There is enough presumption concerning my article, Pagans and Saint Patrick’s Day: The Real Meaning of the Holiday, that I feel I should say a final word on Saint Patrick to clear a few things up. I actually had to go back and read the article again, just to confirm that I did not, in fact, refer to the Christianization of Ireland as a genocide, compare as-such to the Jewish Holocaust, or state that St. Patrick was the leader of an invading Christian army. Nope. None of that is in there. So, basically, if anyone wants to argue with my very personal account of my relationship with St. Patrick’s Day, we should, perhaps, stick to what I actually said. That won’t be nearly as frustrating for either of us as arguing about points I never made.
All I really want to say in this regard is that St. Patrick was never the leader of an invading Christian army. That’s a simple fact. I never asserted, or thought, anything of the sort. If truth be told, St. Patrick himself probably didn’t accomplish nearly as much as he’s credited for, but was rather the beneficiary of centuries of clever marketing by the Catholic Church following his death. He was, after all, the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland, and as such was very useful in converting the Irish people to Christianity. The subjugation of a people does not have to happen at the point of a sword. It’s very helpful to give native people their own saints, and the Catholic Church did exactly that with Patrick.
No, the subjugation of the Irish people was a gradual process, which could perhaps best be summed up as an assimilation supported by the weight and authority of the early Catholic Church (which only grew in weight and authority in the centuries following Patrick’s death). That it is said St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland should not be taken to mean he literally drove out the Pagans at the point of a spear. What that means is that St. Patrick is largely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland (whether deserved or not), and the “driving out the snakes” bit is a metaphor for the supplantation of native Pagan religions with Christianity (ie, driving out the heathen gods). No. There were no armies. There were no battles. There was no holocaust. That is not what is meant when I refer to subjugation.
St. Patrick was traditionally reviled in my ancestry not because of anything he actually did himself, but because of the stories attributed to him. The IDEA of St. Patrick, more than the person of the actual man, was very much used as a tool of subjugation. The native religions of Ireland were deemed evil and blasphemous by the Church, and the image of St. Patrick was used as a metaphor in the suppression of them. When I refer to the blood of my ancestors, I refer to the bloodlines and traditions that were suppressed at the insistence of the Christian church. It says all that needs to be said that when people hear I am of Irish descent, they most often assume I am Catholic. It most often doesn’t occur to them that there were beliefs in Ireland that preceded Christianity.
In closing, it is true that I compared my reaction to the Christian cross to that of Jewish people to the Nazi swastika, but that doesn’t mean I was comparing the subjugation of the Irish people to the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say, and all I meant is that I have an aversion to the Christian cross in much the same way that a swastika makes a Jew angry (though for different reasons, obviously). In my life, and in the lives of my ancestors, the Christian cross is a symbol of a people who have always insisted that those of us from different spiritual paths stop being who we are and start pretending to be who they insist we must be. Any non-Christian who has ever run afoul of angry Evangelicals can relate to that. If you yourself are an angry Evangelical, you can perhaps be excused for not understanding what it’s like to be on the opposite side of all the hateful rhetoric. Let it suffice to say that it’s not all pleasant.
Okay, all that said, I’m off to the races. I love you, one and all. Even the ones I disagree with. I love discussion and debate, and encourage everyone to continue having at it.