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The Sad Origin of St Patrick's Day

Updated on March 8, 2012

The illusion...

Is that St Patrick's day is a day to celebrate and be merry. A day to run around looking for leprechans, four leaf clovers and people to pinch (or punch, depending on how drunk you are). The common story is that St Patrick came to ireland and saved the Irish from big bad snakes, by driving them away.

Because of this, Saint Patrick was dubbed the "Patron Saint of Ireland", and every year on March 17th, the holiday is celebrated just about everywhere. People get all dressed up in green, gold and orange, to hobnob around town having a good time. Others get ready to go to church and pay their respects. While others just laugh and drink a green beer at home.

It's a nice illusion isn't it? Makes St Patrick's day seem all rainbows and pots of gold, doesn't it?

The Reality...

Is that in the 4th or 5th century AD, a teenager by the name of Maewyn Succat was kidnapped from Wales or Scotland by a tyrant chieftan, a few hundred years after christianity had really taken hold in gaelic lands, and he was sold as a slave to live out his days on Ireland as a shepard.

When he was 16, he had a dream that lead him to escape his owners and flee back to Britain, his first home, where he was then captured by British mercenaries who put him right back into the British slave trade. After several more months as a slave, Maewyn escaped once again and set out to travel Europe, defining his faith. After nearly a decade of loyal work to the Catholic church, he had a dream that told him that the Irish were just dying to have him come back and tell them about his religion. After having earned his christianized name of "Patricious" or "Patrick", he begged to be sent back across the seas to Ireland, to preach and convert the land. Originally his request was denied, but when the man sent before him, died before even reaching Ireland, Patrick was granted his request.

It was because of this dream, and strange belief that he needed to convert the Irish, that he head back to Ireland, where he proceeded to anger the then current High King of Tara, by disgracing their religious observances. Once he had thoroughly gained the kings angry attention, he managed to sway the king's favor and allow him to preach christianity to the people of Ireland, by suggesting his faith was nothing more than three deities who were all a single deity at the same time, which he described while using a three leafed clover.

Coinciding with Patrick's 'mission', is the disappearance of the ancient druidacht traditions in mainstream Ireland. The legend says that Patrick "drove out the snakes" from Ireland, when what he really did, was drive out the Druids. The former priests, healers, artists and wise-people of the land. Whether or not he drove them out, or they left, still remains to be seen. Previous christain preachers had attempted to convert the lands before, though because Patrick went straight to the High King of the age, he gained ground where others couldn't.

Strangely, up until ole Patrick began his conversion of Ireland, the land had remained strong and mostly free from oppression from the Roman's or any other local invaders who had all tried to take over the land. After Patrick worked his mojo, Ireland's history filled up with literacy, progress and one unfortunate event after another.

Events like...

  • A failure of bread in the year 536-539 AD...
  • Plagues from 660-680 AD...
  • The Normans attacking...
  • The Vikings attacking...
  • The English attacking... (thanks to good old Henry VIII and the Church of England..)
  • The Season of Storms (1588)
  • The Re-Conquest of Ireland... (Elizabeth and James I)
  • The Nine Year War...
  • The Wars of the Three Kingdoms...
  • The Great Famine...

Need I say more?

Granted, most of these events can now be logically explained away by science and disease theory, and I'm not refuting that. Though it certainly is an interesting coincidence that there are rarely any similar events described (even in myth) before Patrick's conversion of Ireland.

The sad truth...

Is that while Patrick may have been genuine and compassionate in his own beliefs, what happened after he converted most of the rest of Ireland to christianity, was the continued oppression, invasion and domination of the Irish by various christian cultures. Even after much of them had already converted to Irish catholisim, they were still warred with and conquered by several groups under the name of the same major patriarchal deity, but with different moral obligations and justifications. Even to this day the Irish are still ruled by outer dictators using dogma and diplomacy as their torches.

Roots that never left..

Ironically, in an attempt to help convert more pagans, Patrick took to using their heritage and pagan myths to help bring a better understanding and less anxiety about the new dogma's taking over. Because of this, when Patrick died, the church named the day for him and dubbed him a the patron (man) Saint of Ireland.

Originally, the spring was already known for Leprechauns, Blarney stones and Four Leafed Clovers (among other things), and the original holiday was Ostara, a sabbath of spring time that celebrated the season and the goddess Eoster.

To this day, the thought of luck, leprechauns and magick stones - all of which were celtic druid lore - are still celebrated as Irish heritage on St Patrick's day. Which goes to show, that regardless of what the culture may have been through, it essentially never lost it's magickal roots.


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    • BizGenGirl profile image

      Bema Self 5 years ago from Seattle

      Well, your close. I hope you don't mind if I throw in some more history here.... The druids were everywhere even in the 5th century. You couldn't throw a stone without a druid being nearby to study, interpret and sing about it. They traveled freely, and were respected by most peoples.

      Roman emperors had been against druidry for some time, though not because of religion, as the Emperors of the Roman Republic were polytheists themselves and tolerated most cultures. It was because the druids were the ones in control of most things, and whom counseled the people not to let the Roman's take control. They were a powerful, influential group of people. Though it wasn't until Emperor Cladius - in the middle of the 1st century - who did attempt to wipe out the druids for good. First he outlawed their existence. Then he had is soldiers chop down all Oak and Rowan trees, and burn any groves of trees, because they were known as the sacred spaces of Druids. Many of the worlds most ancient european trees were thought to have been burnt then. =(

      He also send a battalion to the Isle of Anglesey, which was supposedly the "heartland" of the druids at the time (Druids being very secretive, the only reason the Roman's found out about the island, was because the island was the main trade route of Gold from Wales to Ireland and then Britian, and the druids controlled it).

      Cladius's soldiers massacred all the druids on the island when they reached it, in the hopes that it would leave only small groves of druids, who would hopefully die out. They then built a fortress on the edge of the island and forced any remaining Celt's to stay there, lest they be druids in disguise, attempting to travel to Britain and unravel the Romans... (not that they needed help doing that)

      “On the coastline, a line of warriors of the opposition was stationed, mainly made up of armed men, amongst them women, with their hair blowing in the wind, while they were carrying torches. Druids were amongst them, shouting terrifying spells, their hands raised towards the heavens, which scared our soldiers so much that their limbs became paralysed. As a result, they remained stationary and were injured. At the end of the battle, the Romans were victorious, and the holy oaks of the druids were destroyed.” ~Tacitus

      Even though the Roman's one that fight, they still had a problem, and it was the same issue they started with. There may have been a larger group of Druids gathered on Anglesey, but there were many druids still in Scotland, Ireland, Holyhead, the isle of Bards, many other outlying islands and throughout Europe. You can't contain what was never contained in the first place.

      The roman republic feel apart, giving way to the roman empire, which eventually broke down as well, as we know, but they had then taken on christianity as their cause and the religious scorches they left behind, carried on with the Church of Rome that continued to conquer and rule over Europe after the romans. Because the roman's incorporated most religions into their own, and tolerated 'most' other religions, when they took on christianity, it stuck, and the tables turned from abrahamic persecution to polytheist prosecution, and the Pope's, Kings and Queens continued the conquest of the world as Rome had started.

      They still never officially got rid of the druids. What they did do, was scare the daylights out of anyone who formerly trusted the druids, which isolated them, and made it appear as if they had been wiped out. It's a great magick trick, lol ;)

      If you can't tell, I love Celtic history and lore too =D

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      I thought the Romans, long before the events of this story, drove the Druids from the land. It might have been England and not Ireland; I must be mistaken.

      Celtic lore still exists; there are many wonderful Celtic traditions and tales still extent in the world we live in today.