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.
Being grossed out but ignorance as I am, I wear black on this day.
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.
Nice blog. Very eloquent.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
I absolutely agree with you. As a Believer I find history of the church absolutely horrific after the first century. My partner and I believe as you that yes we worship God, but at the same time believe the earth and all human life to be respected. We believe the earth provides us with all we need and it is a gift. I’ve had plenty of friends who are of different faiths, I even found witches to be some of the best of friends. I can disagree with them and them with me peaceably.
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.
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.
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)
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!
i had know idea my history teacher was wearing black and asked me to explain why, but i couldn’t now i can.
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
@ 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.
besides keeping up appearances by going to church, witchcraft & christianity are not always mutually exclusive either….
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.
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(
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.
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!
I like to celebrate the returning of the snakes to Ireland. Pagans unite!
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.
why orange? just curious 🙂
I’d be interested in knowing if you knew the implications of wearing orange on St. Patrick’s Day – it’s related to the terrifying and bloody “Troubles” in Northern Ireland and indicates support for the Protestant militias in favor of reunification with England.
Frankly, if I see someone wearing orange on St. Patrick’s Day, I assume they’ll end the day in a fistfight, because that’s what they’re looking for. Orange on St. Patrick’s Day is a deliberate political provocation and insult to the native Irish.
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 😉
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.
Thank you for this wonderful clarification. I had not known this truth and I always appreciate enlightenment. Have a beautiful Ostara.
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
loved the insights and I will take oral family history over written theology anyday
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.
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
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
Will you marry meeting?
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!!
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Blessed Be!!!!! Couldn’t have said it better!
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