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Did Patrick Kill The Snakes?

Updated on March 17, 2015

did Patrick kill the Druids?

Response to my writings of St. Patrick has suggested I should not be writing about him because he "killed the druids"

One quote was "St Patrick killed many Druids and drove the rest out of Ireland - 'snakes' was his euphemism for Druids.

Rather than promoting celtic ways, he tried to eradicate them in the name of Christianity!

Visualize the Situation ...

Patrick is still a myth.There is no hard evidence of him even existing just stories and myths, and maybe myths of propaganda to create fear in thinking, feelings and to arouse guilt..

So let us assume Patrick did come to the shores of Erin and let's follow up what is told about him. It is said he was seized by slave catchers and sellers from Ireland. More recent theories actually make Patrick out to be a slave trader and not a slave.

It is well known that for several hundreds of years a race of seafaring people living on the west coast of Erin raided what are now the British shores, captured young boys to raise as strong men and women too that were sold in the Iberian and North Africa markets.

Patrick was said to be one of those slaves, was helped to escape, or maybe a slave trader, but we are told he had a calling to return to Ireland and bring together the nation "confused about their spirituality".

To achieve this did Patrick really drive away the snakes, drive away and kill the druids of the chieftains?

Or was this a story that has come out of slave trading one way or another. Back then people did not earn salaries or wages put into bank accounts. For most people all they wanted was good food and shelter in exchange for work done.

Slave trading may not have been as evil as we imagine in, though some cruel greedy bosses was inevitable.

This was about 'power' that could be recognized by how many slaves are owned and what they produced. Is this about churches being built as symbols of power?


sounds grand, very Hollywood, but ...

how did Patrick do this?

If Patrick was not an actual slave trader, I suspect Patrick was too poor to raise an army, was too poor to build a monastery first, create a following and bring them to ireland.

Patrick is told of being a man of God, a man of Peace ???

To follow the story, we may think Patrick arrived in Erin with maybe a manuscript or two. The likelihood is that Patrick was too poor to buy a scribed manuscript so all he possibly had was his verbal oral stories like any bard of the time.

How would Patrick's single Gandhi like presence match up to the might of High King Loaghaire and along with the other chieftains of the nations, their warriors, their druids, and protectors of the druids?

There is no evidence of Patrick building up a following and influence like Columcille had. It does not seem that Patrick created a network of monastic cities. There are no signs of monastic communities built by Patrick.

Some churches claim to have been founded by him but research shows that they adapted his name, his mythology, during late medieval times, but not during the time of his life here.

was Patrick Roman?

Some mythology talks of Patrick being of a Roman family in Britain and a wealthy Roman family.

Bretons would disagree with that, as they believe, especially around Tours, that Patrick was one of their's a young seaman on trade boats between Brittany and Erin.

There are horrific records of the Romans driving the Druids onto Anglesey and slaughtering them there. Is this the story that has been transferred to Patrick?

Was Patrick some kind of Roman leader from a chieftain Roman family?

Part of the Patrick myth is him lighting a fire at Slane at Easter time which was seen to be a challenge against the traditional druid supervised Bealtaine Fires.

It is said King Laoghaire commanded the person lighting the Easter fire to be brought to his court. His warriors seized Patrick, brought him to court, and Patrick showed him a Shamrock to explain the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A well told story.

At that point, the story tells of King Laoghaire becoming instantly excited and converting to Christianity on the spot, and some may feel the king then ordered "off with the heads of all druids".

Think about this again ...

No king, outside of a Hollywood movie, is going to change or convert to anything this major without something really being in it for him and his people?

The promise of eternal life from a slave poverty-like monk is not going to cut much trading influence on a king, I do not think. Now if Patrick was a successful slave trader, different story. One story even claims Patrick was some kind of scout exploring where Erin was a good place for Romans to spread into.

Romans are not really in the history of Ireland, thoug. There have been a few Roman relics found on shores north of Dublin, but they could easily have been washed ashore drifted over from British coasts. However, should those dropped relics be from a landing party we could faintly imagine those landing Romans deciding to light a fire for Easter if they happened to land at Easter time. I find that hard to imagine though.

If King Laoghaire brought them to Tara, for doing this, I am sure it would have been out of curiosity.

Romans were excellent contacts to establish new trade in parchments, inks from Lebanon, jewelry and all kinds of fine new things to upstage the image position of the king.

Now with all that on offer, I think Loaghaire may have just thought "there may be just a little something in this Christianity lark" - but I doubt that even the word Christianity had been developed yet.

what I think happened ...

When the Normans and their warrior might came to Erin the power of The Vatican faith came too. They would have been very aware of the tales of the Romans and Druids and the battles of Anglesey.

Arriving in Erin the Normans enjoyed engaging in the tales of the Bards which I am sure included tales of the various Ceile Dé, Culdee, monks with their stories and scriptures from the east, monks with names such as Brendan, Molaise, Fechin, Columcille and of course Patrick.

All of these monks would have been teachers to druids, not converting them to a religion of faith but adding to their wisdom. This evolved into what was later described as a marriage of faiths.

However, the Normans were fixated on power. They built huge cathedrals as an exprression of their power and engaged the Catholic Vatican to fill these cathedrals and learning centres to covert the people. The Normans had the wealth and power of military to do this.

I am sure that part of this power was to drive fear into the faiths of the people. Driving in and branding fear was through stories !!!

I firmly believe one of these stories was about Patrick driving out the snakes, the druids, the old faiths, all based on fragments of stories of Romans driving out the druids in Britain and out of Brittany in France too.

Patrick, if he even existed, simply did not have the power to overcome the Irish and drive out their old ways.

At best, he became part of their ways as he knew a druid could kill him off before he could harm a druid himself.

More Thoughts

During the 8th and 9th centuries,about 300 or more years after the time dated for St. Patrick two important developments.

High Crosses were sculptored and became important teaching aids and symbol presentations within the monastic cilles of Erin.

These crosses always merge symbols from old faiths like spirals, lozenges, life force lines and serpents among the scultured images from the psalms and scriptures. Scriptures, stories from the middle east that had arrived and were being copy scribed by the monks.

Scribing was fast becoming the major industry of the time, just like iPads today.

Second, the Book of Kells imagery is full of snakes and other old gaelic, celtic, norse and ancient saxon imagery, also indicating a merging or a marriage of faiths.

I believe the Snakes never went away until the Vatican envoys traveled in tandem with the Normans, and even they really brought their own snakes, it seems

what say ye about Patrick and the Druids?

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    • WoodlandBard profile image
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      WoodlandBard 2 years ago

      At the time of Patrick, I do not believe there was really a Christianity in Erin. The idea of 'conversion' also seems to be quite a myth too. That is something that seems to be spoken of by North American visitors here but not so much by other visitors. I have never really looked into why that is. The concept of Christianity did become a useful tool for commanding power over people in late Saxon times and certainly during Norman times, and that seemed to be mainly for the purpose of collecting taxes to fund armies to conquer lands in the name of Christianity too. However, in day to day living, even today, people here still live a lot by old ways, especially in rural places.

      It seems to be hard to tell what Patrick actually Evangelized. In the Middle East, scriptures were starting to get scribed but that did not seem to get under way in Erin until another 100 years after Patrick. Scribing arriving would have been as revolutionary to culture as when printing presses came in and when home PCs came to us. Scribing became a huge profitable industry and status creator. Columcille, Molaise, Brendan etc. would have been the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Clive Sinclair of their day.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

      Interesting theories. I do think Patrick existed and evangelized, but I think his importance and the role he played in converting Ireland to Christianity was exaggerated. He wasn't the only Christian trying to convert the masses. He played a role, but many other people and events lost to the sands of time did as well.

    • WoodlandBard profile image
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      WoodlandBard 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I believe there was never been a "conversion". Again, I find that idea all too Hollywood. All Patrick and other culdees at the time could do is share the stories picked up and passed along from the middle east, especially the Psalms and a bit of the scriptures. I suppose all ages have had their gurus and attempted gurus. It seems the "image" of Patrick is used in different ways, a figure of a dynamic stories, especially the good versus evil stuff ... as if we can clearly define which is which :-)

    • WoodlandBard profile image
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      WoodlandBard 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Yes, the Normans were invited over here by Irish chieftains due to their reputation as good archers, but actually found themselves to be welcomed and integrated well.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have discovered , after long believing I was of Irish ancestry , that my family the LYNCH's origins were Normand and came to Ireland as warriors for one of the kings ( not sure henry the 3rd) and stayed adopting O'Lynch as their sir name. I am fascinated by all history from the emerald isle.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      THANK YOU! I have been arguing with people who keep insisting Patrick murdered hundreds of Druids and explaining that is simply is not true! Ireland's early conversion happened much differently than the rest of Europe. There certainly were brutal and violent conversions in Europe, but none led by Patrick!

    • DeniseDurham2011 profile image

      DeniseDurham2011 5 years ago

      This is great! You worked hard on this lens & it shows. Lots of new information for me.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent article! Much like Jesus using parables "storytelling" to teach morals and ideals of the time, I suspect the Patrick stories were used in the same wise to convey the then incoming new "religion" and, staying in the bardic ways, start the wedding of the two together.

      Thanks,John, for all of your research and enlightening thoughts.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is interesting! - and hadn't really put the two (snakes/Druids) together. From history and archeology sites I have seen, there seems to be a fair opinion that ireland never really had many snakes - or was cut off /landbridge -wise, etc, before any could really make it there. Although familiar with the Paddy/Snakes story, It makes WAY more sense if he was instrumental, or used as a figurehead, when the Pope/English etc., powers-that-be, decided to bring Ireland to heel, as it were, in the case of Catholicsm, and stamp out any other beliefs as far as possible, to increase the church's revenue. Although fiction with a heavy historical base, Edward Rutherford's "Princes of Ireland" treats this in a fascinating way, and does a totally absorbing job of tie-ing together what was happening within Ireland, with a great overview of what outside interests may have been messing about with - .It may be fiction but seems to ring well with a lot of plausible truth! Thank you John!

    • WoodlandBard profile image
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      WoodlandBard 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I suspect a church sponsored bard somewhere along the line made that up. Some sort of slavery, buying and selling humans for work etc. went on well into medieval times, then in disguised forms since. Of course, its still a big gangster industry in Ireland so I suppose it never went away.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      What about St. Patrick eliminating slavery from Ireland? Where did that story come from?