Ahhh, Saint Patrick’s Day. A day full of beer, all things green, and Irish and pride. There is a bit more to it than that though…
Who even is Saint Patrick?
Born Maewyn Succat somewhere in British Isles near what is now Scotland around roughly
the late 300’s AD. At the time, the British Isles were technically Roman owned, and according to his published Confessio, we can trace his lineage to Roman Citizens. So…he is definitely not Irish.
So then where does Ireland come into all of this?
It’s said that at the age of 16, Maewyn was kidnapped by Irish Pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was enslaved for 6-7 years. He learned the Irish language, which aided him when he returned roughly a decade later when he claims he was called to in a “realistic dream” which he felt was from God.
What’s with the name change?
While never a big believer in Christianity- he wrote while enslaved, he grew closer to the Christian God and his desire to “seek the truth”. After escaping when being told to by an Angel who came to him in a dream, he returned home to The British Isles and than made his way to France where he studied under St. Germaine of Auxerre. Pope Celestine gave him the name “Patricius” which translates to Patrick- which is the name he went forth with.
Isn’t he famous for banishing all the snakes from Ireland?
Just…no. Well… not in the literal term. Ireland has actually never had snakes. It’s believed that being surrounded by water since the end of glacial period, there has been no way for snakes to make their way there. (not to mention the temperatures at that time would have been way too cold for the slithery reptiles to survive the time period). Religious scholars believe the snake story is actually in reference to St. Patrick bringing Celtic Christianity across Ireland which in turn replaced pagan ideology.
So why Celebrate?
The origin of Saint Patricks Day came from the religious celebration of his life and the (religious) changes he brought to Ireland. It’s believed that starting in the early 18th century, Irish immigrants brought the tradition over to the America which began the association of St. Patrick and Irish culture. By mind 19th century the small feast day turned into a full-blown celebration and in 1903 was so popular it became a national holiday in Ireland! Now it’s celebrated all over the world by people both Irish and non-Irish!
What about the Traditions?
It’s said Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity as he spread his teachings. This could be because shamrocks were of the plenty and conveniently had 3 leaves which helped with his metaphor. However, there is absolutely no mention of said shamrock in his “Confessio“. Shamrocks were linked to Ireland long before St. Patrick though. 3 was a significant number to the Irish. Celtic tradition was all things happened in threes. Also, being predominately Pagans (or known as Druids) at that time, it’s said to have been used to represent The Triple Goddess or “Mother Goddess”. They also believed in the Morrigan- made up of 3 Deities . Another import figure was Brigid, (later known as Saint Brigid when Christianity took over) the Pagan Goddess of Springtime. She was the daughter of Dagda, the “Father-God” of Ireland. She represented new birth, growth, healing and unity. It was said wherever she walked clovers would appear (shamrock literally means baby clover!). A day of Celebration for her takes place in the beginning of February to remind the people of Ireland of hope and coming spring! Fun Fact: There are wells all over Ireland named after Brigid, as it’s said she rewards any offering to her, which is where the whole “toss a penny in a well/fountain” came from!
Green first became a thing during the rebellion against the English Crown in 1641. The original color of the order of “Saint Patrick” or the Feast Day was a light blue. The color green became known as connection with those who supported Irish independence when those leading the rebellion carried a green flag with a harp on it, instead of the usual blue flag (color of the Crown at the time) with a harp on it. Green showed up again against the French in 1790’s when it was worn by the Society of United Irishmen. It became the color
associated with Ireland as a whole when the waves of immigrants from Ireland wore it to show solidarity on St. Patrick’s Day for their Irish Roots- thus becoming the color of Ireland!
This post was once again perfectly timed with The Daily Post’s One Word Prompt- Controversy as well as a topic (along with all other “Holidays”) I have spent quite sometime studying and researching as part of my Pagan studies.
Links to some of the information sources:
Patrick’s Own Confessio (written by him, about him)
New World Encyclopedia- Saint Patrick