Pagans and Saint Patrick’s Day: The Real Meaning of the Holiday

Send to Kindle

Posted Mar 17, 2009

Ever one to ruin the fun, I couldn’t let today go by without making a few comments about Saint Patrick and the annual holiday that’s held in his honor. Most of the people I know will be wearing green in some form today, thinking of all things Irish, drinking green beer, and possibly honoring that ancient Irish tradition of getting drunk and fighting. In other words, Saint Patrick’s day is a good excuse for partying, and few people will put any more thought into it than that. That’s fine. It’s a secular holiday in the United States, even if the day is named after a Catholic bishop and missionary, and so it should all be taken with a grain of salt. Go forth and party. Have a good time. Build for yourself the pending hangover of the gods. That’s what it’s all about, right?

If most people know anything about Saint Patrick, it’s that his one claim to fame is that he drove the snakes from Ireland. What most people don’t realize is that the snake is a Pagan symbol, and that the snakes referred to in the Saint Patrick mythos are not meant in the literal sense, but refer to Pagans; i.e., Saint Patrick drove the Pagans (specifically, the Celts) out of Ireland (although it could be said, and has been argued, that much has been done in Saint Patrick’s name, but that the man himself was relatively unimportant). So what is celebrated on Saint Patrick’s Day with drinking and much cavorting is, ironically, the spread of Christianity throughout Ireland and the subjugation and conversion of the Celts.

I have a perspective on Saint Patrick that most Americans do not. If you don’t know already, my surname is Mulkieran. That surname is associated with the parish of Clonkennkerrill near the small modern village of Gurteen, in Galway. It was first recorded in the early 11th Century, and other early recordings include Maelisa O’Mulkieran who died in 1197. My mother was a passionate genealogist, who traced our family farther back than that. So you might say that my Irish bonafides have been well established.

I mention this for no other reason than to be able to point out that my perception of Saint Patrick when I was growing up was vastly different from the popular secular view. My mother was a seventh generation hereditary witch, from a long line of women who rejected the Christian tradition of assuming the names of their husbands and kept her family name. There’s not a hyphen among the seven women who preceded me, and each one of them passed down the Pagan traditions which I hold dear today. Among these was a distaste for Saint Patrick (to say the least – my grandmother would spit at the mention of his name), who my family saw as a Christian invader, a missionary who was instrumental in the subjugation of the Irish isle to the Christian church (and who, worst of all, wasn’t even Irish).

It wasn’t arbitrary that the day honoring Saint Patrick was placed on the 17th of March. The festival was designed to coincide, and, it was hoped, to replace the Pagan holiday known as Ostara; the second spring festival which occurs each year, which celebrates the rebirth of nature, the balance of the universe when the day and night are equal in length, and which takes place at the Spring Equinox (March 22nd this year). In other words, Saint Patrick’s Day is yet another Christian replacement for a much older, ancient Pagan holiday; although generally speaking Ostara was most prominently replaced by the Christian celebration of Easter (the eggs and the bunny come from Ostara traditions, and the name “Easter” comes from the Pagan goddess Eostre).

I don’t celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. I don’t begrudge those who do, and it doesn’t bother me that a lot of my friends will be drinking green beer and wearing buttons that say “Kiss me, I’m Irish”. Saint Patrick’s day in practice has become a secular holiday, much like Christmas, that has only the vaguest hints of its religious underpinnings still intact. So if you want to drink green beer and act like an idiot, please do. It won’t bother me in the slightest.

I actually strike quite a figure on Saint Patrick’s day. When nearly everyone else is wearing green in some fashion, I usually wear red and black, in various degrees and styles. For me, the red represents the blood of my ancestors, who were driven out of Ireland or were subjugated by any one of many zealous Christian missionaries. The black is for the darkness that fell over the world with the rise and dominance of the Christian church and the forced installation of patriarchy that replaced the ancient reverence for the feminine divine.

The only green I wear on Saint Patrick’s Day is a pendant that was handed down from my great-grandmother. It’s an oak leaf made of silver, the leaves of which are inlaid with emeralds. Family tradition holds that the gems were brought over from Ireland when the family came to America in the mid 1800’s, and before that were passed down through the generations for centuries.

The significance of the oak leaf should be obvious to most Pagans. Greeks worshipped the oak as it was sacred to Zeus. It was a crime to fell an oak tree in Pagan Ireland. The ancient Celts wouldn’t meet unless an oak tree was present. The old expression “knock on wood” comes from the Celts, who believed in tree spirits. Both the Greeks and the Celts believed touching sacred trees would bring good fortune. They would knock on the oak tree to say hello to the tree spirit. And my family tradition holds that an oak leaf worn at the breast, touching the heart, will protect the wearer from all deception and the world’s false glamour. Oaks are protectors, and to me they represent strength and renewal; that spark of the old ways that can never be fully stamped out by Christianity, and which keep popping up in the least expected places.

Why not wear a shamrock? Simple. Legend credits Saint Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Christian Trinity by showing people the shamrock, using it to highlight the Christian belief of “three divine persons in the one God”. Wearing a shamrock to me is tantamount to wearing a Christian cross. I don’t begrudge those who do, but I know the meaning behind it, and I can’t follow you there. You might as well ask a Jew to wear a swastika.

In closing, all I’ll say is that instead of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, I’ll be looking forward to Ostara. It’s usually about this time of year that I feel the first stirrings of Spring in the air, and it really begins to feel like the Earth around me is beginning to reawaken from its long sleep. You’ll see it in the step of every young person you see, as their bodies respond to the marshaling of energies and their hormones start raging. The Wheel of the Year keeps turning, and this time of the year is all about renewal. It’s the reason we all find ourselves flirting shamelessly with one another.

If I’ll be celebrating anything on Saint Patrick’s Day, it’s that my world is passing from Winter into Spring. Flowers will soon be popping into existence all around me. And there’s no better time of the year that you can feel so alive. I’d much rather celebrate that than the subjugation and extermination of Pagans in Ireland.

Share Button
Send to Kindle

About Claire

Claire Mulkieran is rumored to be a glorified computer programmer by trade, but you can call her a “Systems Security Designer.” She's also a teacher of Pagan-related spirituality and the unofficial patron saint of meandering misfits (or a delusional lunatic, depending upon whom you ask). If you're ready to read between the lines, consider her guiding motto; "Are you a figment of my imagination, or am I a figment or yours?"

186 Responses to Pagans and Saint Patrick’s Day: The Real Meaning of the Holiday

  1. Tristan L Sullivan August 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    Great article! You detailed well, and with considerable restraint, the subjugation of feminizing forces of intuitive pagan religion Patrick is associated with via Christianity, the crushing of the snake a symbol. Since a judgmental, patriarchal view of the world with its fear of nature and fear of emotion and the unknown threatens to ruin, rape and destroy everything beautiful, worthwhile and vulnerable on this Earth with its agenda of male dominated brutality, domination and fascism, your resistance of the absurd St Patrick’s Day customs is quite appropriate. I agree. It’s too bad we celebrate Columbus, too, a man who began a legacy of full out genocide against a native people (our own foreign policies right in line with this), in the name of domination and profit. I see Patrick crushing the snake as an emblem of the bully, the coward. Quite aligned with US policy. His real story is probably more innocent; he was just a man embedded in a historical process marching towards the true crisis of humanity we now face. It was good to discover your article, voice of sanity, and emotional connection to nature and life. Thank you.

  2. Erica P March 19, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Regarding spring… people may be flirting more during spring. That I cannot say or prove, but more babies are born in September (and immediately preceding months) than any other month, so SOMETHING must be awakening during the winter months… even without the entrance of spring. :)

  3. terrence March 18, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    anything stemming from satan’s church of christianity aka the catholic church is not true christianity; christmas, easter anything preceded by saint all the holidays were purposely mixed with pagan holidays to mislead the pagans into believing they were/are following Jesus.

  4. PD March 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    You’ve made some pretty extreme claims about the history of Ireland Claire. What are you basis for these claim? Can you provide any sources or citations?

  5. K. Alexander March 18, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    Ireland was not subjected (the definition being: to conquer or enslave). People willingly converted for a myriad of reasons. There is absolutely no historical evidence of violence associated with St Patrick’s mission as your “blood of my ancestors” would suggest. Your ancestor’s blood may have been shed, as was mine, but St. Patrick certainly wasn’t to blame.
    Here is a detailed history of St. Patrick and his mission in Ireland.
    http://www.strangehorizons.com/2009/20090727/da_silva-a.shtml

  6. Dan Almond March 18, 2014 at 1:03 am #

    Does everyone believe that everyone’s “One God” looks like everyone else’s? Pagan, Christian, Jew, Hindu all believe in a God(or more than one God). Let everyone’s beliefs alone and not argue/war about what God looks like.

  7. Gary March 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    Why such a dim view towards Christianity? I can understand a dim view if you have only been exposed to TV preachers and such, but I learned that the generational traditions of belief within families are something that needed consideration for myself rather than trust those who lived before me. Perhaps if you took the time to look at the link below you would be better informed of the traditions that you practice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoRa3MZxV8g

  8. Cori March 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    This has probably already been discussed, but I find it interesting that you wear red or black on St. Patrick’s Day. I was raised to believe that if you wear red on that day, you’re asking to be kissed. Any other color, you’re asking to be pinched. Do you know anything about those old traditions?

  9. Daniel March 17, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    For a super exposition on St. Patrick and the rest of the Celtic saints – see Anthony Duncan’s book, The Forgotten Faith. Well worth a read…

    http://www.skylightpress.co.uk/9781908011718.html

  10. Sarah March 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Probably not a good idea to compare anything to the Holocaust. Talk about stepping on religious toes… good grief!!! Otherwise, I really enjoyed your article. An acquaintance led me to this blog. You are a fab writer!!!

    • Lucius S. Helsen March 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      Actually, the comparison isn’t that far off, and only offensive to those who would hold their people’s pain above the suffering of others.

      How many Pagan Celts do you think were slaughtered to enforce Christian supremacy in Ireland? Is the destruction of culture, life, religion, and a people’s identity not a tragedy? That one occurred over a thousand years ago and one merely seventy does not make the horror any greater or lesser. To the Pagan Celt, is this horror not as harsh and touching as the holocaust was to the Jews, simply because time has passed? If it was a Native American talking about this rather than a Celt, would you chastise them for comparing it to the holocaust?

    • Gere March 17, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      How is it not a fair comparison? The holocaust was Hitler’s genocide for the Jewish people. The spread of Christianity through ancient Ireland was the Catholic Church’s genocide for the Celtic people. There was a lot of blood spilled. People fled the isle. Those that did not flee and were not killed, had everything they believed in torn away from them and replaced with a foreigner’s idea of salvation. Far from popular belief, it was not a peaceful conversion.

    • Becca March 17, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      She actually did not compare anything to the holocaust. She was saying that for her, wearing a shamrock is the equivalent of a Jewish person wearing a swastika. It’s not a competition to see who had it worse. It is a comparison of two different symbols hated by specific cultures. Since to the people involved, both are symbols of oppression and violence, it is an appropriate comparison.

    • l March 18, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

      Ummm yea cuz the jews are the only ppl ever persecuted in history? Sorry but the lack of photos and press makes me think the Christians probably burned and raped and did a lot worse back then. Get over yourself.

    • Blackbird March 21, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      It’s always a bad idea to compare something to the Holocaust when you have absolutely no foundation for such a comparison. The reality is that Ireland converted peacefully. Any legends of St Patrick fighting and killing Druids were written hundreds of years after his death. The shamrock and snake stories are hundreds of years after that.

      The wearing of green has more to do with more recent Irish history as the original color associated with the day was blue, not green. The green is specific to the fight between Catholics and Protestants (i.e. the Republic and England).

      Let’s take a shot in the dark that the snake story did have to do with running out of the pagans (there is no basis for this at all as it would make more sense to attribute the absence of actual snakes as one of his miracles). Patrick didn’t write the snake story. It comes even later than the various Druid war stories that are contradicted in other legends. So even if the story was using the snakes in place of Druids, it wasn’t written by Patrick himself and is false.

      If you have nothing to do with Ireland, then the day should hold no relevance to you anyway. If you are Irish, he is important within that culture, Christian, pagan, or otherwise. Celebrate it or don’t, but don’t perpetuate the lies to justify misdirected and misguided anger toward the “murder” of pagans that didn’t take place in Ireland.

  11. BG March 17, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    Very funny.

    There are absolutely no eckstian holy days that did not start out as Pagan holly days, not one.

    From the time that the Roman aristocracy perverted the myths of Osiris and Dionysus to make up the tale of poor old Jesus to tame Jewish messianic prophecies from an avenging Jewish savior descending from heaven with an army of angels to destroy Rome into a submissive peace hippy who advocated the prompt paying of taxes (render unto Caesar!) for those of all faiths, through the usurpation of elder religions’ holly days into eckstian holy daze until today, no aspect of the christ cult differentiates it’ as uniquely as the propensity for mass-murdering those of other faiths.

    Claire writes well and has done a wonderful job of presenting facts most eckstians are unaware of but She nailed the heart of the matter in the first paragraph: drinking beer and having a good time really are what it’s all about! We Pagans who celebrate life in all its diversity very happily embrace eVery little excuse that we can find to rejoice in the magic of Nature.

    While I do understand the aversion to symbols and don’t wear shamrocks either, I would like to point out that green is the color of Nature’s growth and prosperity and 3, as eVeryone knows, is a Magic number! One need not buy into the christ myth to enjoy the company and companionship of our Irish, nee Celtic, friends and neighbors.

    Fear not, therefor, and be of good cheer!

  12. Cynthia March 17, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    I don’t celebrate St Patrick,honestly I don’t know the man. I do however celebrate St Particks Day because I’m of Irish descent.,and I love my roots and where I come from.Be it good or bad because you cant have light without dark.
    I wear green and love shamrocks because green is my favorite color,and because I’m a child of nature.
    I love everything and anything of learning history Pagans and Catholics alike because that is my culture,and that’s how I was raised. Blessed Be to you all,and to you Clair awesome post =)

    • Sue March 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

      I like your comment and your attitude. Best comment I have seen on this. Very well said. Blessed be.

  13. DF March 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    I think you might want to avoid comparing asking a pagan to wear a shamrock to asking a Jew to wear a swastika, because I’m -pretty- sure that six million pagans weren’t massacred for being pagan by the Catholics, and that could be seen as offensive.

    Nicely put article, although it’s a touch arrogant here and there.

    • Avy March 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      Maybe not 6mil at once, but what do you call the Crusades? And the people still being burned at the stake in the name of Christianity in underdeveloped countries?

    • Patrick L. Bertlein March 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      You folks are ridiculous. You are saying because one thing was worse than the other, the lesser of the “evil’s” can not be compared. This is not a competition, both were terrible, and since you are the one acting like a snob fine, let’s not compare what happened in Ireland during St. Patrick’s time to the Holocaust, let’s compare the Famine, something that was just as bad if not worse. Satisfied now? Sorry children, but the Jews were not the only ones who had terrible things happen to them, they do not get the crown of having all the wrongs in the world done to them. In fact, if you actually knew History and were not just a whiny PC snob, you would know the Jews did their shares of evil tot he world as well (gasp!).

      Regardless of all this, she was not comparing the Holocaust to what St. Patrick did. She was comparing wearing a Shamrock, a very apt compaison actually.

    • me you March 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Actually it has been estimated by historians who have researched the Burning Times 1300-1700 in Europe that the Catholic Church did torture burn drown and otherwise kill between 4-6 million pagans! Women men and children were all victims (not just women “witches”) – sometimes every person in a town were killed. Watch documentary film The Burning Times funded by the National Film Board of Canada. It is a Holocaust that few recognize

      • Blackbird March 21, 2014 at 11:14 am #

        Incorrect. The closer number may be in the 150,000 range, but I believe it was Ronald Hutton who put it in the 40,000s. Wiping 4 – 6 MILLION people off of the planet would have had a severe impact on the planet in general. There is no evidence of this.

        http://www.summerlands.com/crossroads/remembrance/current.htm

    • Skip March 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

      A great many pagans were massacred in the name of christianity – Verden was even German – and given world population then vs now it would easily come to a similar percentage of the world’s population. You are sorely mistaken – pagans have been done in by every christian faction including christians for centuries.

    • Giovanni March 17, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

      You have a good point but history is never revealed truthfully as it should be. There were a lot of pagans killed or converted so we may never know the truth…

    • Becca March 17, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

      This is a very wide range since it is very difficult to get accurate historical information from such an early time period, but it is estimated that anywhere from 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 “accused” pagans were murdered during the crusades. However, it is not a competition to see who had it worse. There is plenty of reason to dislike a symbol that represents either atrocity.

  14. Pilar Liebl Lopez March 17, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    This is all a load of misguided crap. Now try and do some research from the Catholic perspective – UGH!

    • Patrick L. Bertlein March 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

      Comment with no facts backing it up, dismissing an article with no evidence-UGH!!

      How so Pilar? Otherwise, you are just talking crap like a chump.

    • Nancy March 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

      You are full of —-.

  15. Dorothy March 16, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    Teaching the trinity to people who believe in the Maiden, Mother, Crone aspects of the Goddess is laughable. They ALREADY understand the concept of three in one.

    • Patrick L. Bertlein March 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

      Yes, the Christians used Pagan symbols and converted them, that was her point. The writer of this article never denied that, she simply did not mention it.

      I love how pretentious snobs post crap in response to people’s blogs, due to their insecurity that they are not the ones writing interesting blogs.

  16. TheRaginPagan March 16, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    Didn’t Patrick cut down an oak sacred to Thor, as some kind of childish insult to the gods? Rhetorical question, of course, I had some doucher Catholic lord that over me; namely that Thor “didn’t strike him down, so obviously isn’t real or powerful.” I generally wear blue war-paint to protest Patrick’s day, as green is worn in honoring of the “saint.”

  17. Marty January 28, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Patrick was a VERY mundane character in his day. He did very little extraordinary deeds. He did not dabble in magic (or magick or magik as it is commonly misspelled) and did not do any fighting – magically or militarily. It is more likely he preached to the already christian people on the island, than went on a rampaging bloodbath of conversion. This web page gives a brief, but well written account of the real Patrick: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2009/20090727/da_silva-a.shtml

    • Gino March 17, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      “Magick” is the historically correct spelling, so by attempting to talk down to people who don’t spell it “magic” you’ve only revealed ignorance, not moral superiority.

      • Patrick L. Bertlein March 17, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

        No Gino it is not, it is invented by Crowley, this is a well known fact, please go away now.

    • Khope March 17, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

      Yes Marty….countless people were exhiled from their homes because of simple preaching. No one ever did anything to make them leave. Seriously?

  18. Greg Cassel December 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    This article was wonderfully thoughtful and informative; thanks so much for sharing.

  19. Dee April 21, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Good article, thanks! I have read about so many things being changed due to religion or politics. It’s sad really!

    • mick March 17, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      Everything changes but like mother nature we remember ourselves with unity of oneness that brings us closer to our true nature I am sure Patrick was monk and spoke free speech with no intension of driving anyone away today our religion is not for celebration but our unity with each other as one. our belief is simple find happiness together and we will find our true nature.

  20. Stormdancer March 19, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I use the Shamrock to represent Maiden Mother and Crone in my observation of the holiday. I celebrate as a day of Irish/Celt heritage as well as Spring’s incoming. For the goddess Brighid and for The Mother of us all. Patrick may have driven the pagans from Ireland (though I’m sure it is presently fluent once again)but Pagan/Druidic beliefs flurishes globally and will stay forever! We were “green” before “green” was cool! Goddess bless the pagans of our earth!

  21. Sean March 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    You sure have a false sense of your own tolerance

    • Wicasta March 19, 2013 at 9:03 am #

      What does that even mean?

      • Dave March 17, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

        I was going to say the same actually. The judgement is quite clear. The author stated her tolerance to the holiday and to those who celebrate it… When it’s quite clear she does not. Hence the “false sense”. The point is quite clear in the article, however, there is a passive aggressive air to it. Though, unintentional, I’m sure.

    • Jonathan March 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

      No more than yours.

  22. Christopher Busch March 18, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    I love this article, Claire! Thank you.

    • Heathen Holiday March 17, 2014 at 5:18 am #

      Great article!

      Monotheism – The Original New World Order

      and they wonder why the world is a mess…

      xoxox, HH

  23. Kemo March 18, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I just wish you wouldn’t call it Christian.. Call it Catholic..
    True Christians were persecuted as much as pagans. So much evil done in the name of Christ, when he taught none of that.

    • Shay March 1, 2014 at 9:08 am #

      Extremely true. And the Catholic religion is nothing but Pagans undercover blaspheming the name of Yahushua (Christ). There are many lies based around these titled religions, its time to extract ourselves from Christianity (who reject the laws of YAH [God of Israel]). Present day Christianity is nothing but lukewarm mini Catholics aka Pagansssss who reject the old testament and have watered down twisted doctrine.
      TRUE believers of the great and mighty IAM (YHWH) who dwell between the cherubim in the holy heavenly tabernacle, TRUE believers of the LAMB of ELOHIM [God of Israel], the righteous one CHRIST, they will keep all his commandments of old given through Moses, they will READ their bible for their self and KNOW IT from within, they will KEEP THE Sabbath of the TRUE AND LIVING CREATOR, YHWH!! Its time to put away the gods of the hethan, which are nothing but stone and wood that have no breath nor thought nor can be of any help. AWAKE TO RIGHTEOUSNESS and SIN NOT , and the biblical definition of sin is transgression of the law of GOD!! Read the word for yourself from the begining!! Know the story, or shut your mouth.

      • Sally March 11, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

        I knew it was a pagan story, but I also heard that he killed many Jews!?!? Does anyone know about this?

      • john March 17, 2014 at 1:15 am #

        Catholics are the first Christians. So by association all Christians are tainted Anti-spiritualist. They have a long history of driving out natural wisdom in favor of dogmatic ceremony and blatant unfounded righteousness. It is the Euro-Christian paradigm that is responsible for the lost of my Native American heritage and my Native Celtic heritage. I spit on the cross and and watch it mold on the dark day I return to the mother Earth and the stars beyond.

      • Sarah Robison March 17, 2014 at 9:20 am #

        “Shay” do I know you? Lol

      • Jonathan March 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

        Anyone that claims there’s is the one true god is false for it’s based in ego, pride, and fear.

        • Giovanni March 17, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

          Agreed!!!

      • Patrick L. Bertlein March 17, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

        Why would I waste my time reading that treacherous book known as the bible? I know more than enough to talk about it, its called other sources that show all its discrepancies, murderous stories, and what not.

        Self-righteous ass, thinking you are the TRUE one, you are just another idiot on the internet.

      • Honest March 18, 2014 at 11:28 am #

        Pagans are Pagans and Christians Are CHRISTians. The old ways existed much longer than Christ. No one is sinning…if one sins than we ALL do….and you cannot blame one for fighting back after so much or their people have been murdered for selfish, bloating reasons……………YES Catholic COULD be a mixture of pagan and christian….but it is not true paganism obviously. ONLY BECAUSE Christians were Influenced by the pagans and old first ways……………we are pagan…. NOT catholic. do your research please……and your pretty rude..sorry but please dont tell people to shut their mouth when you come on here screaming at us and thumping the bible…. you have posted one of the most ignorant of knowledge known to man…you are really twisting ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in a bundle and throwing it out in the open….not good my friend….please peace be with you and im sorry for replying…..

    • Jimbo March 6, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      It IS a good article and I enjoyed it, but thanks for pointing that one thing out. There’s a big difference between the believers in the words of Jesus and the Gospel and the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

      It could be argued that modern Europe and the United States are the offspring of Rome… the modern age counterparts of the old Roman Empire. Rome was PAGAN and the HRCC is the “religious” arm of PAGAN Rome.

      So what you now have is a bunch of PAGANS (that DON’T believe in God as revealed in the Judeo/Christian tradition) passing themselves off as “Christians” while the REAL Christians (that are appalled at both the religious and secular world of today) are outcasts much like the self-professed PAGANS!

      This gives us the illusion of “Christianity” prosecuting PAGANS (or unbelievers) when it really is self-serving PAGANS prosecuting other PAGANS that don’t profess to be Christians.

      A REAL follower of Christ would have nothing to do with any of them….

      • Plantlife March 18, 2014 at 11:36 am #

        That is such a lie when you say a follower of Christ would have nothing to do with it…..They have always murdered and prosecuted pagans and ANYONE ELSE WHo has been every unholy name n the BOOK. -_- LOL and every time you say PAGAN its capitalized…. here is some simple logic: PAGANS ARE PAGANS and Christians are Christians and Catholics are Catholics. pagans have nothing to do with Catholics or CHRISTians killing off pagans or themselves….. its as simple as that….. the reason i sound so angry is because you and the way you explain you BUNCH OF PAGANNNNSSSSSSSSS is very rude and misunderstood…please have a good day. im sorry. and CATHOLICS DO believe in god. that is why they are catholic!!!! ”jesus christ”

  24. Johan March 17, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    Excuse my Ignorance, but I was always under the impression that Easter was the holiday that replaced Ostara. And why refer to St Padraig as a slaver when he was a slave himself?

    • Tad March 12, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      Easter is a synthesis of the Pagan (northern Eurpoean) Ostara, the Judiac Passover and the ancient Roman traditions of Sol Invictis. Ostara is the celebration of the Spring Equinox, celebrated on the day of the equinox and is based on the Solar cycle. Passover also celebrates the equinox, but its date is set using the lunar Hebrew calendar, which sets the first day of the month of Nissan on the new moon immediately after the equinox, and Passover 15 days later, or on the full moon. The Christians, wanting to separate their celebration of rebirth, place Easter on the Sunday following the Paschal Moon, which is normally the first full moon after the equinox, but is occasionally the second. The Christian sabbath of Sunday is commonly attributed to the notion that Jesus rose from the dead on the day following the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday), but this would have him in the tomb a maximum of 36 hours (1.5 days) not the 3 days claimed (which coincides with the death of the sun on the Winter Solstice at sunset 12/21 and its rebirth at dawn on 12/25. It is more likely that Sunday (the sun’s day) was chosen because Rome (and Constantine) converted from Sol Invictis (trans: The invincible sun) to Christianity under Constantine and the death and rebirth mythology was borrowed from sun worship as well. Note also that the Easter and Passover lambs derive from the Zodiac constellation Aries, which was likely named because it is the Zodiac house the sun is/was in during lambing season. Christianity originated during the transition from the Zodiac “Age of Aries” to the “Age of Pisces” which is determined by which Zodiac house the sun is in on the Spring Equinox, and both the Lamb (Aries) and the Fish (Pisces) became strong Christian symbols.

  25. Cindy March 17, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Beautifully written and bravo to you and your family f

  26. Alotofshit March 17, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    You really offer nothing new here. Not surprisingly though. Granted you tell of your family and what they might have done and offer their thoughts on Patrick, but you have no real different story. Pagan or snakes what ever was run out was run out. No big deal. My family, like your came from Ire too. Never left until about 40- 45 years ago, many still live there and own land etc. My father tells a bit of a Different story too. Simply put, a snake has been seen in association with wisdom and medicine and Patrick chased out all of the wisdom.

    See our people are a great bunch and we were wise at one time, willing to fight for what was ours and right. Now, well most just follow the same flock to slaughter.

    Oh, and by the way, I would argue that most, if not all religious sects are as much pagan as you are. Called by a different name but still do much of the same stuff. Just my take on it all.

  27. MiaFortuna March 17, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    I just wanted to say that this was a pleasure to read and the comments, whether agreeing or not, everything was very informative and interesting. Thank you Claire for sharing. I am sharing this on my facebook page. Blessed be.

  28. Eric March 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Brilliant article and I completely agree! I will be wearing all black today, myself, and if anyone pinches me for not wearing green, I’ll pinch them back twice as hard!

  29. Necia Phoenix March 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    I wanted to say thank you (followed a link here from facebook) for this post. My sons and I were just discussing the origins of St. Patty’s day and this really helped us get a clearer grasp of the origins of the holiday.

  30. Daisy March 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Thanks, Claire. I thought I was very much alone regarding St. Patrick’s Day.

    Though I consider my non-religious. I take “rules” that speak to me from all faiths to incorporate into my life.

    I drive friends and family “crazy” with this. It works for me and I am at peace.

    enJOY life.

    Daisy

  31. Rachel March 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post. It is well written and so informative, from your heart!

  32. Mellors March 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    I’ll sometimes wear green on ___ Patrick’s Day. But I’ll *always* wear a snakeskin print garment of some kind.

    Blessed Be… (\”/)

  33. Brian March 17, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Was going to add something to this Debate – which is getting about as long as the Mahabharata – but I’ve forgotten what the Hell it was all about !!

  34. Jonathan March 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    As Pagans I think it is our duty to re-convert Slaver Patrick day back into a pagan celebration of Ostara. Green is the ultimate Pagan color, and the conduct generally observed on Slaver Patrick day is already fringe-pagan.

    Let’s remember the Pagan dead on Slaver Patrick day and prepare for Ostara proper on the Equinox.

    • =Tamar March 17, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      As I understand it, Patrick himself was a slave, an early example of Stockholm Syndrome.

  35. Galina March 17, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Excellent article. I’ve shared this on my fb page and will share momentarily on my blog. Truly excellent food for thought.

  36. Michelle Woodman March 17, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    So what about a 4leaf clover? I have a genuine one in a necklace, and to me it represents the four corners: Earth, Air, Water, Fire. Or north, south, east, west. If it still represents anything NOT Pagan, I will give it to someone who wants it. I don’t wear it that often, and I’m just wondering.

    • Claire March 17, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      Michelle, if it means something to you, it really doesn’t matters what it means to someone else. Symbolism and iconography is continually adapted and re-adapted to new ways of thinking. Your personal connection and beliefs are what matters. Embrace whatever speaks to you, and reject anyone else’s attempt to correct you. If I’ve rejected certain things, it’s because it bothered me personally. It certainly doesn’t mean that everyone else should feel the same way. :-)

      • Chris March 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

        Claire,

        I wanted to thank you for the kind and gentle way in which you respond to posts. I think we learn more when we all discuss topics civilly even though we might not agree.

        It disappoints me when I read comments in forums that seem to be more about, “no, no, you’re wrong and I’m right and here’s why” rather than, “those are interesting points, have you come across these, and what’s your opinion on them?

        Have a wonderful day! I can feel spring tip-toeing in, even on this cold-and-windy day! :)

  37. kathleen March 17, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Hi,I found your articles interesting.I was offended by the insert at the top of the replies..from an annonymous person…saying you are “delusional”,and generally trying to put you down for what I consider to be a benign and intelligent discussion on your religious ideas.keep writing and ignore the insults.I have a less modern and romanticised view of “witches v christians having grown up with catholic/irish observances which were only a veneer over pagan belief and practices.I suppose a bit like voodoo saints doubling as catholic saints.Historically there are arguments for and against european witch hunting and how many were burned etc.What is not in question is the fear of womens power and sexuality and episodic increases in attacking women.Easy excuse is to say their power is evil like the awful cases in New Guinea.That jutifies hers the torture and degreddation of women who are different or vulnerable as a warning to others who may want to maintain the status quo in their society.There is of course the opportunity of power mad men who enjoy the abuse and pornographic torture to wield their authority in native or sophisticated societies.May Ostara bring new hope and enlightenment.Keep writing

    • Claire March 17, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Thank you, Kathleen, for “getting it”, and for your kind words. Half the time I don’t know what points people are trying to make here, much less what they’re so upset about. As you mentioned, all I ever meant to do with this article was discuss my personal beliefs and traditions. It was never meant as a manifesto about the Way Things Must Be. How bizarre it is that so many people read it as exactly that, and are therefore compelled to defend their own positions and beliefs. In the end, when it comes to personal belief and faith, there really is no wrong way. How strange that human beings spend so much energy arguing over what is, essentially, whispers in the dark.

  38. Cait McKnelly March 17, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    I am a historian and have roots in the west of Ireland. I am also a pagan and a fairly strict Celtic Reconstructionist. The second that your article linked Eostra to Padraig I knew it was bullshit. This goddess was North Germanic in origin (and may even have been influenced by the Norse) and didn’t even appear in Britain (much less Ireland) until the establishment of the Danelagh, a good four hundred years after Padraig died. She doesn’t even appear in the Irish pantheon.

    The only things you got right in this article is that Padraig “driving out the serpents” (not snakes) is an allusion to his victory over the pagans (which, according to his own writings, he actually felt some guilt about) and that Eostra is the source of the connection to eggs and rabbits at Easter (both symbols of fertility).

    As for Padraig, himself, the reason his church feast day is set on March 17th is because it was the day he died. Nothing more, nothing less. We can be fairly certain of this for a number reasons. He wasn’t even Irish. He was a Christianized Roman Briton and, as a priest of the church, had regular, written communication with Rome. (Two of his letters have survived to this day.)

    I think a big part of the confusion for Americans about St. Patrick’s Day has to do with how it’s celebrated in the US. True Irish look at the excesses of Americans and respond either with bemusement or outright horror. St. Patrick’s feast day occurs right in the middle of Lent. They NEVER had parades, went out and got drunk, etc. (The first St.Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland didn’t occur until the late 20th century in Dublin. Then, it wasn’t established for the Irish, but for the tourist trade.) True Irish celebrate it by going to Mass, going home and MAYBE relaxing the rules of Lent enough to have meat at dinner (and even that is “iffy”. Oh and by the way, corned beef and cabbage is also an American invention.)

    The pagan traditions took a very long time to die out in the west of Ireland. People there, today, still celebrate Lughnasadh. For someone who claims to be a “seventh generation witch from Galway”, I would expect you to know this.
    Much love.

    • Kallan Kennedy March 17, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      BRAVA Cait! This was shared with me today and I about lost it over the total lack of historical accuracy in this post. And, frankly, anyone claiming to be a seventh generation witch has already lost all credibility with me. Thanks for standing up for the truth.

      • Claire March 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

        You misunderstand my point in mentioning that my mother was a seventh generation hereditary witch. My traditions have little to do with what people popularly think of as witchcraft, and are certainly not born of some mythical pre-Christian pagan culture (which we all know didn’t exist – well, outside of Druids, Celts and the like – at least not where modern Paganism is concerned). I assume that’s the presumption you made, that I was saying that my beliefs are somehow more valid than others because they were handed down. Your presumptions weaken your understanding of the points I was trying to make. The word “witch” is a word I am comfortable with. But my mother would not have used that word to describe herself, nor would have my grandmother. Ours is a folk tradition based upon simple, recognizable concepts that would resonate with nearly every culture in the world. If I call it witchcraft, it is simply because that is what most of the world’s major religions view it as. But it’s probably not what most modern Pagans and Wiccans think of when they hear the words “witchcraft” or “witch”. If anything holds, it’s preconceived biases. And we’re all guilty of that. In the end, all I was trying to say is that what I believe didn’t come from a book by Buckland or Cunningham.

        • Stevenredd March 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

          You said, “My traditions have little to do with what people popularly think of as witchcraft…” Wow, that resonated a ton. Regardless of the putdowns of the above comments, I hear ya. I grew up the same way. Couldn’t put a finger on it, but discovered a lot more familiarity or “things just fit” when I began to research witchcraft as a youngster. Loved your line about Buckland & Cunningham (although Scott Cunningham was a pretty cool cat) and how it “informs” things. People look for orthodoxy, even when they’re rebels… I’m not attached to anything any more, but I still throw salt over my shoulder, say blessing crossing certain thresholds and have a little ritual I always do before traveling long distances. And my entire kitchen life is filled with memories of my foremothers that are so silly and banal yet profound to me that I am sometimes completely overwhelmed peeling a potato.

          Thanks for a nice memory. Your opinions are yours, regardless of the actual factual accuracy of every single little detail. And the memories, that’s what’s real.

    • Chris March 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      Cait,

      I really think you could have shared your information without sounding like a complete jerk. Being a speaker of Irish Gaelic, I find many things in the neopagan community that cause me to frown, but I don’t see how the behavior of come Celtic reconstructionists like yourself does anyone any good. Clearly you had an axe to grind. Hope it felt good wielding it.

      Le gach dea-mhéin.

      • Cait McKnelly March 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

        Chris, I am 60 years old and have dealt with this for so many years I am weary. Perhaps I do have an axe to grind, brought on by frustration with years of misinformation and, in some cases, outright lies. (The entire serpent/snake/druid connection is actually a modern invention and came out of a novel.)

        I, personally, think it’s a compliment that the Church co-opted some of the better things of Celtic Paganism. For instance, the beauty of Brighid lives on in St. Bridget. And the real truth is that Christians and pagans lived side by side in Ireland for hundreds of years. In fact, I think, in some odd way, the Irish considered themselves BOTH (although they would only admit to the Christian part of it).
        My own family came from Connemara, a mountainous region, the people of which were, at least in my grandfather’s day, considered the equivalent of Appalachian “hillbillies”. They were simple, superstitious people with a great respect for their storytellers. (The Irish have always been an oral race. In the Finian Cycle, one of the requirements for being admitted to the Fianna was to recite the “Twelve Books of Poetry” from memory.) And I KNOW that, up until at least WW II, if not later, they were still celebrating Lughnasad, although by that time it had deteriorated to a simple harvest festival.

        I live in America and coming from that kind of background, dealing with 4 leafed “shamrocks”, green beer, leprechauns and a St. Patrick with a miter he never wore surrounded by snakes he never “drove out” gets very, very old. (And oh my gods and goddesses if I have to hear “Danny Boy” one more time I swear I will slit my own throat.)

        I do apologize for coming off as a jerk. It was just a “last straw” sort of thing.

        Best wishes to you as well.

    • Tad March 12, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

      When considering 5th Century Irish history, it is important to remember that Ireland didn’t have a written language until the introduction of Christianity, and that Christianity had a nasty habit of destroying any literature they deemed “heretical” during that era. We can no more definitively say that Padraig died on March 17 than we can say the Jesus of Nazareth was born on December 25. The church had few qualms about putting saints, or even Jesus, birthday on or near holy days of other religions or otherwise co-opting traditions or mythology form earlier religions. Nor can we say conclusively that St. Patrick’s Day was set on March 17th in order to co-opt an earlier equinox festival, perhaps the old Roman Ides of March.

      Ostara and the other variations of the word do come from the Germanic languages, so we can say that she wasn’t worshiped by the Celts and Druids in the 5th century, but we do know that peoples on the British Isles were aware of the solstices and equinoxes at least as early as 2000 – 3000 BC from the alignment of the henges. It is very likely they had some sort of ritual celebration to mark the Spring equinox, and we can say that the Christianization of Ireland supplanted that practice. Which makes the hypothesis that St. Patrick’s Day being a Christian replacement for an earlier equinox celebration viable.

      In my view it comes down to a question of relevance. How would the world be different it one hypothesis is true and the other not? How would my life be different? I don’t think either the world nor my life would be different, so it is not of great moment. What is of moment however, is the obfuscation of history by Christianity, and the religious purges and forced conversions of the British Isles. The world would indeed be different had those events not occurred.

    • Patsy Brennan March 17, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Thank you for this email. As to the wearing of the ‘green’ on St. Patrick’s Day, was it not initiated as a balance to the Penal times when an Irish person could be hanged for the “Wearing of the Green’?

  39. Leslie Cregar March 17, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    This is beautiful. I especially love the wearing of red/black and why

    Blessed Ostara

  40. Ken March 17, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    I enjoyed the education of your article. I am recently getting in touch with my Celtic Pagan following. i don’t like to call it a religion because religion corrupts. I am going to celibate St. Patrick’s day today with the wearing of my kilt and now a Oak leaf in defiance of St. Patrick.

  41. Liz March 17, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Somewhat confused by this. ‘Eostre’ is Saxon, and first mentioned in Bede (The Reckoning of Time), who may have invented her, or who may be referring to a goddess of one of the northern European river valleys. The Brothers Grimm mention ‘Ostara’, but again, this is a Germanic text. Why would the ancient Irish, who were Celts, have anything to do with a Saxon deity? ‘Eosturmonath’ possibly means ‘the month of opening’ – but again, we’re talking about Anglo-Saxon, not Irish Gaelic: the Gaelic for ‘happy Easter’ would be “Cáisc Shona Dhuit/Dhaoibh”, depending on how many people you’re addressing. The Irish weren’t much affected by anyone from the British mainland prior to the Normans, with the possible exception of St Patrick, who was a British slave (and as you say, not Irish at all!). We’d probably also need to look at calendrical change, since it’s altered so much since these early days.

    I’m sure, however, that you are right about the equivalence of druids with snakes, since Ireland has (according to biologists) never had any snakes.

    • Claire March 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

      Eoster and Ostara are certainly Saxon / Germanic in origin. I never meant to make the point that these concepts were of Irish origin, if that’s the inference that was made. The Christian traditions of Easter were brought to Ireland as the Christian faith spread. And while the Irish may not have celebrated or worshipped Ostara, they did observe the Spring Equinox. That’s why the death of Saint Patrick is celebrated when it is, to coincide with Lent and Easter celebrations. Easter itself was intended to supplant Ostara celebrations, but Ostara was not an Irish concept, no.

    • Portia February 27, 2014 at 10:57 am #

      because the Celts invaded Eire.

      The Sidhe – people of Peace are the ones who trained the Druids in the ways of I/Eye magic etc.
      The Roman Catholic church usurped the Christian church and made Jesus into their Super Hero.

      So much his story to be corrected. Many will not like it but truth has to come to the forefront at this time.
      All the demonizing of serpents and wombs – which are called tombs etc.

      All the corruption of the S(tones) by dark magicians.Etc

  42. Morgaine March 17, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    Actually the colour associated wth St Patrick is Blue. Green only came to prominence during the Irish Rebellio/Liberation(depending on your point of view). When the wearing of the green came to be a symbol of Irish Nationalism

  43. Elmsly March 17, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    I would like to point out that:
    – snakes are not a “pagan” symbol, as they are referenced in stories in Genesis and Exodus, when neither pagans nor Christians existed.
    – there is no evidence that blood was shed and people were “forced to submit” to Christianity by St Patrick or anyone else.
    – the early Christian churches were not the patriarchy we see today. Patriarchy did not begin with Christianity, being around in Roman times and also part of the Jewish faith.
    – the beautiful pagan religion of our Celtic ancestors is not the same as the new, fashionable “pagan” religion of today.
    – part of the reason Christianity spread as far and wide as it did was because of adaptations that were made. Sacred days and festivals were still honored, an symbols incorporated, such as the sun, in the symbol of the celtic cross and other holidays.
    I have a old family book of prayers translated from the celtic language which has, along side prayers for Moon worship, and prayers to ancient godesses and gods, prayers to Mary, the trinity and Archangel Michael. There isn’t anything but a seamless, incorporation of giving thanks and asking for blessings in all these prayers.
    – In their defence, St Columba and St Patrick led movements that founded monasteries which became seats of learning, not just of religious matters but secular subjects as well. They were the pre-cursor to modern universities.

    “seventh generation hereditary witch” – and “pagan” – what exactly does that mean? Isn’t it the same as someone calling themselves a “Druid”? There is little, if any connection to the original religion.
    It sounds to me like your mother and grandmothers were church goers, possibly even Christians.

    I’m not actually here to promote Christianity or any group of beliefs, but you aren’t actually Pagan, in the sense that our ancestors were, and also Christianity, however unfashionable compared to saying you are a witch, is responsible for the origins of UNIVERSITIES and HOSPITALS which I think, anyone would agree, have improved the lot of many.

    • Truly an Irish Pagan March 17, 2013 at 9:57 am #

      You are wrong here. Pagans existed LONG before Christianity or the bible. It gets old hearing the same line from all of you.

    • Ladyhera25 March 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      Um I’m sorry but your facts are way off. Christianity butchered millions of people who refused to convert worldwide. The universities were only for clergy and nobles, you had to know Latin to even be considered and it wasn’t until Chaucer’s time that the commoners (very few of them might I add) were able to afford to give their children the education they needed to be able to attend university.

      Yet it was the black death that truly allowed the commoners to become educated, because so many had died. Commoners no longer had to stay on the land where they were born, they could look for work else where and employers had to offer better wages because of that. Many civic duties now opened up and required educated people to fill them.

      Which leads to my next point, both hospitals and universities didn’t improve anything until science was started to be taken seriously. Many of the medical practices that were learned in the renascence were things already known in the ancient world, but the spread of Christianity stamped them out because they were seen as heathen ways, so no Christianity is not responsible for the origins of university and hospitals in fact it was because of Christianity that the dark ages happened and so much knowledge from our past was lost. You say your not here to promote, but it is very clear from your lack of facts that either you really don’t know what your talking about and or you are promoting Christianity.

    • Claire March 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      Many of the points you make seem to be unrelated to the article at hand. But there were specifically a few things which you misunderstood.

      1) While I DID say that snakes were a Pagan symbol, what I meant to say is that in Christian mythology, where Saint Patrick is concerned, snakes are a symbol FOR Pagans – meaning that the snakes in the Saint Patrick story were a metaphor for Paganism and Pagans. I didn’t mean that snakes were revered by Pagans.

      2) The subjugation of Ireland was never at the point of a sword. There were no marching armies (why do people always go there?). It was a natural evolution as Christianity spread throughout Ireland, but the Catholic church was very active in the suppression of native beliefs. Basically, the same thing they did everywhere else, they did in Ireland. I don’t think anyone ever mentioned bloodshed. Perhaps where I went wrong was in using the word “subjugation”. That word doesn’t always mean warfare. It just means “to make subservient”, and doesn’t address methodology.

    • Gary March 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      Christianity spread in part from the simulation of the holidays; but also in part because the rulers adopted it as the state religion. (e.g. Constantine)

      • ward wagar March 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

        Constantine didnt adopt christianity, he adapted it to incorporate his own faith in its place, but under its name to appease the rapidly growing christian public. it is most likely why there are NO christian symbols on the arch of Constantine in Istambul (Constantiople). the Victors write the pages of history to villify their enemies, not to share the truth. Our current leaders do the same thing. they bullshit their way into attaining or keeping power, just like many others over humanities lifetime. Sad but true!
        Excellent read, thank you very much Claire!

        • Jim March 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

          Constantine the Great , The first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Constantine played an influential role in the proclamation of the Edict of Milan, which decreed religious tolerance throughout the empire. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, at which the Nicene Creed was professed by Christians.
          Constantine, as the first Christian emperor, is a significant figure in the history of Christianity. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on his orders at the purported site of Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem, became the holiest place in Christendom. The Papacy claimed temporal power through Constantine. He is venerated as a saint by Orthodox Christians, Byzantine Catholics, and Anglicans. The Eastern churches hold his memory in particular esteem, regarding Constantine as isapostolos or equal-to-apostles.

    • Portia February 27, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      Hospitals were places to die, not exactly the same energy as healing places?

      Please research the word. Knights Hospitaliers etc.

      Universities existed in Eire long before the Christians and Paddy.

      Yes patriarchy began 5,000 years ago with the slaughter of Lilith who refused to bow to the barbarians- as we called them.

      Women priestesses had their temples of learning and men came to become whole- holy as they were male only energy.

      It was the DNA of these priestesses they sought for engineering purposes- much like Genome project today.

      The men in dresses was a show to the women that they had now taken over and were in charge.

      Most Goddess icons were destroyed.

      Witches were wise women , healers who did so for free, who delivered babies etc. But the land was in their Guardianship, so they had to be killed off and their children and grandchildren made homeless.

      Notice today the demonising of the Bean Sidhe – the woman of the Sidhe/ peace whose roles were many- like making sure souls passed over totally and were not imprisoned by dark magicians etc.

      • Gaspar October 11, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

        Portia, your mind is lovely . I can read it in your pen. Can we talk offline?

  44. Oliver Peltier March 17, 2013 at 4:51 am #

    Excellent post, just wanted to return the Shamrock to where it belongs.

    The Shamrock is more anciently associated with Faerie and also the Goddess.

    Originally it represented the traditional 3 aspects of the Goddess- Maiden, Mother and Crone. It also represents the 3 realms- The Earth, Sea and Sky and Earth, Underworld and Overworld.

    The Shamrock similar to the Primrose is a key to the Otherworld.

    That Christian Saint did his best to supplant a Pagan symbol with one for his foreign religion.

    • Dwivian March 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      For those that have a balanced tradition in which male and female persona are presented, the three-fold form is Father God, Eternal Goddess, Child (son). This is exceptionally telling as it more directly correlates to the Christian Trinity, as the Holy Spirit was usually a feminine noun. Thus, a direct connection of one tradition to another could be made, with new names for old concepts being the view of the day. No wonder Christianity ran rapid through Ireland — they already had it, after a fashion.

      Just another way of seeing the three, Oliver! Hope it adds something!

  45. Natasha March 17, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    On the day the rest of the Country celebrates St. Patrics Day we celebrate Irish Pagan pride day. We use the same type of decorations such as green, rainbows, leprecans, gold coins and Libations but we teach the our children the Pagan origins behind them such as the Leprecans being fey and the Rainbows being a sign of the coming spring. It gives us a way to celebrate our heritage without celebrating the horrible way Pagans were treated by the Catholic church. We turned the holiday into a day of celebration once again. We also use it to teach our children the tree runes and fairy magic which have deep roots in Irish Celtic Origins.

    • Claire March 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      I love that. I am fiercely proud of my Irish heritage, and celebrate that instead. Bravo, Natasha.

    • joanne March 17, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      I love the idea. It is beautiful. Considering christianity stole what they refer to as Irish catholic symbols from pagan Ireland even the cross predates. We need to take our heritage back as well as our holidays.

  46. Surazeus Simon Seamount March 16, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Happy Ostara day, mother of rebirth,
    green mother who creates life from death.

  47. Monica March 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    So well written, thank you for your insight. I have shared a link to this page on my facebook. Blessings to you.

  48. Tom March 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Thanks Claire for an enlightening post. Blessed be.

  49. David March 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Hello. Arrived here at a search for “What Celtic holiday did St. Patrick’s Day replace?” Any idea where I could find a good tshirt for the day that would be thought provoking, slightly mysterious, maybe even a bit menacing? = ) NYC turns into a Pattypolcolypse of green, tshirts, hats, cups, straws, hats, umbrellas, etc, etc. I think the dogs even poop green that day. I have found a few such as “Kiss me, I’m an Irish pagan,” or, “St. Who?” which are cute but I am looking for something more profound. I keep asking my friend from Dhún na nGall to send me a wicked design but apparently he can be bothered. not overtly Pagan, or Pat focused, but beautifully Celtic. some green might help people make the connection too.

    • Debb K March 17, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      Thanks for “Pattypolcolypse”. Great word! LOL

  50. Bob December 2, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    in the penultimate paragraph of the blog it says:

    ‘It’s usually about this time of year that I feel the first stirrings of Spring in the air, and it really begins to feel like the Earth around me is beginning to reawaken from its long sleep.’

    it also goes on to say:

    ‘The Wheel of the Year keeps turning, and this time of the year is all about renewal.’

    i believe this to be rather short sighted as ‘this time of year’ actually happens all year round with its location constantly on the move.

    My point is that far back in the days when paganism was rampant (before the establishment of muslim,christian and others of todays religions) the sparsely populated and seldom explored world couldn’t have been much more than pockets of ignorance and superstition, in regard to one another, with the exception of the very few people who were gifted in some way, be it with wealth, intelligence, or, for the truly fortunate, through wisdom.

    I’ve heard it said that buddha taught ‘change is the nature of everything’ and i find it intriguing that so little has seemed to have changed in so long yet we believe that we have come so far!

    If you enjoyed this blog as much as i did then i recommend checking out: Doc Marquis – Occult Holidays

    Peace,Love and Happiness

    • Colin Wenger March 9, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      Well Bob my be correct that yes the shifting of the seasons if different all around the world. That is actually reflected in the way modern pagans practice, as the vast majority will alter the timing of their holidays in accordance with the natural cycles around them.

      Pagans of today do not just hold tight to tradition and refuse to change. We EVOLVE, it’s only natural… I myself study the archetypal psychology of Carl Gustav Jung and find it very helpful in understanding my pagan faith in the context of the modern world.

      Change is often a subtle thing, having it’s greatest effect deep in the core of ones being. It can not be accurately gauged through observation of objective factors. Change of the objective is very slow indeed, it takes it’s time as it has so much of it. The closer one’s observations draw to the subjective core of any person, change can flow much more freely.

      However all people possess core elements in their lives. Beliefs and outlooks which do not change or change very little. These generate the ‘Gravitas’ that helps guide the flow of change and act as a stable foothold of the psyche.

      In this we all change and all are rooted…

  51. Angie November 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    I have read the date, March 17, has to do with Patrick’s death… Any comments?

  52. Liam September 8, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    I am not personally a religious man, but I am so fascinated by the Celts. They were interesting group of people with a mystical and mysterious belief system. I also have a vendetta with Saint Patrick. I bare no ill will with Christians or their beliefs, many make sense, but the people who would travel around the world and destroy the diversity of the many different cultures and religions, I have a problem with. The worst part to me is no one really cares when you point out that he was the result of many Celts deaths (indirect or not), they seem to believe that they were inherently a cruel and broken society. The slave trade’s end did not end all woes of Ireland. They experienced years and years of turmoil afterward from many different internal and external sources. Patrick was not necessarily a bad man, he may have even been a truly great man, but what he accomplished is destroying a culture, erupting Ireland into chaos, and making us lose so much knowledge towards these people. The celts were people just like the christian. History just remembers them as the losers, and that is a damn shame

  53. Celia June 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    Thank you so much for this history of what Saint Patrick’s day is really about. I never had any idea behind the real meaning of this holiday. I myself am a pagan and have always celebrated Saint Patrick’s day along with Ostara. I will no longer be celebrating this horrid holiday anymore. I celebrated it because my family always has and I just went along with it. Again thank you for this site. Blessed be )O(

  54. Tobie Hewitt May 22, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    This is very interesting . . . I would like to add a couple of thoughts . . . Just as violence was often used to convert indigenous people around the world to Christianity, I have no doubt such methodologies were employed in the conversion of those in Ireland at the time of Patrick. Even if he didn’t wield the sword himself, others most surely did so on his behalf. The snakes have long been associated as a symbol of the Celts and the druids . . . and there were no snakes in Ireland at the time of Patrick . . . this according to herpetologists, who study such things. Christianity has “borrowed” many aspects of earlier religions and called these their own. In fact, the myth of Jesus descends from a long line of similar myths: Horus, Attis, Dionysus, and Mithra, right down to the date of birth and the number of disciples. On March 17, I wear black and snake jewelry in honor of those who were murdered for their beliefs by Patrick’s men in Ireland. And . . . if anyone is interested in a fictionalized account of what happened back then (i.e., based on truth), please check out my book The Spiral River, Book One on Amazon. BB )O(

  55. Karmel Stone May 16, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    And now I know why I don’t celebrate it or generally recognize this holiday!! Subconsciously I knew it was a bad day for me being a Pagan.

    Also side note: If you could give me any information of your religion to further my understanding I would much appreciate it. :D I recently watched a History Channel movie on St. Patrick’s Day and will be putting my response to said video on my blog http://lilpumpkingirl.blogspot.com/ But I also wanted to let you know that I referenced this web site. Hopefully that’s okay.

  56. Nicholas Agriesti March 22, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    First, I wish to commend you and your clan for having preserved the pre-Roman and pre-Norman paradigms; given the circumstances, it is nothing short of heroic. Nonetheless, You forgot to mention the birth of Bile (the first Oak) on the banks of the river Danu (or the Danube; as per preference) and the subsequent fracturing of the children of the great mother. I know that the operative order of the druidic faith does not rely heavily on the mythic cannon of the Celtic culture; but, given your insistence on the preeminence of the symbol of the oak tree, I felt it was worth mentioning.

    On another note: It seems, to me, that the story of Danu providing the structure out of which was born The first Great Oak (or masculine image), is a great metaphor for true nature of the relation between the Lunar and the Solar. What do you think (as a practicing druid)?
    If anything I have said has made any sense (to any of you), please let me know: nagriesti@yahoo.com

  57. Irishmomma March 21, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    No matter your beliefs on the subject, I think a sense of humor is in order here. Do you think the conservative Christians like the masses celebrating one of their “saints” with drinking green beer and singing Irish fight songs? People are just celebrating their Irish heritage. Most Religions are, when it comes down to it, cults designed to keep people in line with guilt, threats and in some cases violence. That said, I hope someday we can all get back to the Earth, taking care of it and worshiping the many wonders it provides us.

  58. Andrew March 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    But why would the pagan Irish even consider converting to Christianity in the first place? It certainly was not because of a threat of violence, and not because they witnessed any inherent inferiority in their beliefs when compared to Christianity (as Muirchu states). We know Patrick had to be respectful in his approach, but still, one wonders why the Irish would abandon the gods they had worshipped for thousands of years to accept a god that a complete stranger told them about.

    Some scholars give a good explanation of what this conversion may have looked like. They suggest that this conversion is not what we would consider conversion by today’s standards. Indeed, just because some pagans decided to accept Patrick’s gods does not necessarily mean that they abandoned their own. Because pagans were used to accepting a number of different gods into their pantheon, it would follow that when they were introduced to this new god, it probably meant that they included him in their worship, not that they limited their worship to him (Hopkin 21).

    So, unlike in Muirchu’s account of the conversion of Ireland, no one found Patrick so threatening as to warrant a call to arms over Christianity. There was never a recorded act of violence between Christian and pagan, nor was there a single martyrdom in Ireland over the conversion to Christianity (Hopkin 21).

    Although Patrick began the process of introducing the Irish to Christianity, it does not appear that he had nearly the phenomenal success that later writers would attribute to him. In fact, Patrick himself died in obscurity. Far from being the arrogant miracle-worker who made disbelievers pay for their skepticism, the historical Patrick “was not remembered as an enormously successful missionary—because he was not enormously successful. At the time of his death Ireland was still predominantly pagan, aggressively pagan” (Thompson 158).

    exceprts:
    “Saint Patrick, the Irish Druids, and the Conversion of Pagan Ireland to Christianity”
    By Bridgette Da Silva

    • Steve A. March 8, 2013 at 1:12 am #

      Nicely put sir. Excellent post.

    • Patsy Brennan March 17, 2014 at 11:09 am #

      Andrew, Excellently put!
      Paulinus was reputed to have been so much more successful than Patrick in conversions. The folk lore about Patrick indicates he was considered to be an approachable person, there does not seem to have been any great revering of him, rather he is depicted as being one of them.

  59. Brigid Elizabeth March 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Thank you for posting such a nicely written article. I will share this with others and celebrate Ostara with your words in mind. Blessed Ostara! <3

  60. sey March 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Blessed Be!!!!! Couldn’t have said it better!

  61. Peggi North March 18, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    I posted some of this on my web link, but yours is great information. Thanks, sites like ours helps us change the negitive to positive by education & action, using our energies to shifts in mass consciousness every day. I was honored by being drawn into ‘Harmonic Convergence’, as a lone High Priestess, but with my galactic family & thousands of souls to do that that, change things. As we enter fully into the Photon Band at the end of the current Mayan Calendar, 2000 years of a time of transmutation, as we enter a new great Calendar. I ask, what’s your new intentions for this new times, including the entrance to the Age of Aquarius in around 179+ years. I belie/ve our thoughtform creates, so we must listen to the beams of light information coming in. I also believe that souls seek souls alike, so aren’t these sites for us pagans a way of finding others who know the old ways & honor them.

  62. David M. Woodward March 17, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I will just sign my name (above) and let the genealogy of Woodward speak for itself, vis Druidic history. I hear what you say and it means a world to me. A world nearly lost. I will put some of my Father’s ashes at the foot of an Oak tree this 22nd. The rest are in his favourite body of water, nourishing the plankton and fish. We live through the world and the world moves through us.
    DMW

  63. Buzzz March 17, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    St. Patrick is no more to be celebrated than Columbus. I read another article today where it was pointed out that the snakes being associated with Druids in the story was a later addition, and more likely the snake driving out was a copy of an earlier story attributed to a French Saint. Either way, I wear green today not to honor St. Patrick, but rather my Irish ancestry — well and also because I wear green a lot :). I love that your family held so many traditions, my family has so few because we are more American Mutt than any one of the many ancestral counties we represent. Most of the Pagans I know are 1st generation who have shed the religion of their parents, so nice to read of family so connected to it.

  64. kriistiin March 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Thank you Claire, for sharing your personal story about the myth of St. Patrick. Some myths die hard, like Columbus discovering America and Santa Claus. There will always be critics and naysayers who fear the unveiling of the truths behind revised history. History is always written by the conquerors.

  65. Rev. Peter Brabyn March 17, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    An nice piece of writing Claire. I will certainly need to spend some time reading a few of your other posts.

    It’s good to see someone so comfortable with their own spirituality, especially as many of the ideas have been passed down through the generations. Your take on St. Patricks day is one of the most eloquently written I have seen as yet, and very informative.

    I especially liked your comments to Viklet. The connection between Wicca and older beliefs is often tenuous but too often assumed by the uninformed. Better to stamp out that ignorance with information than react otherwise.

    In fact all the comments you have made to others providing clarification show that you are happy and well founded in your beliefs. There is after all no point in having an opinion nor passing on a truth unless you can back it up. I feel you’ve done that admirably.

    Keep up the good work.

  66. Relic March 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    You know, just today, after 23 years, I decided to look up, just what the hell does St Patricks Day celebrate anyway? I heard the snake-driving-out thing before… but that old phrase always sounded fishy to me, as I knew snakes weren’t even native to Ireland anyways… so I looked up St Patty, and was appauled at what I found. I think you summed it up perfectly with your line of “might as well ask a jew to wear a swastika”. Though everyone knows the swastika is really the Indian symbol for the heart chakra… but the principle remains the same. =/

    At any rate your opinons are voiced quite eloquently.

    (On a side note, why is it that so many of the “pagans” that have commented here seem so much angrier than the “christians” that have commented here!? That’s just odd to me…)

  67. Ruth Crook March 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    I love St. Paddy’s day. It’s the only chance I get to tell the ignoramuses that he is properly called PADDY, not Patty!

  68. Jay Cee March 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    Thank you, Claire, for posting a most enlightening article. My wife despises St. Patty’s Day, and now that I know the reasoning behind it, I’m not a fan either.

  69. Claire March 17, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Hi, Chris. You are right in that Catholicism is not Christianity in and of itself, if you mean it in the same way that Baptists are not themselves Christianity or Wiccans are not themselves Paganism. Catholicism is a denomination of Christianity in the same way that Baptists, Lutherans, and Methodists are. But if you meant to say that Catholics are not Christians, you’re mistaken.

  70. Chris March 17, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    Good article. One note however. Catholicism is not Christianity. Christians believe in the bible and that Christ only brings salvation. The pope and the priests and nuns believe Mary is co mediator and is alive in heaven. They also believe other religions can get you in to heaven as well. Look up the protestant reformation. No amount of works and rituals can do this. WE are saved by Yahweh’s grace by faith only.

    EPH 2:8

  71. Donna LightningWolf March 17, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    As a Pagan, living in Ireland…I take great delight in heading down to the local Paddy’s Day parade…call it a sick sense if humour but I find it funny that 90% of Irish people have no idea what they are actually celebrating, and the fact that they are celebrating a failed attempt at driving pagan religions away :)

  72. Cara March 17, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    I love your post! Admittedly, had no idea about the snake being “code” and I’ve been a practicing Pagan for twelve years! Makes a great deal of sense though.

  73. richard ryder March 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    Miss Claire…I am so sorry that you have had any impression from anything Christian in order that you feel someone should, “join the Christian church, where intolerance of alternative beliefs is already a well established practice.” The trouble with many Christians is that they feel they have certain monopoly on comfort. I feel that the Church of today is far and away from the teachings of Christ. Too many people think they act in a way that may pertain to Christian believe and then immediately start the judging of others. I wish to apologize for those that feel it is their job to judge.
    Christ Himself said that He did not come into the world to judge it. You would then think that people should not place themselves above God by judging others in their Christian methodology. Christ said, “Judge not.” Please accept this from someone you do not know. Please accept this from someone that sees Christ in the way one should…with humility, love and caring. Jesus told us to love others before ourselves. Too bad folks that judge others do not adhere to that principle.
    I think your genealogy is cool!!
    God Bless!!

  74. Barry March 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    Will you marry meeting?

  75. Bill Marks March 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I don’t know what it takes to be approved, but if any corresspondence is limited to this webpage, so be it. I appreciate airing my views. also I would like to say that most of the writings of the venerated Evans-Wentz are documented as in FAIRY FAITH IN CELTIC COUNTRIES or taken from the Akashic Record also I suggest the book titled FIRE IN THE HEAD by Tom COWAN

  76. Bill Marks March 14, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    It would be a pleasure to communicate with any true believer of the goddess. I’LL post a new email address as soon as I can get one ’cause of certain reactionary persons But CLAIRE i want to say that the clover leaf is a pagan symbol with another name- draw three circles each interlocked it (the center) forms a three aTRINED interlocking component of basic Celtic knotwork That stands for Mother maiden and crone
    I am a practicing druid who often carries an oakleaf in my heart breast pocket !! Morgan’s my goddess.welsh is my tradition and the world is my love- but i once went on a tirade against Patrick, on the stage of a populated AA meeting in santa monica with some very pertinent catholics present, myself ! it shows to go ya that one cannot be to narrow… can you look for my later correspondence and answer/ signed bel morganson

  77. Amanda Star March 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    I am Pagan and I certainly don’t “celebrate everything’. That’s not even close to right. Also “Wicca” is not the same as paganism.

  78. Claire March 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    One opinion piece doesn’t cancel out another opinion piece. It’s as simple as that. That’s why there’s no conflict between the two. It’s a pointless semantic argument to use one blog post to refute another blog post, especially when my original point in writing my post here was little more than to talk about the traditions of my family.

    As for the oft-quoted “Evans Wentz”, I assume the reference is to Walter Evans-Wentz, the theosophist who was born in 1878 and is generally regarded as a pioneer in the study of TIBETAN BUDDHISM. Given the fact that his work is also regarded as “frequently unreliable, being influenced by wholly extraneous preconceptions he brought to the subject from theosophy”, I would suggest that perhaps his ramblings are not the best foundations upon which one could build an argument. Again, an opinion in and of itself does not negate another opinion simply through the act of disagreement.

    However true or faulty the belief that the snakes in the Saint Patrick story represent Pagans may be, it is not something I picked up from a book. It’s something that was handed down in my family through the generations. The opinions of a modern day Druid (meaning the author of the linked post, not Evans-Wentz) mean as little to me as the opinions of a modern way Wiccan. Both are, at best, revivalist religions with no direct ties to the heritages they both lay claim to. So the claims of a modern day Druid mean next to nothing to me. Honestly, I grow weary of people throwing around the phrase “I’m a Druid” as if that alone confers vast knowledge and insight to their personal opinions. That’s as daft as assuming someone must know what they’re talking about for no other reason that that they’re a Christian.

    There are definitely two Saint Patricks here. The real-world, original Saint Patrick, who, as the link rightly pointed out “didn’t actually do very much”, and the “mythic figure, created by a great PR department”. It’s the latter that is addressed here in this original post. You all would do well to stop reading between the lines and trying to take issue with things I did not say, or, worse, twisting the meaning of what I said to suit whatever particular axe you have to grind. I stated early on in my post that “my perception of Saint Patrick when I was growing up was vastly different from the popular secular view”. Where that is concerned, you’ve proven my point, even if it is to the opposite extreme of what I was referring to.

    And when I talked about “subjugation and conversion” I did not intend to imply that I meant subjugation and conversion at the point of a sword. Paganism, whether in the form of Druids or Celts, in the Emerald Isle was suppressed like it was suppressed everywhere else – over time, like water eroding stone, with Pagan traditions being supplanted by Christian ones.

    And when I said “for me, the red represents the blood of my ancestors” I never once inferred that I meant rivers of blood spilled at the hands of an army. In fact, I said “the blood of my ancestors, who were driven out of Ireland or were subjugated by any one of many zealous Christian missionaries”. To my mind, that means “my blood” as in “my family” and my lineage. Honestly, I sometimes think too much of the symbolism that people react to today is drawn from melodramatic vampire and zombie movies. Why does the mention of “blood” automatically conjure up images of splatters upon walls and marauding armies?

    Your presumptions are that my post is wrong and the one that was cited is correct. I can only assume that the cited link supports your beliefs (else why would you posting here, no doubt hoping to enlighten us all with a good whack from the proverbial stick). If so, I wish you well in that regard. Nothing I read there contradicts anything I believe or feel, anymore than reading someone’s treatise about the relative merits of broccoli would affect my appetite for it (I rather like broccoli). An opinion is an opinion. And if anyone wants to contradict or suppress my beliefs, they’ll have to find better sources for their information than eclectic Walter Evans-Wentz and a Druid with a blog.

    • Christopher Bass March 17, 2013 at 3:48 am #

      Here, here!

    • Sarah Robison March 17, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      Claire, as I read through your article, I was impressed by the integrity you show when getting your opinion on the subject across. Another delight for me to see is the wonderful grammar and intelligence evident in your writing.

      But, best of all, is the beautiful way you handle replying to the comments!
      You show so much patience and understanding to those who are hell-bent on making you appear wrong and uninformed. Good job! That alone speaks volumes!

      I am a Pagan and the wife of a man with a rich Irish heritage of which he is very proud. It’s refreshing to see someone like you debate the issue and still have your integrity intact!

      I’ll never understand why people insist on resorting to a less-than-human approach when they discover an article that they don’t agree with.

      Bravo, Claire.

  79. PeacefulFox March 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    What do you mean you read the link that FernWise sent and it doesn’t contradict anything you said?

    You: If most people know anything about Saint Patrick, it’s that his one claim to fame is that he drove the snakes from Ireland. What most people don’t realize is that the snake is a Pagan symbol, and that the snakes referred to in the Saint Patrick mythos are not meant in the literal sense, but refer to Pagans; i.e., Saint Patrick drove the Pagans (specifically, the Druids) out of Ireland. So what is celebrated on Saint Patrick’s Day with drinking and much cavorting is, ironically, the spread of Christianity throughout Ireland and the subjugation and conversion of the Druids.

    Link: 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).

    Um……?????? I would call that a direct conflict, thankyouverymuch.

  80. FernWise March 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    What do YOU mean by ‘suppression of native religions”? Because in Ireland NOTHING that the Christians did was any different than the Celts did when then moved in and took over from the native Picts. No blood was spilled. Were there economic perks to conversion? Yup. But nothing like your implied “by the sword’ conversions.

  81. Claire March 11, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    FernWise, your response made no sense, honestly. I read the article you linked to, and didn’t read anything that contradicts a word of what I said. And what I wrote was never meant to be anything other than my personal opinion in regard to Saint Patrick’s Day, as drawn from the traditions of my family.

    Whether or not Saint Patrick was literally at the head of pagan oppression in Ireland is moot point. The Christian church used Saint Patrick as a metaphor to represent the ascendancy of Christianity over regionally celebrated Pagan beliefs and traditions. It matters little whether Saint Patrick himself actually did the many things attributed to him. Stating that “Ireland was Pagan hundreds of years after Patrick” is little more than misdirection when we’re talking about a man who lived from around 380 to around 460.

    “Hundreds of years after Patrick” puts us at around 560 to 760 and conveniently avoids 1,200 years of well documented suppression of native religions. Whether or not Saint Patrick himself led those efforts to supplant native religions with Christianity over hundreds of years is not really an arguable point. He was never anything more than a metaphor used by the Christian church to represent the subjugation of native religions. Arguing over whether or not Saint Patrick really did all the things attributed to him is as silly as arguing over whether or not Santa Claus climbs down millions of chimneys on a single night. The reason I don’t celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day has more to do with what came after Saint Patrick and was claimed in his name than anything the man himself might have done during his lifetime.

    I suspect that Saint Patrick himself was probably a nice enough man, and someone most of would have been comfortable breaking bread with. But then I imagine it’s possible that Attila the Hun cooked a mean brisket and liked dogs. History always blows things out of proportion. But that doesn’t change the popular perceptions of either of them.

  82. Claire March 11, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Hi, RedDeer. My mother and grandmother were not above “keeping up appearances” (advisable when you live in the mountains of North Carolina – especially 30 to 50 years ago). If you’ll refer to what I said to Vikelt, I mentioned that my mother and grandmother both attended the same church in Asheville, North Carolina. They used their husbands’ names in the church registry to avoid uncomfortable questions. But neither ever legally took their husband’s name.

    My mother’s refusal to take my father’s name was a dramatic source of conflict their entire marriage, goaded on by relatives. Some traditions don’t go over well with the general public – especially in areas with a heavily Christian identity. Even today it would be scandalous in some circles for a wife to refuse her husband’s name.

    So, to answer your question more specifically, both of my statements are accurate. Perhaps I should have explained myself better in my response to Vikelt. Sorry for any confusion.

  83. RedDeer March 11, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    I don’t understand. In your article, you say that a “long line of women” in your maternal lineage “rejected the Christian tradition of assuming the names of their husbands and kept her family name.” But, in your response to Vikelt, you state, “grandmother, Esmerelda Mulkieran Thompson” and “mother Ciara Mulkieran Wright”.
    So, which is accurate?

  84. FernWise March 11, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Sorry, but that’s a bunch of crap. Druids weren’t persecuted. Ireland was Pagan hundreds of years after Patrick. The snakes tale was added to the hagiology in about 1100, and taken from the list of “things all saints do”.

    Real info on Patrick – from a Druid (not me) – is at http://lairbhan.blogspot.com/2012/03/st-patricks-day-snakes-and-irish.html

  85. Brendan March 11, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    As an actual Irishman (Dublin born and raised) living in NC I wish to thank you for your post. I have seen much here that I was taught in Catholic school at Home and more I learned myself once I found the Druid way and found out there was a world of information which our schools refused to allow us know of.

    Firstly, Paddy’s day is seen as an annoyance by most of my people, we have better things to do than suffer a small parade passing through town and getting in the way of things.

    We do NOT drink green beer at Home, that, like corned beef and cabbage, is an invention found in the US. Corned beef and cabbage may be a part of a far larger meal served but only parts and not the whole dish.

    Getting drunk and acting like fools, I have witnessed far more foreigners claiming to be Irish acting this way, most of us treat the day as nothing special if we observe it at all.

    We Druids were said to have been eradicated and all Druids and Pagans are Neo in nature because there is no tie to the ancient ways. They said the same thing about the Jews many times but we ancient peoples have ways of passing our stories and thoughts on without others knowing.

    Snakes, as an island nation we have not had to worry about them but the church were happy to spread the story around about the Scot who was kidnapped and brought to Ireland and who left and returned in order to save us from ourselves. “How the Irish saved Civilisation” has a lot of info on Paddy.

    Shamrocks have always been important to us, they represent the importance of unity and stability (Consider a 2 legged stool and compare to 3) We have always known there are extremes and a balance in the center, 3 points of being. Paddy learned that and used it to his advantage but someone who uses our ways to teach his thoughts is not teaching his way.

    Wicca was once thought to have been the first version of Druid/Pagan ways but simply called either Pagan or Druid depending on where it was encountered. The druids were seen as those who studied books and science (Egyptians and Mayans were closely aligned) while Pagans were thought to enjoy life more freely and occupy their time with the sacred songs and dances. Wicca was seen as a convergence of both to complete the third leg or the others were a divergence of Wicca ways as differing factions followed their own paths. The whole who came first question will not be solved any time soon but the 3 sister systems learned to live with each other and not fight amongst themselves such as other belief systems have done.

    I enjoyed your post and comments, thank you all

    Blessings

    Slan.

  86. Mina March 5, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Thank you for this wonderful clarification. I had not known this truth and I always appreciate enlightenment. Have a beautiful Ostara.

  87. Stormdancer March 3, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    I always associated St Patricks Day with the goddess Bridgette, and the dawning of spring. And a celebration of wonderful Irish/Celtic music. And the life which begins to stir within our Great Mother. Christian religion has stolen most of our holidays. To me they are just as greedy and evil as any Satanic cult! The only religions not associated with the violence and mass murder on this planet is pagan/Wiccan oriented.

  88. Shaleea February 23, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Wow I was very interested in this blog! I am a guilty wiccan who celebrates st patricks day! But I don’t blame you for not. However I think instead of boycotting it maybe you should make it your own in a good way! Besides I think you are taking it too personally. I mean trust me I’ve had a troubled past at trying to be wiccan. I lost a few friends I chose the divine path when I was in middle school and I am 25 years old! Some of my friends parents (seeing how I grew up in a small mostly christian community, there is a church on every corner downtown) were not happy with me choosing “the devils path” but thankfully I had a very supportive mom, infact she cut out an article in the paper about how wicca is growing! To this day she supports all of my holidays and even wished me happy thoughts on all of the holidays! But I’m rambling haha! I don’t know if you have children but would you tell your five year old when he or she asks what st patricks day is about that it was the subjugation and attack on the pagan religion? I mean I’m wiccan and my fiance is agnostic neither one of us would force our beliefs on our son (3 months old now). In boycotting the holiday and wearing red and black to represent blood and unhappy times isn’t any different than the christians celebrating the destruction of our faith is it? Be the bigger person and let it be. I will continue to enjoy green beer leprechauns and the clover (giggling while thinking the lover is actually the representation of the triple goddess) on st pattys day because its fun and just a reason to enjoy life with your other friends! All I’m saying is lighten up you are only letting the christian enthusiasts win by even letting it bother you!
    Blessed Be ;)

  89. jezebellydancer February 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    I’m working on a ritual for my pagan group’s monthly meeting in March this year. I wanted to ‘welcome the snakes back to Ireland’ and use the ritual to reconnect to our beliefs. You’re perspective on this is great.

    My maternal grandmother was of Irish descent. her people came over in the early 1800s and were actually protestant, although some of the things she said and did, I now realize were very pagan in essence.

    I always wore Orange on St Patrick’s day. But I like the idea of red and black.

    • ember March 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

      why orange? just curious :)

  90. Sagewand March 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    I like to celebrate the returning of the snakes to Ireland. Pagans unite!
    Happy Ostara!

  91. Marquella March 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    I very much enjoyed this blog! I posted it on my Facebook page. I am a Pagan as well. I study all paths. I very much love your style of writing. Thank you for posting this for all of us to read!

  92. Eli March 17, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Thank you for such a well-written post. I’ve been looking for something to show to my daughter to explain what St Patrick’s Day *used* to mean. Religion is not a topic often discussed in our house, though my husband (her step-father) and I both identify as Pagan. Her father was raised Jewish, but now is more Agnostic than anything. We want her to have an open mind and be able to make her own informed decisions.

    I’m not saying I refuse to let her wear green,she is 10 after all, and very much prone to peer pressure, but I think it’s good for her to understand where this holiday came from. Even if it is now just an excuse to drink yourself stupid.

  93. WiccanLibra March 17, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    That was amazing! I never knew anything more then the real meaning of ‘snake’ in this case.

    Guess who’s wearing black and red today?

    Happy (almost) Ostara!

    Blessed be! )O(

  94. Claire Mulkieran March 17, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    @ Vikelt – I’ve never said I was Wiccan. Or if I did, I merely used it as a convenient generalization (there’s less to explain). You’re correct that Wicca was popularized by people like Raymond Buckland and Gerald Gardner relatively recently and is not in itself an “ancient religion”. At best, one could say Wicca goes back, perhaps, only as far as the work of Charles Godfrey Leland and Margherita Taludi, in their book “Aradia”, which was published in 1899. However, one would be wise not to mistake “Wicca” for “witchcraft”. They are related, of course. But if you think witchcraft is a recent invention, you’ve been dramatically misinformed.

    I’ve never said I am a hereditary Wiccan. I said I am a hereditary witch. They’re not necessarily the same thing. As for my mom or grandmother being on local church rosters, if you’re in the mood for research, start with The Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville, North Carolina. My grandmother, Esmerelda Mulkieran Thompson long attended services there. My mother Ciara Mulkieran Wright was a member of First Baptist Church in Asheville for years (before she was asked to leave the church on suspicions of witchcraft related activities). Our traditions have been handed down from mother to daughter and have nothing whatsoever do with churches or other organizations our family has been associated with. Times have improved, certainly, but there was a time not so long ago when it was vitally important for local appearances to be kept up. It was, simply out, safer to be seen as a “normal” member of local society. Especially in the mountains of North Carolina.

    I offer no apologies to you or anyone else for my beliefs. They cannot be invalidated by the fact that I didn’t discover them in dubious works found in local bookstores. If one’s faith can only be validated by adherence to popular cultural norms, one might as well join the Christian church, where intolerance of alternative beliefs is already a well established practice.

    • ember March 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      besides keeping up appearances by going to church, witchcraft & christianity are not always mutually exclusive either….

    • Jenn March 16, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

      Generalizing the entire Christian church as intolerant of alternative beliefs is as incorrect as generalizing all Wiccans to be intolerant of other paths: most aren’t, but apparently, some are.

  95. Jay S March 17, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Though I personally am a follower of the Christian teachings, it is not lost on me as to the history of what happened to the pagans in Europe. Every Christian based holiday of significance was overlayed atop well known pagan holidays and events. It was two fold in getting the pagans to convert to the Christian faith while at the same time allowing some small elements of the pagan ritual to still exist.

    The biggest issue that I see in all faiths, including the non-Christians, is the lack of knowledge of exactly where their faith came from and just how it effected history. Why it works the way it does. To many just assume and follow so blindly that they can not even understand when the reality of truth is reveled. How sad for the world when all that is required is a little more study of why ones faith is what it is.

    To me I do celebrate the spread of Christianity, but I am appalled by the the secularization of ones faith. Why get drunk and stagger about like a fool on a day when one should give thanks to God and practice a more honest behavior and act as the stewards of this land called Earth. It serves to undermine a faith when you do not practice it correctly. A true Christian does not ever through their faith in the face of others. Those who do are not behaving like Christians and are more likely to harm their own faith then help.

    Most pagans are quite and go about their daily life and practice quietly their faith. What a singular inspiration that the rest of the so called Christian faiths could take a lesson from. The pagans had great ideas that should not be carelessly cast aside. Give thanks for what you have and protect the land and cultivate it, not destroy it.

    Thank you for a wonderful post. Yours in Christ, Jay

  96. randi March 17, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    i had know idea my history teacher was wearing black and asked me to explain why, but i couldn’t now i can.

  97. Vikelt March 17, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    As a Pagan and practicing Wiccan since 1985, it disturbs me that people of such self-indulged quasi-wisdom can contribute to a so-called Pagan website and expound on their made up tripe. The facts on the history of the symbols are fairly accurate but, to back up your knowledge by claiming to be one of these “hereditary witches” …. your full of “malarkey”! Wicca was brought to this country in 1972 by Raymond Buckland, who was apprentice to Dr. Gerald Gardner, (researcher of Witchcraft and labeled it Wicca) who was apprentice to Aleister Crowley in the late 1800’s. So, it is guaranteed that if we checked your mom’s or grandmother’s local church roster, their names would be on it. The more we spread misinformation, the more we look like lunatics. Furthermore, we are Pagan’s and celebrate everything … and accept other’s beliefs. So don’t hate … have a green beer and enjoy the day!

  98. ccg March 17, 2011 at 2:03 am #

    just a quick question about shamrocks. i have read that the shamrock was actually a Druid symbol way before St Pat came along…that the Druids believed it dispelled evil spirits because of its 3 leaves (3 being a sacred number) and that St Pat only used it to try and explain and teach the trinity because it was held in such high regard ( what do ya know *L* more things the christian church took from the Pagans and twisted it to fit their own agenda)

  99. Tammie March 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Thank you for this wonderful post.
    I was looking for information on St. P. Day and the Druids and you did such a nice job of offering this information. I also enjoyed reading of your lineage. My father was born on the 17th and that will be what I will celebrate in my heart. So is the 4 leaf clover lucky because it is not the 3, ha. Most likely because it can be rare.

  100. Lizzy March 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Thank you so much for this blog! I was wondering how to handle St Patrick’s Day this year after I declared myself officially pagan (i’ve been unofficially for years.) I am part Irish and love celebrating that heritage, but I don’t want to go along with Christians even though the holiday is mainstream. I believe I will wear my black claymore shirt this year and see if I can’t find a piece of jewelry with a snake on it.
    Perhaps someone can conferm this for me, but I had read somewhere that wearing green in Ireland was for the longest time considered bad luck (by Christians) because it was the colour of the Fae? Children wearing, they believed, would be stolen at night and now they are wearing to celebrate being Irish. It makes me smile a little to think of it.

  101. Jamie February 27, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    Thank you so much for the historical reasons around what really happened to Ireland and the invasion of Christians in Ireland. I myself am Christian, but I have always believed that a person has the right to practice whatever faith they believe in. I respect people of all faiths (or lack thereof) and enjoyed your blog very much. Christianity is very much about what faction of the church is the right one, and as us Moravians believe, we will find out when we get there. Until then, I think we should take some ideas from the Pagans and treat mother earth with respect. To question why all the evils of the world are blamed on woman and according to the Gnostic’s and other sources why the Woman part of the divine was banished, I digress, sorry! Thank you again for your post.

  102. kat March 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    I came upon this wonderful blog when googling for “patriarchy” and St Patrick’s day for my own blog. A very well expressed piece of text! Thank you — I will tweet about it!

  103. Rachel March 17, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Very nice article, and blog. I like your writing.

    I was trying to figure out how this day related to the Spring Equinox, and you answered perfectly. I will not celebrate any holiday based on violence and destruction – which is too often.

    As you may be aware the swastika is another misunderstood symbol. It is an ancient Vedic symbol meaning ‘enlightenment’. It appears in the spirituality of many different nations.

  104. Jamie March 17, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Its ironic that St. Patrick’s day is so rife with pagan symbolism. Leprecaun’s with overflowing cauldron’s of magical gold. Green symbolizing fertility. Shamrock symbolizing the triple goddess. Four leaf clover symbolizes the 4 elements. The hat – a witches hat. The staff a druid’s staff. St. Patty himself was a pagan until he was 16.

  105. SJ Velasquez March 17, 2010 at 12:55 am #

    I linked to your post on my blog today. I write about religion and pop culture, and I thought your insight was especially eloquent and important considering it’s St. Pat’s Day today, and very few people recognize the holiday for what it really is. I enjoyed reading you blog!

  106. Zoe March 16, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    Well said! Thanks so much for stating the story so beautifully! I have not the traced lineage, but share your sentiment wholeheartedly. I hope you don’t mind, but I am bookmarking this so I can direct people who don’t understand why I refrain from the shamrocks and green beer to read your words.

  107. Mark March 17, 2009 at 9:47 pm #

    Nice blog. Very eloquent.

  108. Simon Rohrich March 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    Being grossed out but ignorance as I am, I wear black on this day.

    • Morrigane March 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      Great BLOG! But I still have a hard time believing St. Patrick even truly existed. I think he was put out their as a propaganda by the church so they could get people to see how a salve/commoner (foreign no less if this was so!) could become a SAINT and then convert those lost souls into the fold. As well as ridding pagans from Ireland.The church ever so much loved to invent characters and make stuff up with a twist. And I believe your grandmother spit at his name….I am sure it had a bad flavor and something else must have been going on as well!

      Thanks for enlightening those that are blind.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Eggistential Pagan Debate | C|C - February 19, 2014

    […] St. Patrick’s Day – Pagan? Uh huh […]

  2. St. Patrick's Day 2011 | Extraordinary Intelligence - December 13, 2012

    [...] Pagans and St. Patrick’s Day [...]

  3. Pagans And Saint Patrick’s Day | PaganCentric - March 17, 2010

    [...] Original Post [...]

  4. St. Patrick: celebrated saint who hated pagans « Religionisms - March 17, 2010

    [...] The blogger at this site has a really interesting and personal reflection on growing up pagan in a family with very strong Irish roots. She also touches on the placement of certain Christian holidays so that they coincide with already-established pagan holidays: It wasn’t arbitrary that the day honoring Saint Patrick was placed on the 17th of March. The festival was designed to coincide, and, it was hoped, to replace the Pagan holiday known as Ostara; the second spring festival which occurs each year, which celebrates the rebirth of nature, the balance of the universe when the day and night are equal in length, and which takes place at the Spring Equinox (March 22nd this year). In other words, Saint Patrick’s Day is yet another Christian replacement for a much older, ancient Pagan holiday; although generally speaking Ostara was most prominently replaced by the Christian celebration of Easter (the eggs and the bunny come from Ostara traditions, and the name “Easter” comes from the Pagan goddess Eostre). [...]

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *