicago. That usually explains everything, lol.

  • http://cgirlslife.livejournal.com/ Cgirl

    As a Minnesota born Finn, I focus on celebrating St. Urho’s day instead.  St. Urho is the man who drove all the grasshoppers out of Finland, saving the Finnish wine industry (and invented in Virginia, MN in 1956) that lets the Finns get a head start on drinking over the Irish.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Urho%27s_Day#Saint_Urho)

    To me, St Paddy’s day has always been a cultural holiday, never a religious one.  Even though I grew up Catholic, St Patrick’s day was never celebrated in my home town -> made up of mostly Norwegians, Germans and Swedes.  The only people who really remembered Saint Patrick’s day, where I grew up, was the lone Irish family, the Rooneys.

    • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

      I may be biased, but I think that St. Urho’s Day is much better than St. Patrick’s. Also, I think a Finn would drink an Irish person under the table any day ;)

      • Nick Ritter

        A Finn, an Irishman and a Latvian walk into a bar…

        which is how the bartender afforded early retirement.

        • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

          LOL

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527822420 C. Lee Vermeers

        Interesting. I wonder what that would say about me, who has both Finnish and Irish ancestry as the main strands (along with some bits of Flemish, Alsatian, etc)?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1570209155 Cortnye Teaspoon Teaster-Ivey

    St Patrick’s Day in the US, to me at least, seems like another excuse for people to get drunk and act stupid. They don’t know the meaning of it, real or “myth.” 
    But the quotes contradict themselves. One person says it’s meant to be taken literal…ie PaDrick, his name has a D not T, actually banished real slithering snakes from Ireland…then the quote turns around and admits there are no NATIVE snakes to Ireland because it’s an island. And since I can trace my family BACK to Ireland, my great grandparents in fact…….This will always just be another day for people to get drunk and be stupid.
    Now, don’t bother replying or arguing with me, because I don’t read replies. 

    Blessed be.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      If you don’t bother to read replies, why bother commenting at all? In any case, the snakes story isn’t a contradiction because its an explanatory myth. Why doesn’t Ireland have snakes? Because Paddy drove them out. People back then didn’t understand that the last ice age killed off the snakes. History is full of myths and fables that explain how things came to be. The idea that snakes actually meant pagans came later.

    • island girl

      I live on an island. We have snakes. They can swim, you know.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kargach Rob Henderson

      “Now, don’t bother replying or arguing with me, because I don’t read replies.”

      If saying that actually worked, the Internet would have gone out of business in 1997.

  • Circle

    I’ve never been a fan of St. Patrick’s Day at all.

    Just another excuse for Irish American navel-gazing as far as I’m concerned.

  • Anonymous

    It seems there is always a rebuttal to the ideas that Pagans were forcably driven out. Somehow it kinda of smacks as a kind of “whitewash” over the fact that in a great many cases, violence was the tool used. I won’t refute this account since I haven’t studied Celtic heritage and history.

    However, it just seems to me that unless you are one or more of the following, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day seems rather mundane.

    1. Irish
    2. Christian (cus he is a Saint, afterall)
    3. A Drinker
    4. A druid or celtic recon

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      A few years ago I watched one of those good-for-your-mind programs on public TV, which was primarily about dendrochronology, the science of digging well-preserved stumps out of the bog, taking transverse slices and studying the annual rings. Evidently there’s a decade or so of unhealthily thin rings that coincide with the conversion of Ireland, and other upheavals elsewhere in the world. Looks like something shut off the sunlight for a while.

      The program focus shifts to Irish history (speculation) and a theory that people abandon their religion when their gods seem to be getting everything wrong and there’s an option on offer. The point was made that the Irish conversion was without evident violence and “Christians always memorialize their martyrs.”

      FWIW.

      • http://sari0009.xanga.com/559083265/dualism-polarization-polarism-gigo/ Karen A. Scofield

        Interesting.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1092499077 Ursyl Kukura-Straw

        Sixth century?

        There was a Krakatoa level volcanic event which lead to some big migrations in eastern Europe. If memory serves from the Tales of the Dead (PBS) episode detailing this, that was when Rome lost part of the Western Roman Empire, that included Croatia and Korula, to Constantinople.

        Would make sense that western Europe and Ireland would have been affected too.

  • Ocymvio

    I have a family tradition of wearing Orange on this day.  Initially it was for Protestant Irish as a form of rebellion, but now I wear it more for rebelling against the anti-gay stance that NYC has on not allowing gay groups in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

    • Thelettuceman

       Yeah.  Go into Southie and see how that would work out for you today. 

      • http://www.podroznystudio.com/ dobharchu

        It’s hilarious enough watching the Baptist bus go through Southie…

      • Ocymvio

        I go anywhere, wearing anything I want.  Southie is no exception.  I stand up to bullies, drunks, thieves and ignorant.   I’ve been here a long time and already went to Southie in Orange and am here to write about, though I didn’t feel the need to write that in my initial post.  If you preach to the choir, you get little done.  It takes courage to stand up to those that don’t have your point of view, but thats what makes change.
        By the way, great post Jason

        • Bookhousegal

           I do think walking in wearing orange calling the Irish ‘bullies, drunks, theives and ignorant’  is no way to stand for LGBT equality,  …that’s just not what the symbolism would mean.  Google ‘Marching Season’  or something.    Frankly,  Protestant intolerance of the Catholic Irish people is one of those things that has actually kept the Church in a position of relative power all these years. 

          But your ‘gesture’ there wouldn’t be something that people would even be *looking* for deeper meaning about,  cause it already means something else:  it’d be like protesting some ANC position on LGBT rights by wearing pro-apartheid paraphernalia.  

          Especially in places like Boston where the cultural memory of Ireland is a fair bit less contemporary than it is back in actual Ireland: there’s a real undercurrent of being an exiled people yearning for the lost homeland that plays into the sectarian oppressions that people actually living there are for the most part well sick of. 

          I’ve got no love for the Church, myself,  but the sectarian thing’s more like about something like  ethnicity than about theology, and you don’t have to be a practicing Catholic to be subject to some of the anti-Irish-Catholic prejudice we’ve known even in recent American history.   Even in the Church’s recent overt alliance with the Religious Right over here, they try to tap into that very history when they claim it’s  ‘anti-Catholic bigotry’  to disapprove of the Church’s political activities or dispute their claims about others…..  (Like, for instance, queer Irish Pagans like myself. )   That’s just what they’d *like,* really,  having someone act out that notion that protesting the Church is actually something against ‘Catholic People.’ 

          I suggest the old standby of the rainbows.  :)

          • Ocymvio

            First of all I made a generic statement within the post. Regardless of the day of the week I stand up to what is not right.  If you don’t know me then you have no idea how I approach this and are making assumptions.  You assumed I was calling someone Irish Bullies, drunks, thieves, or ignorant.  If someone pushes another person because they want to bully their idea, I will step in.  It has nothing to do with being the aggressor in the situation, it has to do with neutralizing and teaching.
            One of your assumptions is that people wouldn’t get the deeper meaning.  Perhaps some people live with blinders on but others rise above that and you really can only make ‘I’ statements.  So if you would never look at the deeper meaning, then that’s your lesson.If you are not a part of the solution then you are part of the problem.  I do what I can to fix my own problems and to stop bullies OR thieves OR ignorant OR any number of problem causing behaviors.  The operative word is behavior, not Irish, not the Church, not the Military, not anything generic.  Specific behavior. Rainbows are too generic for me.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527822420 C. Lee Vermeers

            I think that there is certainly someone in this thread of conversation who is displaying their ignorance, of history if nothing else.

            Out of curiosity, in what way, do you think, is wearing orange on St. Patrick’s Day “a part of the solution”? Or, to put it another way, what positive benefit do you think that you gain by doing so?

      • Piper

        Hmm, As a Piper, I always view the day as a way to make a load of cash($1500 this year), dressed in a British army uniform, playing all sorts of tunes on a Scottish instrument for a bunch of very drunk people on a day celebrating a Saint that would not approve of the amount of drinking. I also always have orange ribbons in my pipes and an orange rosette on my kilt. I got tired of “Hey my aunts’ roommate’s uncle’s best friend, once saw Darby O’Gill and that makes me Irish” conversations while enjoying a pint after playing for the crowd. I used the orange as a filter, if you knew what it was and questioned me, we could have a conversation. I have had MANY conversations in Southie and my fecal matter disruption was more valued than any color I might wear.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      IIRC the Catholic diocese, organizer of St Pat’s parade, is the source of the gay ban, and not the city proper.

      • Mia

         If we’re talking about the South Side parade, I thought that was a community re-make once Emmanuel gave the ok.

  • http://twitter.com/PhoenixGrove Phoenix Grove

    The great and mighty Bonewits was wrong!?  Heaven forfend!  Nice post.  :)

  • http://twitter.com/BarefootAnth Jonathan Woolley

    I must say, I found this really interesting. I’ve always believed the snakes = druids thing before now, but now I’ll have to re-evaluate that!

    Nonetheless, I still think works as a valid metaphor. Just because the legend started out as a literal belief doesn’t mean it can’t work on another level for subsequent readers. Hells, liberal Christians do that often enough when it comes to their lore (*cough*Adam and Eve*cough*), so why can’t we?

    Over the water in England, we view George and the Dragon similarly – as a metaphor for patriarchal, hierarchical Christianity come to our country and subduing the land wights. That’s certainly not the original interpretation of the myth, but it nonetheless reflects the conventional path taken by traditional societies, which usually involves a creative, pragmatic approach to religious practice, rather than the desire to get back to some sort of originary truth way back in the neverwhen.

    But at the same time, I agree we shouldn’t attempt to eschew all Christian influences as “foreign” or bad. That ignores the reality of Celtic Europe. But we also need festivals that remember the real oppression suffered by ordinary people under Catholic and Protestant institutions, and our present-day heroic struggle against this. And the taking-up of arms by Cu-Chullain is a wonderful day to do it!

    • Nick Ritter

      “Over the water in England, we view George and the Dragon similarly – as a metaphor for patriarchal, hierarchical Christianity come to our country and subduing the land wights.”

      As an aside, there’s a good chance that the legend of St. George was so popular in England (and Norway, too, for that matter) because it was similar (in the minds of recent converts) to the myth of Thor killing the Midgard Serpent. Thus, the cult of St. George was the continuation, under Christian guise, of the old veneration of the thundering warrior god. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6QH36Z3T3R52HJWYDEAQRXVC7Y DeAnna

    Thank you for the well-researched article!  I’m always willing to revise my assumptions based on new information, so I appreciate good scholarship.  I am, however, one of those who mark this day as “a holiday dedicated to pagan/Pagan resistance to conversion”, and though I may be drinking from a green mug, I’m wearing snakes.  ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=824256543 Tepintzin Huehueocelotl

    Patrick did not in fact go to Ireland to convert pagans as we would think of them today.  He was a representative of the Roman church coming to impose Roman custom over Irish, which at the time was Arian.  The Arian Church held a different theology on the nature of Christ, had a different date for Easter and  a different tonsure for monks.  (I swear, I am not making this up; I did a lot of reading on the Celtic Church in college.)  Since the Irish were Doing It Wrong, Patrick was sent to set them to rights.  It can still be seen as a missionary sent to eradicate ethnic heritage, because it was, but non-Christian Irish were not the intended target.

    My husband and I are Danish Traditional Asatru, so please to be handing us your beer and whisky.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=548883612 Flame Bridesdottir

    I like the idea of celebrating Cu Chulainn. My family is from Ulster, so that works out fine for me.

  • Kilmrnock

    As a Scot i don’t really celibrate the day , myself . Altho i do wear green in honor of my irish brother and sisters .They after all are fellow Celts . I usualy stay home that night to avoid the drunks .    Kilm

  • Merofled Ing

    “There
    are no doubt other worthy replacements, but the point is the same, building on
    and changing a holiday organically within the cultural context.”

     

    This.
    Besides, with Christians putting their own “wall-papering” over Pagan holidays
    (a good way of putting it), why not do some intelligent replacements of our
    own. A lot of energy attaches to such days, they more often than not used to be
    Pagan, so indeed, why not. (As long as we don’t confuse this with history /
    historic facs.)  And yes, subsequent readings of myths change and change and change again over the centures.

     

    As
    for the snakes – We’d need to know how literal the mindset of people was in the 7th
    or the 11th century. I’m not a
    specialist on Early Medieval Europe, but from what I know this might be about reading
    or teaching the bible. There’s a snake in one of the main myths, about Adam and
    Eve, so there had to be snakes, they had to be dangerous, and a strong
    Christian missionary will save / protect you from them which is why you need churches,
    so if there are no snakes in Ireland this doesn’t mean you don’t need
    missionaries, but that they protect you. So snake means – not snake (animal
    with a long, narrow body with scales covering its skin), but incredibly
    dangerous animal wiped out by a hero missionary. Like – we all know the
    dinosaurs drowned when they didn’t make it to the ark… (Metaphor for Pagans???-)
    (NOT) (YET)

    • Merofled Ing

      If anyone knows how to drive out the ensnaking of comments on transferral from word, let me know, please. (I’ll celebrate you in the colour of your choice.)

  • Anonymous

    Love this:  the heroic life and all of its responsibilities, including death (most likely on behalf of one’s people, as a warrior),.  We too often forget . . . .

  • Charles Cosimano

    Now now, the gods forbid that a holiday should occur without some Pagans trying to make people not celebrate it like the good reincarnated Puritans that they be.  Me, I find if fascinating that the Feast of Inebrius falls on the same day as St. Patrick’s Day and the celebrations got mixed.

    • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

      Inebrius? eh? Think I found my god!

  • Treasa Ní Chonchobhair

    Cultural Cringe 2012: Irish Heritage vs “St. Patty’s” [sic] http://t.co/80utg1yC

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

    Any tolerance for this as a holiday has been sullied by the fact that here in New York City folks use it as an excuse to get drunk, yell in the subway and for men to come up and ask if I want a lil Irish in me.

    I’ve never paid no attention really to the pagans = druids bit but if folks feel like they want to reclaim it or whatever I’m not going to stop them. There are more important fallacies IMO to correct :)

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    I remember watching this cartoon about Saint Patrick in school. It was a long time ago, and I don’t remember it being more than just, you know, a cartoon (the kind that’s competent but clearly not made with all that much love). Patrick befriends these kids while he’s a slave. The part that stuck with me was this bit when he’s back home and he gets this ghostly vision of them being like “Help us, Patrick, something something…”
    And the girl was like, “they’re making us worship Pagan gods…” or something like that.

    And even at the time, when I’d only have been Pagan by paranoid Evangelical standards, I was like, “Oh, Noooooo….?”

    Bread should not be dyed green. Other things are fine, but bread should be off limits. Seriously. Eat some vegetables or something.

    I’d rather the Pagans be symbolized by the clover, something that’s always been there that gets adopted by some guy and then becomes a bigger part of Christianity’s culture than the technicalities themselves, and are still there hiding in the grass no matter what happens, nyah nyah nyah nyah.

    • Krystal H.

       I remember watching that show! (They also did ones on Our Lady of Fatima and Guardian Angels, I believe.) I believe the dialogue went something like: “Help us, Patrick! They’re making us worship their gods! Come back, teach us about Jesus, the One True God!” Yeah, it was just that cheesy….

      • Pagan Puff Pieces

         You know which ones I’m talking about! XD Yes, they were always handy when the teachers needed SOMETHING to kill time (those and Amadeus).

        Did you also get completely confused when the kids in the Fatima one were supposed to be boiled alive and then weren’t, weren’t no explanation given at all?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sean-TheDruid/100001234661081 Sean TheDruid

    Very well written.  I celebrate the day as a way to cherish my Gaelic heritage.  It matters not that it is St. Patrick’s Day.  It is a day for me to eat some food and drink some beer with family and friends–both pagan and non-pagan.  Instead of treating St. Patrick’s Day as a negative, we really should use it as a day that we can celebrate together with people we love who don’t share our path.  Any time to gather the family around a good fire is a positive.

  • Ulalare

    The first time I came across the “snakes= pagans, therefore St. Patrick was a homicidal maniac” meme, I was skeptical.  I went and did a little of my own research and found that St. Patrick’s actual method of converting people to Christianity was to befriend tribal or clan leaders and then bribe them with large sums of money.  Other missionaries actually brought official complaints against him for misuse of church funds.  Not the most sincere or ethical way to bring people into your religion, but it’s certainly a far cry from genocide.

    • Bookhousegal

       Well, there’s the likely history,  and then there’s ‘The Life of St. Patrick,’  ….there actually are quite a few tales that actually do rather make him look like a nasty piece of work.  Which isn’t too uncommon with a lot of the hagiographies out there about saints supposed to be responsible for converting various peoples:  it’s not very convenient to the Church in modern sensibilities,  but there’s reasons people seem to have this notion Patrick was an anti-Druid… Cause those tales *existed*  and were taught,  likely in Ireland’s case to try and supplant the traditions of heroic myth and all.  

  • Daniel Kestral

    I’m very proud of my Black Irish Heritage.  I posted this last year, but Alexei Kondretiev, in “The Apple Branch,” mentions that the “Patrick driving out the snakes,” story could very well stem from him banishing the Fomorian powers of blight, darkness, and winter from the land.  As much as Lugh defeated Balor, etc., this could, to him, be very emblematic of continuing the Pagan context into a Catholic one. 

    I, for one, celebrate Brigit on this day with Her Green Mantle.  As well, I honor the Goddess of Sovereignty: Eriu, Banba, and Fodhla, instead of Saint Patrick, since he represents the Catholic arm, attempting subduing both Gaelic language and culture (& Celtic Christianity, too).  Not the best emblem to celebrate Irish culture.

  • Rombald

    On the one hand, as a drinker, and a beer-drinker in particular, I enjoy all excuses-to-drink-loads-of-beer holidays.

    On the other hand, I find the religion/politics of St. Patrick’s Day a bit dodgy. There’s the anti-gay stuff. There’s also the anti-Protestantism. The Irish Republic has in broad terms treated its Protestant minority reasonably well, and the Green-White-Orange flag is of course a symbol of that (the White is supposed to mean peace, but it could just as easily mean non-Christians – in addition to Pagans and atheists, there is a small long-standing Jewish community, and now there are also Muslims, Buddhists, etc.). I don’t see why ethnic-religious bigotry should be celebrated just because it’s on the part of people who have historically been oppressed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MarkCarterInIL Mark Carter

     This article got me thinking about the earliest reference to snakes=druids.  I’ve found a reference which pre-dates Evans Wentz’s 1911 “The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries.”  Edward Davies, in his “Mythology and Rites of British Druids” (1809) discusses the so called glain, Anguinum, or druid’s egg which Pliny claimed was created by serpents and used as a good luck charm by the druids.  Davies suggested that Pliny’s account of the mating serpents producing the glain was actually a metaphor for its creation by druids (p.18).  He later claims that Welsh druids were called Nadredd, or adders, in the later Welsh poetry and says, “The druids, therefore, were the serpents which assembled, at a stated time in the summer, to prepare these emblems” (p.210).  Later in the book he mentions again, “Pliny’s account of the preparation of the Anguinum, by the druids, in the character of serpents, is well known” (p.419).  Notice how Davies originally merely implies the druids=snakes and then later assumes his own interpretation to be true.  I’m not sure but I’ll bet Davies is the origin of the snake=druid connection and it was worked up from these statements.  The accuracy of Davies’ interpretation is questionable since he also claims that druids built Stonehenge, and that Noah’s ark landed in Britain, Noah’s descendants became the Celts, and their Old Testament religion morphed into druidism.  Anyone who is interested can find Davies’ “Mythology and Rites of British Druids” on Internet Archive.

  • Jason Ramsey

    You might want to check the Daily Mail website for a very interesting article on St. Patrick….surely puts him in a new light completely as a clerical slave trader and former Roman tax collector.  I fell on the floor laughing!  He invented that story about getting rid of snakes just for his own “legacy”, it seems.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2116153/St-Patricks-Day-legend-just-bit-blarney-He-runaway-tax-collector-turned-slave-trader.html

  • Kilmrnock

    I’m not irish , am i scot …………but like celbrating Cu Cuhullian meself , i usualy just stay home , avoiding the drunks    Kilm


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